How to define Long Covid
Covid-19 is a multi-system disease that can cause acute infection, but also longer-term, lingering symptoms. According to the Office for National statistics, as many as 1 in 10 people, post Covid19 infection, are struggling with symptoms for weeks or months after. For many they feel better after a few days and fully recover within 12 weeks.
But for some people, symptoms can last longer, and this isn’t linked to how poorly you were with the virus, as even people with mild symptoms at first, have had long term problems.
Everyone’s experiences vary with long-term symptoms ranging from fatigue to continued difficulties breathing, damage to vital organ tissue, neurological problems such as stroke, and severe psychiatric distress. The psychological impact of COVID-19 is considerable too – levels of mental distress have risen from affecting less than one in five members of the population to now affecting nearly one in three.
NICE | The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has three definitions for Covid-19:
- Acute Covid. – is the first four weeks of an infection, including people managing and recovering at home, to those needing to be admitted to hospital, including in intensive care.
- Ongoing Symptomatic Covid. – is where patients are still experiencing symptoms up to 12 weeks post-infection.
- Post-Covid Syndrome or Long Covid. – covers those whose symptoms linger for even longer, beyond the 12-week mark.
Understanding the symptoms of Long Covid
Symptoms of Long Covid varies significantly from person to person. The main presenting symptoms include:
- respiratory issues, sore throat, breathlessness and a persistent cough are commonplace, as is chest pain whether you are resting or active;
- joint and muscle weakness and pain, creating difficulty when walking or doing simple tasks at home;
- tiredness and fatigue;
- disrupted sleep, insomnia or sleeping too much;
- mental health issues such as mood change, anxiety, depression and trauma, intensified by the distress caused by the infection;
- headache and visual disturbance;
- gastro-intestinal conditions of feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite;
- earaches, tinnitus;
- parosmia, many people temporarily lose their sense of taste and smell, a percentage are still waiting up to 10 months later, to regain it. As they recover, some are finding that things taste and smell differently, and smell repulsive. The numbers with this condition are constantly growing, but scientists are not sure what causes it, or how to cure it; and
- ‘brain fog’, This can be people struggling to remember things they have done, or they can’t concentrate for long periods and feel exhausted after spending time at a computer.
Potential impact on the family and workplace
When it comes to supporting people with Long Covid, because it is such a new condition, symptoms are so varied, and understanding is still evolving, it makes management and treatment very challenging. Everyone is so different.
The NHS has established a network of 60 specialist Long Covid clinics and Long COVID | Your COVID Recovery on their website but there is an important role here for privately funded services.
Firstly, and most important is a consultation with your GP to make sure you have an accurate diagnosis of long covid and there aren’t any medical complications from the virus, such as blood clots, permanent damage to lungs or gastro-intestinal system. When you look at that extensive group of symptoms, it could mask all sorts of things.
Being clear with how you are feeling and with the effective diagnosis, it is paramount to gain help and support from other family members, as I’ve said, everyone is different and one box doesn’t fit all, so delegate some roles that normally you wouldn’t think twice about doing yourself.
In terms of returning to work, a paced recovery programme needs to be included as an early intervention. It is important to have conversations with your employer to work out what the end point is and how to reach it.
Self-employed people need to be aware of taking your time when returning to work, after all you are the boss, and self-care is important, learning to pace when fatigued! Typically a graded return to work takes place over six weeks, however we do need to get our heads around the fact, that this is a long-term thing, and it could take anywhere up to six months to fully recover.
The NHS website suggests following the 3 P’s Principle – Pace, Plan and Prioritise – to conserve your energy when going about your daily activities, writing down your suggestions so that you have a clear return to work proposal. As well as physical, there can be mental health and anxiety issues to consider, especially if someone is worried about whether they will be able to return to work or when they might feel ‘normal’ again.
How can Solution focused Hypnotherapy help with recovery from Long Covid?
With an understanding of your goals and clear strategies to make changes in your life, you’ll find your days are more positive therefore recovery is quicker.
We picture that future, focus on that goal, giving you the opportunity to create that future in your own life with tools and techniques to use in any situation, recovering and back to normal life and health, you have the ability to change. Working together we’ll gain a clear understanding of your situation as well as your hopes going forward. You don’t have to do this alone.
Listening to your body and asking for help is the first step taken on the road to recovery. Solution focused hypnotherapy sessions have helped people with many of the conditions mentioned in the long covid symptoms, long before covid!
The key factors are:
- Focus on a future with better sleep patterns. When we sleep well, we heal and repair our body and brain to help fight off infections, we enhance our ability to come up with novel solutions to problems, enhances creativity, improves concentration, better decision making and better social skills. I give you a relaxation recording which replicates the REM sleep, to consolidate memories and experiences and helps the busy brain to stop;
- Focus on a future which is positive, without stress and anxiety and away from depression, building strength and confidence in yourself;
When we are depressed, we don’t venture out, we shut ourselves in our cave and don’t interact with others. We sleep more and lose interest in everyday goings-on and our thoughts are negative and often dark. When we have unhelpful negative thoughts and beliefs, our anxiety rises, and we operate from our emotional primitive brain.
Our fight or flight response fears the worst, throwing in more propaganda, filling our bucket, then creates more anxiety, churning over those negative thoughts, keeping us in that vicious cycle. When we recover from illness these thoughts are exacerbated “I’m having a heart attack!” or “I’ve got the coronavirus again”, to “I’m never going to get any better than this!”
Stress lowers immune system, so it takes longer to recover;
- Focus on a future without Trauma and PTSD and avoiding Panic Attacks.
If you were in hospital then your brain may well have learned pattern matches between certain physical sensations, images, sounds, smells and danger, it’s a way of trying to make sense of your what’s going on. With the pattern matching, this means if you experience certain sensations, such as feeling like you can’t breathe, or have a flashback or a nightmare of the ICU, your ‘Fight or Flight’ response may be triggered automatically creating more anxiety and could induce Post-traumatic stress disorder which is prevalent amongst long covid sufferers. I am a qualified practitioner in the Muss Rewind Trauma Therapy, which is a safe technique to use for PTSD, to allow you to have the choice, when you want to revisit the trauma, rather than the trauma, revisiting you uninvited;
- Brain fog comes about by our brain not functioning as it should from the intellectual brain, and because the primitive brain isn’t the intellect it hasn’t got the resources to come up with the answers hence, we get that mind block. The more we struggle for the answer the worse it becomes;
- Focus on moving through grief and bereavement with acceptance. For some it is the thought of their loved ones having to deal with illness alone, maybe even dying in isolation, this may be a trigger of trauma. Those unable to see loved ones or attend funerals show the most increase in unresolved and complicated grief;
- Focus on a future to manage joint and muscle pain, creating goals to improve fitness levels, so your able to do those simple tasks at home, rekindle hobbies or interests and regain a healthy lifestyle; and
- I’ll guide you through to having an acceptance of Tinnitus, which is of course made worse by stress. Acceptance of Parosmia with visualisation techniques to encourage the brain in remembering how those things should smell or taste, rather than being disgusting.
When we operate from the intellectual brain, we have that library of information that helps us to be in control, creating positivity and productivity in your life comes from seeing your goals as a reality and managing the barriers which are standing in your way.
If you have a friend or relative who is recovering and struggling with Long Covid, then please let them know about my free initial consultation. Contact me to find out more how hypnotherapy can help with the recovery of Long Covid.
Supporting you through life stresses to emerge as the person you wish to be.