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Recovering from Pandemic Stress

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

Though the research from this pandemic is new, we can understand broadly the effects of acute stress on the body and our wellbeing from the available research.

The pandemic was a complex experience that affected key components that make up our wellbeing. The 3 components addressed in this article are:

1. Psychological

2. Physical

3. Social

The pandemic placed all of us under a lot of stress. From the change in routine to the restriction of behavior, to the effects of isolation.

When the body experiences acute stress, a cascade of neurological reactions occurs. In the short-term acute stress can be helpful. It activates the “fight or flight” response causing the body to divert resources to the muscles and alert systems, making up hyper ware of possible threats. When faced with a predator in our distant past, this system allowed us to muscle the resources to fight, or make our getaway.

However, in our modern world the fight or flight system can be turned on by world events like the pandemic. When this system is activated for extended periods of time it causes a reduction in our overall wellness in profound ways.

During stress the hormone cortisol is released. This hormone along with the other cascading effects of stress cause the immune system to become overreactive. This hyperactivity negatively affects the way the body cares for itself in fighting off infection. Also, this system when overactive produces inflammation. The combination of these two stress reactions can, over time, shrink the logical center of our brain, the frontal cortex. In addition, stress causes hyperactivity in our fear alert centers. This produces a feedback loop, causing the brain to be primed for threat and producing more stress reactions thought the body.

In addition to this, isolation is known to cause adverse effects on the body’s system. isolation also lowers the immune system and produces ill health. There is a social explanation, believing that isolation lowers health because it lowers our positive social interactions that from healthy habits. Other explanations believe that isolation lowers our immune responses which cause a degradation to our system. in essence, isolation is a form of stress.

The pandemic brought together 2 powerful negative forces, stress, and isolation. Due to the prolonged nature many people are likely to have developed physical effects form the pandemic.

Luckily there are ways to address these effects. Exercise has been knows for centuries to help in the effects of stress. Combining exercise in a group setting can also decrease the effects of isolation.

Likewise, there are several psychological interventions that can assist with duress, both formal and informal. One method of mental wellness is though the practice of expressive writing and journaling.

In short, to achieve recovery from the pandemic we will have to address the psychological, physical and social aspects of our life together.


If you’d like to explore your wellness further, consider utilizing the Post-Pandemic Recovery Workbook. This interactive, scientifically researched workbook offers a 3 week course on addressing the effects of the pandemic by providing detailed education and structured reflections.


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