July 7, 2022
4
Min read

“Long covid forced me to address my anxiety—and put myself before my work”

Written By
Steve Howe
With thanks To
Rachel Reid | Partnerships Manager at Chameleon

Before the pandemic, Rachel Reid was constantly on the go: 

“I’d sleep around six hours a night, wake up early and do back-to-back sessions at the gym, work from 9:30am until 7pm, maybe go out for dinner, and repeat. There was literally no downtime.” 

Her weekends, too, were packed with activities—volleyball, social engagements, running around. And when the pandemic hit, she didn’t stop. In fact, she accelerated: 

“Lockdown drove me even more into my work, because the distraction of socialising disappeared.” 

But that didn’t last long.

The fog descends 

A week after lockdown was enforced in Barcelona, Rachel got out of bed, opened her laptop, and prepared for a busy day ahead. After an hour, a sudden wave of fatigue hit her. She went back to bed and slept all day. 

Rachel had caught covid. But there was no fever, cough, or trouble breathing—so she assumed it was the flu and took only a couple of days off work. She believed the worst was over. 

Then, a week later, fatigue seized her body once more. Plus, she had a fever this time. A doctor told her she’d “probably” caught covid—tests weren’t available at the time—and not yet fully recovered. She quarantined and took a week off work.  

Again, she tried to return to work but the fatigue came back—ten times worse.

“I couldn’t get out of bed. I had the worst brain fog—I literally couldn’t think about anything. An email that before would’ve taken me five minutes now took an hour to write. I struggled to follow basic recipes and remember the Spanish word for ‘please’.”  

The cycle continued over several months: take time off work, ride out the symptoms, return to work, feel like shit, repeat. 

Rachel tried to push her way through the fatigue. There was the time she felt optimistic after going for a short run, only to spend the next day in bed, unable to move. Or the time when restrictions were lifted, allowing for small outdoor gatherings. Rachel knew her friends were at the beach, but she could barely walk out the front door of her building. 

The fog had become all-consuming. It was a burden—not just physically—but mentally, too:  

“My memory got really bad. I’d leave my flat and struggle to remember if I’d locked the door. I couldn’t trust my brain.” 

<quote-author>Rachel Reid<quote-author><quote-company>Partnerships Manager at Chameleon<quote-company>

This produced compulsions, like obsessively checking she'd locked the front door. She was in a state of constant anxiety—anxiety that her health was permanently damaged, that she might have given covid to her friends. And the anxiety that nobody would even believe she had covid, since her antibody test returned a false negative.  

She was caught in a classic catch-22: unable to work due to illness, unable to rest due to guilt.

Something had to give.  

A life check-in 

Rachel told her manager that she needed a month off work, which wasn’t easy:  

“I thought my job was so important. It felt like everything would fall apart if I didn’t go to work.”   

In reality, the time off helped. She stripped back her schedule, removing anything that felt like too much effort:

"I’d go to the park near my house and just lie there. Or, at a stretch, do 30 minutes of light yoga.” 

Over the course of that month, her health started to improve. She felt more energised, the brain fog began to lift, and she found herself cooking and speaking Spanish again. 

But on the morning she was due back at work, she woke up in floods of tears—she was having an anxiety attack. She called her sister, who could always put things in perspective: 

“My sister framed it as a life check-in. She made me realise I was putting my job before myself, and that— to get better—I needed to quit.”   

So the next day, Rachel handed in her notice. That’s when she truly began to work on herself.

Rachel (right) with her ever-dependable sister.

She first tried to get rid of any internal pressure to do stuff. Which—for someone as self-demanding as Rachel—was really hard. Up to that point, she thought that being a good human meant always needing to achieve. 

Now, she had to learn to drop everything. She minimised her use of WhatsApp to remove any obligation to respond to messages. Inevitably, this meant that she lost some relationships. But the people that mattered most to Rachel understood why she had stepped back. She also started writing a journal. Not because she had to, but because it was therapeutic.

