August 12, 2020 - Podcast

Episode 19—Long-term symptoms of COVID-19 and managing stress

The list of potential COVID-19 symptoms has continued to grow and includes everything from a cough to fatigue. But how long do these symptoms last and what are the long-term effects of contracting COVID-19? Natalie Lambert, associate research professor at Indiana University’s School of Medicine, is studying COVID-19 “Long Hauler” symptoms. Long-Haulers are people who suffer from symptoms for weeks or even months after being diagnosed with COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 are experiencing long-term symptoms. Lambert’s survey, conducted in partnership with Survivor Corps, found a total of 98 long-term symptoms, including many that the CDC had not previously listed, such as difficulty focusing or concentrating, problems with sleeping or memory, vision issues, and hair loss. Lambert said the most interesting aspect of her work is not just the symptoms people with COVID-19 are feeling for longer periods of time, but the lack of recognition for this particular group. She said there are so many people suffering from long-term symptoms, yet employers and even family members are skeptical that these people are still sick. Lambert says she plans to expand her research in the future, to better understand COVID-19 patients and further reiterate that COVID-19 is not necessarily a short-term disease.

Contracting COVID-19 and how long the symptoms of the virus can last is just one of the aspects of the pandemic that has people feeling stressed and anxious. The pandemic has impacted every aspect of American life and this fall, a time previously thought to maybe provide a chance for things to lighten up, has only ramped up, causing many people to feel more stressed. But Michelle Salyers, a professor in psychology at IUPUI, says there are five simple things everyone can do to help mitigate stress during this difficult time. First, Salyers says, make sure to stay informed by using reliable sources like the CDC for news and updated guidance. Avoid constantly scrolling through social media, which can provide nonfactual information, and 24-hour news shows. Stay informed, she says, but make sure to take a break from the never-ending stream of information. Second, practice breathing exercises that can help you relax. Salyers says find a breathing technique that works best for you and practice when stressed. Third, take time each day to practice meditating, which can help produce a deep state of relaxation. Fourth, practice gratitude by writing down what brings you joy, meaning or gratitude. Then focus on those things throughout the day. Finally, Salyers says, get some sun. Stand outside for five minutes to soak up vitamin D, which research has shown can help reduce fatigue, feelings of depression, and anxiety. Salyers says taking a little time each day to address your mental health can have a huge impact on reducing stress.