COVID-19 mental health toll could last past the pandemic

Local News

NEW YORK — With his lifting of virtually all remaining COVID-19 related restrictions, Gov. Andrew Cuomo effectively gave New Yorkers the green light to get back to living life.

Cuomo made the announcement to remove state-mandated restrictions, effective immediately, now that 70% of all adults in the state have received at least one dose of the vaccine. 

“We can now return to life as we know it,” said Cuomo. “Life it not about survival, life is about thriving, life is about interacting and now we get back to living and life.”

But what if you’re not ready?

Clinical psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere says it’s normal for people to feel anxious about going into public settings again. It’s a syndrome and there’s even a name for it. 

 “The American Psychological Association polled a certain amount of people and found almost 50% have what’s called COVID Reentry Anxiety,” said Gardere. “It’s very normal for people to be somewhat reticent or anxious about going back to work or school or back into the world because we’ve been in a bubble for so long.”

New Yorkers may have a more difficult time.

The city was once the epicenter of the pandemic and with scenes like those of empty streets and trucks used as mobile morgues forever seared into our collective memory, it can be especially traumatic.

“Many of us had a form of post-traumatic stress disorder from dealing with all of those  particular losses  and hospitalizations,” said Gardere. “We haven’t work through those emotional trauma so that’s something we need to pay attention to, do a check up from the neck up as to what is going on, as to our PTSD and other emotional issues we’ve had around the pandemic.”

Just as there are people hesitant to get back out into the world, there are others who have been raring to go. Another emerging pandemic induced emotions like rage and anger which seem to be all around us. 

Experts say being isolated can bring out negative emotions and aggression and another reason to get back out there is to remind us of societal norms.

“People have been cooped up for so long, isolated for so long, I think some of them have forgotten how to interact with others individuals,” said Gardere. “It may take a little while for us to begin to be civil with one another. I really do believe being out around other people being with other people will begin to bring back our humanity.”

Psychologists also say the longer you put off getting back into the world, the tougher it will be. The best thing to do if you’re hesitant is to start with baby steps. Choose one activity and give it a try while staying in your comfort zone.

For instance, eat out at a restaurant during off-peak times, when you know there will be less people. As you get more comfortable, continue to build from there.

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