Rachel says that on reflection, there’s more—or less, even—she could’ve done during this time. She was still drinking alcohol, even though she knew it didn’t help her anxiety. She was yet to start therapy. But the weight of obligation she’d been carrying for years began to lift.

Gaining new clarity   

Rachel believes she’s had anxiety her whole life. When she was 28, she went on holiday with her family. That’s when the panic attacks began: 

“I had the worst anxiety of my life. I was crying the whole time, I couldn't sleep, I couldn’t stop thinking about work and my health.” 

At the time, she couldn’t articulate it—she just knew she “had this thing”. Nor did she know how bad it was. So she left it alone. 

It wasn’t until her experience with long covid that Rachel became really aware of her anxiety:

“If I kept going at the pace I was going, I would’ve had a breakdown. Long covid made me stop, reprioritise, and look after my mental health.”

<quote-author>Rachel Reid<quote-author><quote-company>Partnerships Manager at Chameleon<quote-company>

This renewed focus on health is what eventually led Rachel to start therapy. Her therapist introduced her to EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) treatment, which allowed her to examine where her anxiety stemmed from:

“I had several intense sessions and my mindset started to shift. I gained new clarity on life, felt calm for the first time in ages, and became much happier.”

Alongside therapy, Rachel’s other great tool is yoga. Her anxiety manifests physically. But yoga—with its emphasis on breathing and slowing down the nervous system—acts as an antidote: 

“I could be having the worst day, then I do yoga and it completely recalibrates me. It’s about letting go of pressure and realising that everything will be okay.”

Plus, she says, anyone can do it, anywhere. You don’t need to be flexible or strong—just throw a mat down and away you go. 


The mirror 

Before the pandemic, Rachel felt like she needed to squeeze out as much productivity as possible. She filled her days with intense workouts, marathon work projects, social events, and language classes. She jumped on every email, held herself accountable to every commitment. 

A gruelling battle with long covid forced her to stop and reflect. It held a mirror up to her life. And for that she’s grateful. 

Rachel admits that neither therapy nor yoga are instant switches. And she still experiences anxiety. The difference is that now she’s much better protected—both physically and mentally. She knows how to help herself. 

She no longer sets a rigid routine. Instead, she adjusts her day according to how she’s feeling—prioritising what’s important:

“This email I’ve been trying to write for an hour? It doesn’t matter, because I'm alive. That's what really matters.”

For support with long covid or anxiety, Rachel recommends Invisible Illness, Positive Psychology, Mind, and the Long Covid Facebook Support Group.

For more Rachel, check out her Medium.

Oliva therapist portrait photo

4 tips on getting through long covid

by Oliva therapist

Martina Greaney

1

Track your energy levels

When sick, we’re naturally eager to return to our usual activities and routines. However, this can be overwhelming both physically and emotionally—and can lead to further fatigue. Start by writing down any patterns you notice in your energy levels using a scale of 0-10 each morning, afternoon, and evening. Note which activities take more or less energy.
2

Pace your activities

Once you have an idea of how different activities impact your energy levels, start to reintroduce them at a steady and realistic pace. Choose one activity at a time to add into your daily routine, rate your energy levels after completing each one, and keep adjusting your schedule to support your needs. Make sure to acknowledge your progress over time—and accept that some days will be more difficult.
3

Reach out for support

Even when fatigue from covid makes it hard to do anything, it’s easy to feel guilty and focus on your to-do list. But to properly recover, you’ll need to make time for rest & relaxation—and you might need to ask for other people’s help to make that time. Talk to your boss about a phased return to work, or ask family and friends for support with child care and day-to-day schedules.
4

Practice breathing exercises

Long covid comes with a lot of worry, which can make it difficult to feel relaxed. But too much stress can prolong your recovery. Mindful breathing can reduce symptoms of anxiety and help with concentration. One simple breathing technique involves breathing out for longer than you breathe in. For example: breathe in for 3 seconds, then out for 6 seconds. This helps you breathe more from your diaphragm, which is proven to make us feel more relaxed.
5

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April 22, 2022
4
Min read

“Long covid forced me to address my anxiety—and put myself before my work”

Written By
Steve Howe
With thanks To
Rachel Reid | Partnerships Manager at Chameleon

Before the pandemic, Rachel Reid was constantly on the go: 

“I’d sleep around six hours a night, wake up early and do back-to-back sessions at the gym, work from 9:30am until 7pm, maybe go out for dinner, and repeat. There was literally no downtime.” 

