Two Years In, How are We Coping? 

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It has now been two years since the first cases of Covid led to almost total shutdowns of businesses, schools, and travel. Many of us have not been on a plane or to a concert in two years. Many more have not been to their offices, instead are working from home. Some had planned to go back to their offices earlier this year, and maybe did start going in here and there, but when the Omicron variant surged, their companies changed policy again and told people to stay home.   

Long Covid is now being discussed as a real disorder and being compared to chronic fatigue syndrome and brain injuries.  

While we don’t know what the future holds, it does appear that Covid-19 will, on some level, be here to stay and we will have to learn to live with the risks and adjust our behavior as new information is discovered. The uncertainty is causing a lot of anxiety, perhaps even more than during the acute phase of the pandemic when we were all terrified of what might come next. 

The roller-coaster of relaxing the restrictions, then the surge in cases, then the reinstituting of the restrictions, and the subsequent waning of cases, can cause more anxiety and stress than simply preparing for the worst on a regular basis. We get that light at the end of the tunnel and then are told that we have to mask up again and plans we felt comfortable making get canceled or changed.  

The up and down mood swings: happiness/disappointment/hope/uncertainty/relief/fear, are maddening if for no other reason than that human beings like structure and plans. I once heard someone whose spouse had cancer say, “I just want to make plans and keep them” when referring to having to change a manicure appointment due to a rescheduled doctor appointment. In no way was this person saying her nails were more important than her husband’s doctor visit, what she was saying was that cancer had disrupted her life so much that she couldn’t even count on keeping a simple appointment that she had made the week before.  

Same with Covid. We make plans to see friends and someone gets exposed and has to isolate while waiting on a PCR test. We plan a party months in advance thinking that things will be more improved, and Omicron hits. We cancel a dental cleaning because of a sniffle — is it Covid? All this disruption is not good for us.  

Since Covid is here to stay, what can we do?     

  • Make plans that are unlikely to be changed. For example, as the weather is warming up, start making outdoor plans with which many people are more comfortable. 
  • Weigh your risks. You may not want to go to a party with 50 people, but are you comfortable getting together with a smaller group of friends? What if everyone is vaccinated?  What if everyone takes a home rapid test that day? What risk level feels right for you? 
  • If you’re still working from home, get out during the day. Take a walk at lunch time. Stop into a local business and grab a cup of coffee or a treat. Work from home is probably here to stay in some capacity. On the days you’re home, take a minute to get out into another environment.  
  • Read accurate scientific information so that you can learn what the experts are currently saying about this virus. Yes, the information may change, but the scientists will probably be the most honest and clear when it comes to risk and how to minimize it.  
  • If you’re not ready for big travel, then decide if you are comfortable going somewhere where you can drive. Many people feel better renting an apartment on vacation and staying away from large, crowded hotels. Do what’s right for you. Tip: Canada has been good about vaccinations and low infection rates. Driving to Montreal takes about six hours.  

While it’s not easy, given the craziness of the past two years, I am trying to be optimistic that we’ll be on our way to some type of normalcy soon. Meanwhile, we all continue to feel the stress of the pandemic and need to allow ourselves to do so. This is something none of us has ever experienced and the stress is real. Living with Covid around us is a challenge, but we have to start to adjust to this new normal. All we can do is try to be safe and address the risks.  

Barbara Kapetanakes, PsyD., practices psychotherapy in Sleepy Hollow. 

 

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About the Author: Barbara Kapetanakes Psy.D.