Do you have Present Traumatic Stress Syndrome?

Day 66 of coronavirus in France

Day 15 of enforced confinement

We are developing resources to help people living with accumulated grief, elevated stress, and continuous trauma.

Present Traumatic Stress Syndrome defined

For this conversation Present Traumatic Stress Syndrome will refer to the anxieties and high levels of adrenaline experienced by those living in the midst of an extended crisis. Think of it as the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response – but stretched over a long period of time. 

Have you ever thought about how the fight or flight response created by added stressors was never meant to be extended over a long period of time? After a traumatic experience it is common to need to rest and sleep extra-long or more often as we recharge our adrenals that have been drained. But what happens when the entire world population is exposed to the same trauma and those challenging circumstances continue over time. Days become weeks, which drag on into months.

Not to be confused with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which certainly presents a multitude of differences, but since the world doesn’t have a clinical term for Present Traumatic Stress Syndrome, I think it is a term that allows our minds to grasp the global phenomenon that we are living and validate the trauma involved.

Some of you may be spared this strife. We are still hopeful that small towns and villages that are less densely populated will not see the trauma per capita that the capital cities of the world are trudging through.

Signs and symptoms

Accumulation of Griefs

When you don’t have time or permission to grieve, the grief response accumulates making each new stressor and each new loss more difficult to bear.

I don’t check the news often these days. Every day is more sad than the last. But today two pieces of information came to my attention – both pointing to the fact that it’s worse than the numbers lead us to believe. There are a thousand contributing factors of course, and they all point to the only return to ‘normalcy’ will be after a vaccine is developed. Which is months away. There is no official press release that the schools will not reopen, but the French people are watching the progression of other countries and the general understanding of the neighbors is that we may or may not get back to school on time in the fall.


Exhaustion prevails. Stress and fear both drain our bodies energy, depleting our neurochemicals faster than we can recharge them. Eating vitamin rich foods not only boost your immune response, but also recharge this brain function. I would recommend googling a few keywords and finding some adrenal boosting recipes to reach for in a crisis moment.


Meanwhile around the globe virtual community is hard. Community should be a great source of encouragement, at the top of many of our coping mechanisms. Many partners around the world are encountering disenchantment with live streamed inspirational services. Singing in your living room, even the motivational sermon, is loosing a following. People crave inter-connection more than ever.


Our local team is hoping that small groups might work better to weave together communities of disciples in the long run. We are investing heavily on spending more time hearing people’s personal struggles and personalized coaching rather than following an outline or motivational script.


This evening I found out about a disciple whose disciple just lost her mom tonight. Our disciples are on call and counseling non-stop.

This is not a sprint. We are not biding our time until things go back to normal. This is a marathon. Normal of the future does not look like normal of the past.


I am excited about releasing the new resources that are being developed to help people living with accumulated grief, elevated stress, and continuous trauma. May they bring hope and peace. I’ll keep sharing those with you as each one is published. They are gold. The villages of grief is being illustrated right now.

Feed that which nurtures peace

Repeat after me. “I am loved.” Take a deep breath. Continue, “God cares for me.” Breathe. “God is with me.” Here is my fav list of mantras to breathe to.

Starve the stress

One of the primary factors that feed Present Traumatic Stress Syndrome is access to 24-hour news feeds. Why keep pouring gasoline on the fire? For most of us, there is little need to check news more than once every few days. Let’s do our bodies and souls a favor this weekend and take a ‘news sabbath.’

Rest and rejuvenate

It’s okay if you’re tired. Get more sleep. Don’t expect every day to be as productive as the last. He will cover you with his feathers and in his wings you will find rest and peace.

Live in the present

No good can come from ruminating what ifs and lost dreams. Find something to enjoy about your moment and stay in the present. Sometimes my present is looking through old photos and home videos with my daughter. Sometimes my present is admitting that this unexpected separation hurts deeply. Live that emotion, don’t wish it away in denial. But most of all remember to live.


Find three things to be thankful for each day. List a new one at each meal. Or start a journal of them. Gratitude is proven to fight stress and anxiety.

Extend compassion

Start a kindness pandemic. The needs of every community will be different and the resources of each home. Let us know what kind of creative thins you and your community are doing to care for people while respecting physical distancing protocol.

Making the best of it

Rather than fighting what you can’t do, increase social connection while respecting physical distance: phone, media.


Start a mingle with your office workers. There will be plenty of on-business phone calls and video conferences. Start a weekly mingle video conference where the sole purpose is to chat and catch up on soul care with one prevailing rule – no work talk.

Be a Samaritan

I just volunteered a bag full of fleece and the rest of our package of vacuum filters to a neighbor who works in healthcare. Her mom has a sewing machine and is making these masks for the staff. Everyone does their part. Maintain physical distancing measures above all acts of solidarity.

Nursing staff and social workers are over extended. Bake them cookies or deliver a meal. Advise them to wait 48 hours before touching it.

Cast a Vision

Be the first to cast a vision for what your community will do to celebrate the future. It’s time to start planning what that reuniting will look like. People need to know what they are looking forward to. Even if we have no date, we can begin dreaming of what we want that day to look like and sowing that hope in their hearts and priorities for the future they dream of.

He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

— Psalm 91:4
unsplash-logoMarcos Paulo Prado

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