Her weekends, too, were packed with activities—volleyball, social engagements, running around. And when the pandemic hit, she didn’t stop. In fact, she accelerated: 

“Lockdown drove me even more into my work, because the distraction of socialising disappeared.” 

But that didn’t last long.

The fog descends 

A week after lockdown was enforced in Barcelona, Rachel got out of bed, opened her laptop, and prepared for a busy day ahead. After an hour, a sudden wave of fatigue hit her. She went back to bed and slept all day. 

Rachel had caught covid. But there was no fever, cough, or trouble breathing—so she assumed it was the flu and took only a couple of days off work. She believed the worst was over. 

Then, a week later, fatigue seized her body once more. Plus, she had a fever this time. A doctor told her she’d “probably” caught covid—tests weren’t available at the time—and not yet fully recovered. She quarantined and took a week off work.  

Again, she tried to return to work but the fatigue came back—ten times worse.

“I couldn’t get out of bed. I had the worst brain fog—I literally couldn’t think about anything. An email that before would’ve taken me five minutes now took an hour to write. I struggled to follow basic recipes and remember the Spanish word for ‘please’.”  

The cycle continued over several months: take time off work, ride out the symptoms, return to work, feel like shit, repeat. 

Rachel tried to push her way through the fatigue. There was the time she felt optimistic after going for a short run, only to spend the next day in bed, unable to move. Or the time when restrictions were lifted, allowing for small outdoor gatherings. Rachel knew her friends were at the beach, but she could barely walk out the front door of her building. 

The fog had become all-consuming. It was a burden—not just physically—but mentally, too:  

“My memory got really bad. I’d leave my flat and struggle to remember if I’d locked the door. I couldn’t trust my brain.” 

<quote-author>Rachel Reid<quote-author><quote-company>Partnerships Manager at Chameleon<quote-company>

This produced compulsions, like obsessively checking she'd locked the front door. She was in a state of constant anxiety—anxiety that her health was permanently damaged, that she might have given covid to her friends. And the anxiety that nobody would even believe she had covid, since her antibody test returned a false negative.  

She was caught in a classic catch-22: unable to work due to illness, unable to rest due to guilt.

Something had to give.  

A life check-in 

Rachel told her manager that she needed a month off work, which wasn’t easy:  

“I thought my job was so important. It felt like everything would fall apart if I didn’t go to work.”   

In reality, the time off helped. She stripped back her schedule, removing anything that felt like too much effort:

"I’d go to the park near my house and just lie there. Or, at a stretch, do 30 minutes of light yoga.” 

Over the course of that month, her health started to improve. She felt more energised, the brain fog began to lift, and she found herself cooking and speaking Spanish again. 

But on the morning she was due back at work, she woke up in floods of tears—she was having an anxiety attack. She called her sister, who could always put things in perspective: 

“My sister framed it as a life check-in. She made me realise I was putting my job before myself, and that— to get better—I needed to quit.”   

So the next day, Rachel handed in her notice. That’s when she truly began to work on herself.

Rachel (right) with her ever-dependable sister.

She first tried to get rid of any internal pressure to do stuff. Which—for someone as self-demanding as Rachel—was really hard. Up to that point, she thought that being a good human meant always needing to achieve. 

Now, she had to learn to drop everything. She minimised her use of WhatsApp to remove any obligation to respond to messages. Inevitably, this meant that she lost some relationships. But the people that mattered most to Rachel understood why she had stepped back. She also started writing a journal. Not because she had to, but because it was therapeutic.

Rachel says that on reflection, there’s more—or less, even—she could’ve done during this time. She was still drinking alcohol, even though she knew it didn’t help her anxiety. She was yet to start therapy. But the weight of obligation she’d been carrying for years began to lift.

Gaining new clarity   

Rachel believes she’s had anxiety her whole life. When she was 28, she went on holiday with her family. That’s when the panic attacks began: 

“I had the worst anxiety of my life. I was crying the whole time, I couldn't sleep, I couldn’t stop thinking about work and my health.” 

At the time, she couldn’t articulate it—she just knew she “had this thing”. Nor did she know how bad it was. So she left it alone. 

It wasn’t until her experience with long covid that Rachel became really aware of her anxiety:

Quote author photograph
“If I kept going at the pace I was going, I would’ve had a breakdown. Long covid made me stop, reprioritise, and look after my mental health.”

<quote-author>Rachel Reid<quote-author><quote-company>Partnerships Manager at Chameleon<quote-company>

This renewed focus on health is what eventually led Rachel to start therapy. Her therapist introduced her to EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) treatment, which allowed her to examine where her anxiety stemmed from:

“I had several intense sessions and my mindset started to shift. I gained new clarity on life, felt calm for the first time in ages, and became much happier.”

Alongside therapy, Rachel’s other great tool is yoga. Her anxiety manifests physically. But yoga—with its emphasis on breathing and slowing down the nervous system—acts as an antidote: 

“I could be having the worst day, then I do yoga and it completely recalibrates me. It’s about letting go of pressure and realising that everything will be okay.”

Plus, she says, anyone can do it, anywhere. You don’t need to be flexible or strong—just throw a mat down and away you go. 


The mirror 

Before the pandemic, Rachel felt like she needed to squeeze out as much productivity as possible. She filled her days with intense workouts, marathon work projects, social events, and language classes. She jumped on every email, held herself accountable to every commitment. 

A gruelling battle with long covid forced her to stop and reflect. It held a mirror up to her life. And for that she’s grateful. 

Rachel admits that neither therapy nor yoga are instant switches. And she still experiences anxiety. The difference is that now she’s much better protected—both physically and mentally. She knows how to help herself. 

She no longer sets a rigid routine. Instead, she adjusts her day according to how she’s feeling—prioritising what’s important:

“This email I’ve been trying to write for an hour? It doesn’t matter, because I'm alive. That's what really matters.”

For support with long covid or anxiety, Rachel recommends Invisible Illness, Positive Psychology, Mind, and the Long Covid Facebook Support Group.

For more Rachel, check out her Medium.

quote author photograph
Oliva therapist photograph

4 tips on getting through long covid

by Oliva therapist

Martina Greaney

1
Track your energy levels

When sick, we’re naturally eager to return to our usual activities and routines. However, this can be overwhelming both physically and emotionally—and can lead to further fatigue. Start by writing down any patterns you notice in your energy levels using a scale of 0-10 each morning, afternoon, and evening. Note which activities take more or less energy.

2
Pace your activities

Once you have an idea of how different activities impact your energy levels, start to reintroduce them at a steady and realistic pace. Choose one activity at a time to add into your daily routine, rate your energy levels after completing each one, and keep adjusting your schedule to support your needs. Make sure to acknowledge your progress over time—and accept that some days will be more difficult.

3
Reach out for support

Even when fatigue from covid makes it hard to do anything, it’s easy to feel guilty and focus on your to-do list. But to properly recover, you’ll need to make time for rest & relaxation—and you might need to ask for other people’s help to make that time. Talk to your boss about a phased return to work, or ask family and friends for support with child care and day-to-day schedules.

4
Practice breathing exercises

Long covid comes with a lot of worry, which can make it difficult to feel relaxed. But too much stress can prolong your recovery. Mindful breathing can reduce symptoms of anxiety and help with concentration. One simple breathing technique involves breathing out for longer than you breathe in. For example: breathe in for 3 seconds, then out for 6 seconds. This helps you breathe more from your diaphragm, which is proven to make us feel more relaxed.

5

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