Infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 has a psychological, as well as a physical, impact.
You may worry about possible long-term effects and having perhaps infected others, as well as become impatient with lingering symptoms or having to be quarantined.
But there are strategies that help.
“As in every stressful situation, people react differently to the illness,” says Laura Letschert, a systemic resilience coach.
Her advice is to first find a quiet space to compose yourself – a moment alone to take some deep breaths after your positive test.
She says it can also help to make a to-do list.
“You’ll probably realise quickly that you need to remain calm,” she says.
“That you should take good care of yourself so that you return to health soon, and of course, that you don’t infect others.”
Ideally, a moment of reflection will enable you to act purposefully, instead of just reacting.
It’ll give you a feeling of being in control of the situation.
You’ll likely be concerned about whom you may have infected with the coronavirus.
Or you may already know that you’ve infected someone in your circle.
How do you deal with that?
If it’s clear you’ve infected someone, the key question is whether you could have known you were infected, says Professional Association of German Psychiatrists (BVDP) chairwoman Dr Christa Roth-Sackenheim.
Did you have symptoms you didn’t take seriously?
“If so, it’s essential that you sincerely and openly face up to your personal responsibility,” she says.
“It’s best to speak with the infected person, ask how they’re feeling and express remorse.”
If you couldn’t have known you were infected and followed safety guidelines such as wearing a face mask and practising physical distancing, you can chalk it up to fate, so to speak.
“The infected person’s progress is crucial though,” says Dr Roth-Sackenheim.
“If the person dies, you may feel guilty for the rest of your life.”
Many people with Covid-19 whose initial symptoms are mild, fear possible long-term effects that could be much worse.
The intensity of the fear depends on the person’s mindset.
“It’s a question of how much you generally entertain worst-case scenarios,” Letschert says.
“Whenever you start considering ‘what-ifs’, you should catch yourself and think about something else – something that makes you feel good and gives you hope and strength.”
To stop your mind from circling around doom and gloom, she suggests hanging little messages of encouragement to yourself in your home or enlisting family members – “You can ask them to always remind you not to dwell on the negative.”
At the same time, she says, it’s important to admit your anxieties.
“If you suppress them, they’ll return all the stronger,” she warns, and advises taking a middle tack between acknowledging your concerns and having a positive outlook.
Many Covid-19 sufferers have difficulty being patient with themselves and the recovery process.
“Here, too, acceptance helps.
“You’ve got to free yourself from thoughts about how things used to be,” Letschert says, pointing out that change is natural in all aspects of life.
“We can’t hold fast to a desired condition.”
It’s nonetheless normal to find the situation frustrating and stressful, remarks Dr Roth-Sackenheim.
“After all, it demands an enormous amount of adaptation,” she says.
How well you meet the challenge depends, among other things, on your personality, individual resilience and social support, she says, and recommends networking and comparing notes with other Covid-19 sufferers.
But “You shouldn’t constantly Google!”. – By Julia Felicitas Allmann/dpa