Page 28 - HealthcareNews May/June 2021
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An Anxious Transition
Emerging from the Pandemic Creates More Questions Than Answers
n these unique times when COVID-19 is still active but in decline, we all have lots of questions about how to navigate daily life.
For example, if you have been vaccinated, should you continue to wear a mask? Why does the CDC say you can go without a mask, yet many public places still require one?
Should we still socially distance and sanitize in certain situations?
And, importantly, how much anxiety are such ques- tions causing these days?
Answers can come from many places. Lauren Favor- ite, assistant program director with Behavioral Health Network, noted that, while information can be good, an overload of messages from different sources results in confusion.
“When we are bombarded with a plethora of informa- tion, it’s difficult for people to make a singular choice that will be the right one for them,” Favorite said. “Too much conflicting information can create anxiety.”
BusinessWest spoke with several behavioral-health professionals who said much of the stress people are feeling right now is rooted in their concerns about how safe it is to go back into the world. Despite the May 29
served us well. As we move beyond the pandemic, however, it’s time to examine if those behaviors are still serving us.
“Because so many people are not sure what to do, they will hold on to behaviors even when they no longer serve their in- tended purpose,” Favorite said. “I think many people will be in a sort of in-between place until we start to see a critical mass of vaccinations.”
Baby Steps
For many, entering back into the world needs to be a gradual process. Kathryn Mulcahy, clinic director for Outpatient Behavioral Health Services at the Center for Human Develop- ment, encourages her clients to start small.
“Instead of trying to do every- thing at once, I remind people
Alane Burgess says it’s always easier to learn how to be afraid than to unlearn that mindset.
  “I think many people willbeinasortof in-between place until we start to see a critical mass of vaccinations.”
it’s OK to take baby steps,” Mulcahy said. “You might not be ready to go out to the movies, but you can start getting back into the world by taking a walk in your neighborhood.”
much anxiety as their employees.”
According to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s
Fair Labor Division, employers are allowed to ask if an employee has been vaccinated. In some cases, they can require vaccination in order to report to work. Excep- tions are allowed for those protected by legal rights, such as individuals who have disabilities or those with sincerely held religious beliefs.
Brock said even those distinctions beg more ques- tions. “What if I’m vaccinated, but the person next to me isn’t? How is that going to work with masks, social distancing, and other considerations?”
  reopening of Massachusetts, allowing everything from restaurants to sports arenas to fully welcome the public, Alane Burgess, clinic director for MHA’s BestLife pro- gram, said many people still do not feel safe going to the supermarket.
“It’s always easier to learn how to be afraid than it is to be unafraid,” Burgess said. “Even when we’re told every- thing is OK, people still have questions.” As COVID-19 is a relatively new virus and scientists are still learning about it, continued concerns about personal safety are not surprising.
A recent research article looked at the trauma expe- rienced by refugees after they emerged from a war-torn country. Favorite said their experience serves as a meta- phor for these times.
“In the war zone, they had to develop certain habits and routines as a way to survive,” she said. “Once they escaped and reached a safe place, they held on to those behaviors because they didn’t know how else to act.”
All behaviors have a motivation, she continued, and the ones we followed to stay safe during the pandemic
When there is no clear-cut direction, individuals usu- COVID also had a signific“ant impact on the nature of ally figure out how to keep themselves safe. Brock said
As an incentive to go out again, Bur- gess advises her clients to make a bucket list of activities they are excited about doing again. “Making a list reminds people of what brought them joy before COVID and can help motivate them to get back to doing those things again.”
work. Depending on the occupation, some people reported to work every day during the pandemic, while others followed a more hybrid approach of working at home some days and at the office other days. A third group has been work- ing from home since last March.
Instead of trying to do everything at once, I remind people it’s OK to take baby steps. You might not be ready to go out to the movies, but you can start getting back into the world by taking a walk in your neighborhood.”
  Employers have
begun asking Joy
Brock, director of the CONCERN Employee Assistance Program, how to proceed as we move toward the end of the COVID era.
“Companies are struggling with how to translate all the different mandates,” Brock said. “They are having as
even modest steps to take control over one’s health can help reduce anxiety. “If that means you are the only one in the office wearing a mask, that’s perfectly fine.”
Finding a comfort level at work and in the world
Please see Stress, page 42

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