Patients and Visitors
Watch this video for advice on how to pace yourself and manage any mental effects of COVID-19.
As you recover from COVID you might be experiencing symptoms such as fatigue and breathlessness or changes in your mood and thinking. These symptoms are common after a serious illness, especially if you have received hospital treatment. You might find that these symptoms affect your ability to complete everyday activities, such as getting washed and dressed, and doing tasks around the home. Activities that are usually simple might seem like hard work, and you may feel that you have less energy than usual.
There are lots of simple things you can do to help yourself. Getting enough sleep and making sure you eat well will both help. It is important to conserve your energy when you are completing your everyday tasks to help make sure that you have enough energy throughout the day. Try following the 3 P’s Principle – Pace, Plan and Prioritise – to conserve your energy when going about your daily activities.
Many patients recovering from COVID are also experiencing cognitive problems. These symptoms are estimated to be present in up to a third of patients who have been hospitalised; but may also affect those that haven’t been hospitalised.
The brain is endlessly:
It is always active, yet, we don’t notice most of our brain’s activity as we move throughout our daily routine. Put simply, cognition is THINKING. Our brain acquires processes and uses information from our senses, knowledge and experiences. Cognitive impairment is one of the three most common persisting symptoms six months post COVID so it is important to be aware!
One aspect of being very unwell, particularly with an infection, can be the occurrence of delirium. If you have experienced delirium you may have:
Commonly thought of as concentration. This can make it hard to focus and ignore distractions. So focusing on a task or conversation may be difficult. It may be hard to divide or alternate your attention between doing two or more things.
If your short term memory is affected, you may find it difficult to hold information in your mind in order to use it to make decisions based on that information. You may struggle to recall something that has happened, or forget to take medication on time.
Executive functions are the mental processes that allow us to solve problems, make decisions, plan ahead, and see tasks through to completion.
People with executive functioning problems often seem disorganised, impulsive, and not thinking things through. They may find it difficult to get going on tasks, or start a task but not see it through.
BE AWARE OF OTHER IMPACTS ON YOUR COGNITION… Fatigue, fear, stress, anxiety, low in mood and altered sleep patterns all take their toll on our ability to think clearly.
IF YOU ARE STILL HAVING ONGOING DIFFICULTIES WITH YOUR COGNITION CONTACT YOUR GP AND REQUEST A REFERRAL TO OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY OR PSYCHOLOGY.
We are all familiar with the feeling of fatigue after exercise or a long period of concentration. Sometimes, however, fatigue can be felt in a way that does not seem normal. Despite resting, and a good night’s sleep, fatigue occurs after minimal effort, is prolonged and limits your usual activity. It can leave people feeling dull and finding it difficult to concentrate and recall memories.
Fatigue is very common after viral infections, such as COVID and normally it settles after 2 or 3 weeks. However, in some people it can linger for weeks or months.
There are many reasons why people feel fatigued after a COVID infection. These are:
In some people, different things contribute to the fatigue and make it last a long time. Low levels of physical activity, a disturbed daily routine, poor sleep patterns, demanding work, caring responsibilities, low mood, anxiety and stress can all make fatigue worse.
Explain to your family, friends, and colleagues at work the impact the fatigue is having. Because fatigue is invisible, sometimes it is not properly understood. Until it is experienced it can be hard to understand the impact of fatigue and how debilitating it can be.
Fatigue feels much worse if your sleep pattern is also disturbed so try and get a good night’s sleep.
Relaxation techniques can help with fatigue as they promote a good sleep pattern, and can help reduce stress. Consider trying techniques such as mindful meditation, aromatherapy, yoga, tai chi, and other activities you find relaxing, such as reading or having a long shower or bath.
Plan each day in advance so that you can do what you need, and consider what can be delegated to other people. Build a regular routine, and try to avoid ‘boom and bust’ behaviour, where you are very active on ‘good’ days and then feel exhausted the following day. An activity diary can help with this.
You can also decide which activities that you are doing are most important to you. If this is a task which is very important, prioritise and do it when you have the most energy. If they are not important, but ‘have to be done’ can you delegate them?
Think about areas where you can save energy and delegate tasks, for example, online shopping rather than a trip to the supermarket, or cooking at the weekend for the week ahead when you are busy. Finally, make sure you are doing some things which are enjoyable, such activities can be energising.
For one or two weeks, keep a record of what you have done during the day and how you feel after each activity. Also note if you had a good day. Activities can be physical, social, cognitive (thinking), or emotional, and some can be more tiring than others. Diaries can help you spot unhelpful activity patterns, such as irregular sleep patterns and ‘boom and bust’ behaviours.
Energy levels are also helped by staying active. Being unfit makes you more tired. Once the amount of activity you are doing is stable, try to increase the amount you do slowly and gently.
A healthy diet can help.
Talk to your GP so they can rule out any other condition that could be causing your tiredness if;
Many people who have been seriously unwell (including their families or loved ones) can often experience symptoms of anxiety or depression. These symptoms may include:
Feeling anxious or depressed also include physical symptoms (it is often difficult or impossible to decide if these symptoms have a physical or an emotional cause or a bit of both). Symptoms may include:
In many ways feeling anxious or low is a normal part of recovery from an illness but if you find the symptoms do not reduce, or if they cause you distress, or interfere with your ability to recover and get back to life, help is available.
Anxiety is something everyone will experience and feeling anxious is a very normal reaction to the illness you are overcoming. Sometimes feelings of anxiety can be overwhelming and can affect your daily life.
Anxiety can make you feel sweaty, shaky, short of breath and increase your heart rate. It can cause changes in our behaviour such as becoming overly careful or avoiding things that trigger feelings of anxiety.
Top tips to cope with anxiety:
While regular exercise is important, you should also take some time to relax both your mind and body.
Stress and anxiety is not uncommon after illness, it can:
Guided imagery is a technique which involves mentally visualizing a place in your life that represents safety, comfort or happiness.
Places may include a garden, a beach or a house. You can practice some deep breathing exercise during this.
Your body has been through a lot so it is important you make time for yourself regularly. It does not take very much time and regular practice can dramatically reduce your stress levels. Some good examples of mindfulness can be found on ‘Every Mind Matters’ on YouTube, Headspace from the app store or Be Mindful is an online course.
Doing things that you enjoy is a great way to relax. This may include: