Newsletter February 2021

Treatment and Prevention

Dr. Dani Meier, PhD, LMSW
Chief Clinical Officer

Stress Symptoms due to COVID
It may seem overly obvious to focus on stress related to the global COVID pandemic, to say nothing of the stress
compounded by months of political upheaval and disturbing images at the U.S. Capitol just weeks ago. However,
recent evidence suggests that as we approach a year since things were reasonably normal, chronic stress
symptoms are getting worse and are likely contributing to rising rates of depression, anxiety, suicides, substance
abuse and overdose deaths.

Many are reporting physical symptoms, including a rise in disrupted sleep, excruciating headaches, gastrointestinal
problems, and autoimmune flares (lupus episodes, for example, rose 12% in 2020 compared to the same time in
2019 (January to August). Anti-insomnia medications increased 15% in the early months of the pandemic, and
even dentists are seeing an increase in patients with teeth grinding, tooth fractures, and TMJ issues. Chronic stress
correlates with severe problems like heart disease, and even shrinking of the brain’s hippocampus is associated
with memory and learning. If part of one’s experience during the pandemic is “COVID fog,” disorientation, and
increased forgetfulness, this is a normal stress response.

The good news is that these changes are entirely reversible, and everyday stress management strategies can help: exercise, walking outdoors (bundle up!), learning new things (for me, it was ukulele), meditation, and mindfulness. Human connections are also essential to offset social isolation. We can’t gather as we usually do; connecting via phone or video chat or even old fashioned cards and letters go a long way. And, of course, connecting with 4-legged friends helps a lot. With vaccines starting to roll out, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, but in the months ahead, we’re all encouraged to find ways to reduce stress, get lots of rest, and take care of ourselves.

For additional information, please contact Dani at