In the annals of human history, the last few years will be inked as a time of unprecedented disruption and change, touching every corner of our lives and imprinting indelible marks on our collective psyche. Each crisis emerged like a turbulent wave, eroding the tranquillity of our world, only to be followed by another, leaving us grappling with an incessant tide of uncertainty and adversity.
Our journey began with the relentless onslaught of a global pandemic, a virulent plague unseen in scale and scope since the devastating influenza outbreak a century ago. The average person found themselves thrust into a world of social isolation, fear, and omnipresent danger. The mere act of human contact, a fundamental pillar of our social species, became fraught with risk. The ensuing economic fallout ravaged livelihoods, with the spectre of job insecurity and financial instability becoming the order of the day.
War In Europe
As we struggled to adapt and recover, a geopolitical storm erupted. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked a wave of fear and uncertainty, making the concept of peace feel like a distant memory. For the average individual, the unfolding drama served as a sobering reminder of our vulnerability to forces beyond our control. The sense of dread was palpable, with news of the conflict, displacement, and devastation injecting additional stress into our already overwhelmed lives.
In the aftermath of the war, a crippling energy crisis unfurled. Rocketing fuel prices made everyday activities such as driving to work, heating our homes, or even cooking our meals significantly more expensive. The added strain on budgets deepened the sense of insecurity, with even the most routine tasks becoming sources of anxiety and worry.
Cost Of Living Crises
This energy crisis, in turn, was the harbinger of a gruelling cost-of-living crisis. Food prices began a relentless climb, burdening households further. Ensuring adequate nutrition, a fundamental human need, became a strenuous effort for many, escalating the emotional strain.
Interest Rate Increase
Compounding the problem, the Bank of England took drastic measures to contain the economic impact by raising interest rates to levels unseen since 1981. For homeowners, this meant higher mortgage payments and an intensified struggle to maintain their homes. For those seeking to buy a home, this meant more hurdles on their path, adding another layer of stress.
Navigating this ceaseless barrage of crises has put us all in a state of heightened alert, causing a societal malaise mental health experts are now terming “low-level PTSD.” Our collective journey through this era of unprecedented upheaval has resulted in pervasive psychological scars, etched deep into our everyday lives.
Understanding Low-Level PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is typically associated with significant traumatic events. However, continuous periods of stress and anxiety can also lead to what is being termed “low-level PTSD.” Symptoms can include intrusive thoughts, hypervigilance, being easily startled, irritability, difficulty sleeping, and persistent feelings of sadness or fear.
Every one of these crises has contributed to the pervasiveness of low-level PTSD. The uncertainty and isolation induced by the pandemic, the fear and displacement caused by the war, the stress from the energy crisis, and the anxiety about meeting daily needs amidst the cost-of-living crisis have all piled on a continuous stream of stressors. The unrelenting nature of these events can trigger and exacerbate symptoms of low-level PTSD.
Identifying Life with Low-Level PTSD
Living with low-level PTSD might look like being on constant high alert, experiencing a heightened startle response, or struggling with sleep disturbances. It may also manifest as an inability to focus, persistent worry, or constant feelings of dread. Perhaps you find yourself frequently reliving the news stories of the day, or you might feel overwhelming guilt or sadness for those most affected by the crises.
These responses are normal reactions to abnormal circumstances. However, if they start affecting your daily functioning, it may be time to seek help and begin the healing process.
Healing Amidst the Crises
Healing from low-level PTSD, while still living within the circumstances that caused it, is a process that requires patience, compassion, and resilience. Here are a few strategies:
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings: Ignoring or suppressing your emotions can often exacerbate symptoms. Acknowledge the way you feel and understand that these feelings are a natural response to the events you’ve experienced.
2. Establish a Routine: Maintaining a daily routine can provide a sense of normalcy and control amidst chaos. It doesn’t have to be elaborate – start with regular meal times, a bedtime routine, or dedicated time for relaxation.
3. Stay Active: Physical activity is a great stress reliever. Regular exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood lifters, and can help improve sleep, focus, and overall wellbeing.
4. Connect with Others: Reach out to family, friends, or join support groups. Sharing your experiences and feelings with others can alleviate feelings of isolation.
5. Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practices like meditation, deep breathing, or yoga can help manage symptoms by calming the mind and body.
6. Limit Media Exposure: Continuous exposure to distressing news can amplify feelings of fear and anxiety. Limit your consumption of news and social media, and consider allocating specific times during the day to catch up on current events.
7. Seek Professional Help: If you find that your symptoms persist or intensify, reach out to a mental health professional. Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), or trauma-focused cognitive therapy can be beneficial. In some cases, medication may be recommended.
8. Self-Care: Prioritise self-care practices that replenish you physically, emotionally, and mentally. This could include reading, taking a warm bath, listening to your favourite music, or spending time in nature.
Living through continuous crises can be deeply challenging, and it’s natural to feel overwhelmed. But remember, you are not alone in this journey, and there are resources and strategies available to support your mental wellbeing. Recognising the signs of low-level PTSD and taking proactive steps towards healing is the first and most crucial step.
Living through an era of crisis doesn’t mean you have to do so in a state of constant stress. Understanding the roots and manifestations of low-level PTSD is the first step towards finding your path to recovery. By adopting coping strategies, reaching out for help when necessary, and prioritising your mental health, we can all work towards emerging from this period stronger and more resilient.
Empowering Bournemouth through Knowledge: The Bournemouth Observer.