Venturing Out After COVID Isolation
Once you receive your two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, you’ll be able to explore life just as you did before, right? Not so fast. Even after vaccination, some precautions are still needed, and fear and anxiety and other after impacts of the pandemic will not disappear overnight. Rene Czerwinski, a psychotherapist at PacMed, has some sound advice for emerging into the wide world again.
It’s totally normal for people to experience mixed feelings as they transition back to more public engagement. Some individuals are going to feel almost giddy, while others are likely to feel apprehensive.
I believe it’s important for everyone to make the transition at their own pace. If you are struggling with the uncertainty and have some fears, take it slow. Perhaps you are struggling with a personal loss, changes in employment or savings, or even long-term health effects from a COVID-19 infection. Be gentle with yourself. Maybe start with a brief gathering with a small group of friends. Give yourself time to get comfortable with that “bubble,” and then extend it again. Continue to wear face coverings and practice social distancing as needed. The medical field is still learning about the degree of protection the vaccine provides, so now is not the time to let your guard down.
As venues start reopening, venture to places you enjoyed before the pandemic. Acknowledge any feelings of fear and uncertainty you have, and don’t push yourself to do something you’re not ready to do just because others are. Likewise, it’s important not to invalidate another’s feelings if they’re not ready to do the things you’re comfortable doing.
If you’ve delayed getting the vaccine because you’re concerned about its safety, here are a few things you should know. Although the available vaccines were expedited, Emergency Use was granted based on passing the US Food and Drug Administration’s rigorous standards and meeting ALL phases of the National Institutes of Health requirements for public release. Additionally, an independent scientific review was conducted to ensure vaccine safety. The vaccines currently authorized in the US met safety protocols and standards in other countries also.
Typical side effects of getting the vaccine are minimal. Some people experience minor discomfort; others experience no side effects at all. If you have concerns or have had side effects from past vaccines, it’s important to discuss those issues with your primary doctor. Keep in mind, the percentage of individuals who have had serious negative reactions to the vaccine is extremely minimal—especially compared to the number of people who have gotten COVID-19 and suffered severe medical complications or even death.
Most importantly, remember to go at your own pace as you return back to “normal.” If you are feeling extremely anxious or have panic attack symptoms such as hyperventilating, heart palpitations, blurry vision or feeling as if you may pass out, talk to your provider.
Anxiety can affect anyone. In these challenging times, it’s important to venture out slowly—so you can gradually enjoy life more and more over time.
Rene D. Czerwinski, LMHC, NCC, CHT, is a Behavioral Medicine specialist at our Totem Lake clinic. Call 1.206.621.4045 for an appointment.
National Institutes of Health COVID-19 Research
Healthline: How Your Life Will (and Won’t) Change After Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine