By Mimi Kraus, LCSW-C
It has been a year since the COVID pandemic forced radical changes in the lives most of us took for granted. We watched in horror as the toll of the disease rose in surge after surge. We gave up visiting with friends and family, traveling, eating out, attending sporting events, going to movies, concerts, and so much more. We watched our children, learning virtually and remotely, lose out on the social group activities which are the hallmark of growing up. And for some of us, we lost loved ones or were forced to sit by helplessly as our beloved family members and friends were hospitalized or isolated at home.
As vaccines are now on the scene, many of us are fortunate to have gotten them or are scheduled to receive them soon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently issued guidance for people who are vaccinated. It is OK to visit with other vaccinated people indoors and without masks, to be around others who are not at risk for serious disease even if they are not vaccinated, and even small groups can dine indoors as long as they are all vaccinated. State and local governments are easing many restrictions and schools are now re-opening.
However, even with an end in sight, COVID has taken a toll on many of us. We have all experienced some degree of anxiety and some of us have been traumatized by the constant warnings of risk to life and the frequent surges of an illness that has killed over a half million in the U.S. alone. How do we now begin to return to our lives and do the things we were warned to forego for so long?
My recommendation is to start slowly after full vaccination, taking one step at a time, to rebuild a sense of safety and confidence. Everyone’s next steps will be different, but start from where you are currently and add new things slowly. For some people, it will be trips to the grocery store. For others, perhaps inviting another vaccinated person or couple into your home. Grandparents may begin seeing their grandchildren. Add new activities gradually to rebuild your sense of comfort. Listen to the CDC and realize that their recommendations are issued by expert epidemiologists and based on the latest scientific evidence. If your anxiety level remains high, reach out to friends for support or seek counseling.
We got through the pandemic together and we will get through returning to our lives, a bit battered and bruised, but hopefully triumphant with a renewed appreciation for life’s simple and most meaningful pleasures.
Mimi Kraus, LCSW-C is a Clinical Therapist at Jewish Community Services
JCS is a comprehensive human services organization providing a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.