Local Therapist Reassures Utahns That Post COVID-19 Re-Entry Anxiety Is Normal
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Considering the mental and emotional toll of the pandemic, it’s only natural to feel apprehensive about getting back to normal, and some will need more time than others. One Utah doctor said taking these steps will make “getting back” a little easier.
Though Elizabeth Sória doesn’t speak English, she’s fluent in the worries of mothers.
“She fears, you know, I will get it,” said Sória’s daughter, Arleth Antonio.
Sória said she was afraid Antonio, a senior at Granger High School, will get the coronavirus.
“It’s kind of difficult not knowing what people have the vaccination,” said Antonio.
Sória had a bad case of coronavirus and couldn’t work. She eventually lost her job cleaning office buildings.
“She hasn’t found one yet, and it’s kind of difficult to pay the bills and, you know, rent and stuff,” Antonio said.
The mother and daughter face very real health and economic concerns.
Latinos make up 14% of Utah’s population, but had the highest COVID-19 case counts among underrepresented groups — over 20%, according to the Utah Governor’s Office.
“We don’t want to see our families get ill and you know, probably lose them… because that’s really hard to go through,” Antonio said.
Because of all that worry and anxiety, Dr. Travis Mickelson, a psychiatrist, said re-entry may be emotionally challenging for many.
“It might even bring up some of that grief that they have been dealing with over this last year,” Mickelson said.
Antonio, a wrestler, knows COVID-19 loss first-hand.
“My coach’s mom passed away and she was really close to me. It really hit close to home,” she said.
Mickelson said as restrictions lift, heart-pounding anxiety is normal, but we can work through it.
Sometimes that fight or flight response gets triggered when it doesn’t need to. That’s when it’s good to remind ourselves of the things we can control that protect us: like wearing a mask or getting vaccinated, according to Mickelson.
“If I’m wanting to return to social situations and I’m nervous about doing that in person, I don’t have to jump back into that suddenly,” he said. “Maybe we can take a baby step.”
Mickelson said talking to kids about their feelings helps.
“‘I noticed that you seem kind of tense or kind of nervous right now. Tell me what you’re feeling,’ and getting that child to be able to describe the words and the language to describe how they’re feeling, and then be able to really validate that,” he said.
He added that as a community, we should speak the language of kindness.
“It’s really important that we really have compassion for people around us because we just don’t know, we just don’t know what other people have experienced,” Mickelson said.
The future looks bright for Antonio.
“I’m going Washington, Big Bend Community College, to wrestle, so that’s really exciting,” she said.
It’s just going to take time to ease back into interrupted routines.
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