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COVID-19: Getting Back to Normal Brings New Anxieties

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Thursday, May 20, 2021   

SEATTLE -- May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and as life returns to normal, many people are coming down from more than a year of anxiety.

A Census Bureau survey found symptoms of anxiety or depression had increased among adults from 11% in 2019 to 41% in 2021.

Dr. Mabel Bongmba, adult psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente in the Greater Seattle area, said a return to pre-pandemic life also brings new stressors, such as returning to the office or school. She cautioned people should have measured expectations.

"Know that other folks are in the same boat," Bongmba urged. "A lot of us are feeling some stress and anxiety with the prospect of yet more changes, and feeling a little stress around change is a pretty normal thing under any circumstance, pandemic or no pandemic."

Bongmba pointed out behavioral health and mindfulness apps such as Calm and myStrength can help people with self-care if they're feeling anxious.

She noted some people are experiencing more extreme feelings, such as grieving the loss of loved ones. She advised people not to keep it to themselves and speak up to a health professional.

"So many of us are, for the first time, connecting with therapists and other mental-health specialists during this time," Bongmba observed. "And if you're having really difficult feelings or feeling overwhelmed by life, you don't have to go through that by yourself."

For many, getting back to life before the pandemic will take some easing in. Bongmba hopes the pandemic has taught us to be patient with other people's journeys, adding if some aren't yet comfortable shedding their masks even though others are, that's OK.

"I think we can respect each other for making the best decision possible for our individual situations," Bongmba advised. "And that's something we should maintain for ourselves, in addition to having that expectation of others as well."

Gov. Jay Inslee has set June 30 as the target reopening date for Washington state.

Disclosure: Kaiser Health Plan of Washington Project contributes to our fund for reporting on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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