Long COVID: Self-Management Strategies
By Zara Dureno, Occupational Therapist
Long COVID is something that is emerging as a serious health issue for many people across the world. The symptoms vary, but among the most reported are severe fatigue, headaches, anxiety or depression, brain fog and in some cases, a shortness of breath. Researchers have been hard at work trying to find a pattern in the symptoms and a way to treat it. At the Surrey Neuroplasticity Clinic, we often see complicated symptom presentations, and we know that with the way our brains work, it is best to start with the basics. Two self-management strategies that we suggest for long COVID are energy conservation and grounding techniques.
Energy conservation is a technique that can be used for anyone who is suffering from long-term symptoms. The simplest way to do this is to pace: write down your symptoms on a scale of 1-10 before starting an activity.
While you are doing the activity, check in with yourself and your symptoms every few minutes. If you notice your symptoms have gone up overall by 2 points, take a short break (1-5 mins) and do some grounding exercises to see if you can bring your symptoms down. If they do not come down, you may need a longer break. If they do come down, you can go back to the activity and take another break when they flare up again.
Some other basic pacing principles are as follows:
- Break larger tasks down into small steps and complete them one at a time.
- Alternate tasks which are cognitive, physical and restful.
- Short frequent breaks are better than pushing through and needing to take a longer break.
- Consider your positioning, alternate between sitting and standing tasks.
- Plan your activities to avoid multiple trips.
- Decide what needs to be done today and what can be done at a later time. Delegate tasks as needed.
It’s important to not stop doing activities just as much as it is important to not push through and exhaust yourself. Finding the right balance and pace can help you expand how much you are able to do over time.
Grounding techniques can be used while you are using energy conservation and pacing as a way of calming your nervous system. Deep breathing is an excellent technique to start with. Inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 2 and exhale for a count of 7. This can help bring your body into a more relaxed state.
You can also try doing some light stretching, a progressive muscle relaxation, holding your hands over your eyes, gently massaging yourself or mindfully sipping some tea as a grounding exercise.
These two techniques combined may help you on your journey of recovering from long COVID.
Remember to be patient and kind with yourself during this process. It is not easy to navigate health issues like this, and just by reading this you are taking a step in the right direction. The staff at the Surrey Neuroplasticity Clinic can also provide you with other tools to manage the mental health, cognitive and physical side effects that you are experiencing. Give us a call and book an appointment with one of our clinicians today!