There’s great diversity in the degree to which COVID-19 has impacted people’s lives related to deaths, jobs and disruptions. But a Northern Virginia psychiatrist says the timeline for pulling out of the pandemic is showing promise.
“What we’re talking about today is the transition from a pandemic, to an illness that is endemic — like you might think of the seasonal flu, or the cold virus,” said Dr. Ross Goodwin, a psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente in Burke, Virginia, who sees patients virtually throughout the D.C. region.
Goodwin said it’s going to be important to watch children’s opportunity to become vaccinated over the next few months; he’s optimistic that that will help the transition to people living a little bit more typically.
“As more vaccinations roll out, as we understand this virus more and how it mutates, there are going to be more opportunities to engage more in that activity that helps remind us what our identity is where we belong, and feel that sense of normal,” he said.
Some people have experienced few changes during this period; they may not have pandemic-related worries or anxiety. But people whose lives have been greatly disrupted might have further to go to reach a comfort level that feels more like normal.
Goodwin said to realize vaccinations are key, as is following public health guidance that will help people get together safely in ways that reduce risk.
Big picture, he says “Good things are happening and coming in terms of vaccinations and treatments and testing, but we still have to continue to follow the guidance that we know works, so that we can get to that point, when we’re functioning more normally,” he said.
Also, not overloading on news can help prevent patterns and cycles that reinforce feelings of anxiety.
“You decide, ‘Alright, how much am I going to read today? How much am I going to listen to today?’ And then decide that ‘Okay I know what I need to know,’” Goodwin said.
After that, Goodwin says to move on with your day so you can think about other typical things in life too.
Signs someone might be having trouble with anxiety include sleeping poorly, eating poorly and not enjoying the sorts of activities previously enjoyed. If that persists for a couple weeks and normal functions of life are starting to suffer, Goodwin recommends talking with a loved one or a friend, a trusted person at school or work, or to seek out professional support from a primary care doctor or perhaps a therapist.
“It’s really important to seek out help from others and it’s okay to need help and need support and it’s actually a sign of strength,” Goodwin said.
The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline which is also the Veterans Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255. There’s also an online chat option.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
For those who prefer texting, you can text TALK to the Crisis Text Line 24/7 at 741-741 for confidential support via text message.
Other resources can be found on the National Alliance on Mental Illness website.