By Gabriela Godinez Feregrino
The emotional push and pull of science during a pandemic is an experience no one was prepared for. Just when we feel it’s about to be over, the goal post moves. With the new delta variant of COVID-19 many questions may rise and new anxieties might develop. It’s important to preface any article or conversation about COVID-19 that our mental health is a vital part of our overall health. While science advances everyday and it’s important to stay up to date on new protocols, taking care of our brains is just as important as the rest of our body.
Vaccines and the Variant
Right now, we know that the Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer vaccines are all currently effective against the delta variant. Vaccines are so important to stopping the spread of and mutation of COVID-19 that President Biden has begun to push for door to door vaccinations. With the delta variant being more aggressive in young bodies than the alpha variant, all ages need to be getting the vaccine when available. Once vaccinated, according to the CDC the individual does not need to wear a mask. However both Dr. Anthony Fauci and the World Health Organization recommends the vaccinated public should wear a mask in “confined or crowded environments” and in areas “with low vaccination rates.” The stance of wearing a mask even after vaccination came with the introduction of the delta variant.
The CDC says that after getting vaccinated we are allowed to resume activities that we engaged in prior to the pandemic. However, while this may be physically true, this might not be psychologically true. According to the American Medical Association, “While stress, fear, worry, sadness, exhaustion and numbness are normal—and expected—emotional responses to a health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on mental health cannot go ignored.” They recommend that we take pauses, and “give yourself permission to take it slow.” We need to be respectful that people will be in different head spaces when it comes to wearing masks. If you are vaccinated you may not physically need to wear a mask, but if it helps you feel better about re-entering society then by all means do so. Trust in science, but give yourself the space to make small incremental changes even when it feels like everyone else is diving head first into society.
Burnout and Boredom
According to Dr. Maclean at the AMA noted that “women and people of color seem to be more negatively impacted.” Feelings of low motivation, sadness, and feeling tired/burned out should be taken seriously. Not all of us have the privilege to take time for ourselves, but if you do the AMA recommends taking time for self care and therapy. What we have experienced and are experiencing is a type of trauma and should be treated as such. It’s also important to remember that we all process trauma differently. While it may make sense for stress to manifest as nervousness or lashing out, fatigue is also a valid and common reaction. Reconnecting with small hobbies that bring us joy at our own pace and connecting with friends is helpful, however reaching out for help might be necessary. Having an open and honest conversation with your general practitioner is always recommended, including topics of mental health.
Do What You Can
Do your best and let go of the rest. We will continue to have to engage in conversations about the pandemic, new variants will pop up, and yet the world will keep spinning. It’s normal to feel angry, sad or scared, but we cannot stay in those places for too long. Stay up to date with what’s going on in the areas that affect you and then take a break. We don’t need to know every detail at all times. The most important thing is to continue following your local protocols and get vaccinated. After that give yourself the time and space to feel what you are feeling, and do what you need to do to cope. Reach out to friends, family, and mental health professionals. Above all, know you are not all alone, quite literally we are all in this together.