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When we experience something that is highly stressful or distressing, we don’t want to be reminded of it, so much so that we may avoid things that remind us of it, such as the place where it happened or the people connected with it.
You might find yourself minimising contact with patients, thinking of not reporting for work, or avoiding people who are coughing or sneezing, or public spaces.
When we’re around people who are unwell, even in normal times, our brains encourage us to avoid situations that will increase our own chances of becoming unwell. Many of these messages are being reinforced in the current pandemic to reduce transmission rates, but you may find yourself experiencing more anxiety than you’re comfortable with. We might feel fear, disgust, or a need to “decontaminate” ourselves or the area around us.
Things that can help
Where possible, try not to avoid. For example, if you become aware that you’re working hard to avoid reminders of something unpleasant, it’s important to know that while this might reduce feelings of anxiety in the short-term, in the long run this can maintain your anxiety and reduce your quality of life. Remember that the event has passed. You can do this by focusing on differences between then and now, and keeping yourself grounded in the present moment.
It can be helpful to speak to others about these experiences, if you feel ready to do so. If you find these experiences persist or you find them highly distressing, speak to your GP who may be able to help.
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