‘It is like sitting on a cliff’: September, schools, and pre-traumatic stress disorder in COVID times

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Is the priority that the children stay home because there are grandparents in the house? Risk mitigation, at all costs? “One could argue that’s a high priority, given the home situation,” Illes says.

With a younger family with two professionals desperate for some quiet time in the house, having kids at school part may be a better risk-benefit trade-off for the health and welfare of the entire family, she says. Kids kept home, some studies suggest, have a higher risk of anxiety and depression.

“There’s no black and white. It’s this pendulum that swings between risk and benefit and it has to be a calculated trade-off,” Illes says.

There are ways to buffer the confusion and anxiety, she says. “Think about what’s important to you. What you value.” Reframe negative thoughts of the future into positive ones. Rely on evidence-based information. Avoid drinking too much or other unhealthy behaviours and recognize symptoms, like constant, vivid worry or disturbed sleep.

In most crises, people lose sleep.  After an earthquake or hurricane, we pick up the pieces of our shattered homes and bury the dead. There are all sorts of things to take care of, Barrett says.

This was the one crisis where, “go home and lie around was the command for the majority of people, though not everyone,” Barrett says. People are sleeping more, on average, and the strongest correlate with dream recall is hours of sleep.

“We go into rapid eye movement sleep every 90 minutes, but each period gets longer through the night,” explains Barrett. “So, if you sleep four hours instead of eight, you’re not getting half your dream time. You’re getting, like, 20 per cent of your dream time.”