Stress management in the Covid-19 emergency: emotions and isolation – Report from Dr. Mazzoni’s webinar
The fifth intervention, organized by Cognitive Studies to deepen some psychological aspects related to the Covid-19 emergency, had as protagonist Dr. Mazzoni.
The webinar, held on May 8, explored ways of managing stress and regulating emotions in the context of isolation. The lesson was clear and exhaustive: the topics were proposed in detail, enriched by references from the literature and many examples of the teacher’s clinical experience.
Dr. Mazzoni began his intervention by retracing the phases of the pandemic and the health emergency. In the past we have already faced critical events linked to the spread of a virus (SARS), war (Vietnam), terrorism (11 September), or natural disasters (L’Aquila earthquake). These events have put entire communities to the test and, thanks to the related research and testimonies, they can give us some ideas to better understand the current psychological state and create new intervention protocols. The context of Covid-19, however, is proving to be unique in certain aspects, starting from the preventive measures put in place, one of all quarantine and the consequent isolation.
Emergency psychology helps us in studying, preventing and treating the psychic, emotional and behavioral aspects related to critical events; its application, in fact, is aimed at non-ordinary situations. It was born with the idea of overcoming the exclusive attention to the body to also deal with psychic wounds, equally deep and serious.
The critical event, from which the state of emergency arises, lies beyond the range of ordinary experiences to which the individual is accustomed and therefore challenges his or her coping skills, undermining his coping mechanisms. In fact, the subject can perceive a sense of vulnerability, a lack of control and a strong sense of threat. Each person reacts in his own way, trying to manage the discomfort with the strategies he habitually uses. The news of the lockdown, in the case of Covid-19, aroused a sense of helplessness, terror and in some cases escape; it made a large part of the population realize the seriousness of the situation. The impact has been on the individual, but also on the communities, from the smallest (like the family) to the largest (like the regions).
Testimonials from China show the effects of the pandemic, highlighting an increase in psychological and psychopathological symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances and post traumatic stress disorder. Italy is experiencing firsthand the impact of Covid-19 and the pandemic-related stress responses. Physiological (for example, iperarousal or hypoarousal), and psychological (for example, feeling unreality or dissociation) effects can be found.
All the people involved in this extraordinary situation are facing changes in their own way and are experiencing a normal range of emotions in response to the emergency, such as anger, anxiety, sadness, fear and guilt, declined in various forms. It is important, explains Dr. Mazzoni, to promptly identify the subjects most at risk of developing a PTSD or significant discomfort due to a lack of adaptation. The emergency psychology interventions, in fact, have a preventive purpose and move towards the patients, without waiting for the latter to seek help after having already developed a symptomatology. Toll-free numbers and a network of online services have been created on this line. In the intervention process it has proved essential not only to offer psychological support, but also to provide information, psychoeducation and strategies for managing stress and emotions. An example are the clarifications provided regarding the contagion prevention measures, which have had the effect of increasing the sense of security.
So what can be done to address the changes and new needs associated with the pandemic?
First of all it is important to mobilize:
The teacher also showed an intervention for the management of stress divided into phases, recalling that in cases of PTSD, instead, targeted treatment is necessary.
At the end of his speech, Dr. Mazzoni recalls that from the Covid-19 experience only negative consequences cannot be expected. In fact, this situation, in itself adverse and harmful, could be transformed into an opportunity for post-traumatic growth, a period in which to discover resources, possibilities, capacities, in which to increase one’s sense of resilience. Everyone must find its meaning in the pandemic and in the aspects related to it. Individual, relational, group growth dimensions and even a new philosophy of life can develop.