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Clear & simple

Wednesday, 24 February 2021, Universität, Forschen

Power to get through the pandemic: mentally resilient people cope better with crisis situations

Last year Claudia Traunmüller and her team also investigated how the pandemic restrictions affected the mental health of Austrians. Over 40 per cent of respondents admitted that they had experienced significant psychological effects, and just over a fifth suffered from stress, anxiety or depression.
So can vaccination free us from anxiety? According to the psychologist: “Vaccination has no direct effect on anxiety, but it can reduce the fear of infection or of becoming seriously ill.”

Clip (German only)


Power to get through the pandemic: mentally resilient people cope better with crisis situations

It’s a bit like your mobile phone. With a fully-charged battery you can enjoy a long conversation with no problem, even if you haven’t planned for it. Similarly, people with good mental resilience cope better with a crisis and recover from stressful situations much more quickly. A group of psychologists at the university conducted a study during the first COVID-19 lockdown which confirms this.

Some people deal with difficult circumstances better than others. The same is true for the pandemic. What impact does resilience – i.e. a fully-charged battery – have on this? A research team led by psychologist Claudia Traunmüller asked more than 4,700 people from all over Austria how they coped with the lockdown last spring.
The findings: “Resilient, mentally healthy people are not only able to fend off pressure and stress more robustly. Most strikingly, they also recuperate more quickly,” according to Traunmüller’s analysis. She makes a comparison: “If the battery is half empty, but I’m in a situation where maximum performance is required, the power available is used up more quickly towards the end. And our stress levels increase even more when we realise that our resources are running out.”

Recharge our batteries
So it is difficult to build up resilience during a crisis. “Just maintaining the same level is quite a feat,” says the researcher. So it is all the more important to have enough resilience.
But how can we recharge our batteries properly? “This is partly determined by genetic factors, but lifestyle also plays a major role,” replies the health psychologist. Part of the picture is adequate exercise, a balanced diet and social interaction. And she urges us all to consider what we can do to help ourselves. It’s not that we are unaware of the problem. Traunmüller uses another vivid comparison to explain: “If a red warning light comes on in your car, you take it straight to the workshop. But if our bodies send out warning signals, many of us ignore them.”

Can vaccination free us from anxiety?
Claudia Traunmüller: "The fact is that COVID-19 poses a threat to the whole population, which generates negative emotions such as fear and anxiety. It is important to understand the distinction between these two emotions.
Fear arises when there is a clear threat. For example: I am afraid that I might become infected or seriously ill.
This fear can surely be reduced by being vaccinated. Anxiety, on the other hand, occurs in situations where the outcome is not entirely clear. For example: anxiety about the economic impact or the possible negative consequences for my child. Vaccination has no direct effect on this."

Clear & Simple

Putting it simply: expert insights instead of fake news. In our new series “COVID-19 – clear & simple” (German only), experts at the University of Graz respond to topical questions about the “COVID-19 vaccination programme”.

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