Fresno therapist on COVID-19 anxiety as more restrictions lifted: ‘Everybody’s different’

Local News

FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – As more people are vaccinated against COVID-19 and restrictions start to ease up, some people may feel comfortable enough to go out while others are not there yet.

“We did fly into LA. We weren’t too concerned about doing that,” said Walker Knudson, a Wisconsin resident who’s visiting California’s national parks with friends Avi Manthe and Alex Tonn this week.

They say the vaccine rollout in the country played a role in how comfortable they felt traveling.

“I’m definitely a lot more comfortable versus at least six months ago now that the vaccine has rolled out and more people are being vaccinated,” Manthe said.

“As time has progressed, there’s a lot more information now, a lot more data, comfortability was pretty high coming here,” Tonn said

But as some people become more and more comfortable, others haven’t gotten there yet.

“The what ifs are big,” Kaiser Permanente therapist Leah Whitworth said.

Given that people have spent more than a year isolated from family and friends, Whitworth says it’s normal and valid to be unsure about going out – even if they are vaccinated.

“Everybody’s comfort level is different. And it’s important to remember that for yourself as well as for your family, your friends, your colleagues. Everybody’s different,” Whitworth said.

She said it’s important for people to acknowledge and listen to what their feeling.

“Just because some places are opening up, movie theaters and restaurants and even church, that doesn’t mean you have to go if your anxiety is high and you’re feeling uncomfortable. Listen to that and honor your feelings about it,” Whitworth said.

Whitworth added that it’s also significant for people to practice healthy distractions and not unhealthy avoidance.

“Engage in some healthy distraction. Still know that those feelings are there, we’re just going to set them over here on the shelf for a little bit and maybe you’re going to go do a puzzle or you’re going to read a book or you’re going to get up and go for a jog,” she said.

And for someone who wants to get to a point where they’re comfortable going out, Whitworth said small steps can help.

“Small steps. If you’ve not gone out at all, going out once to twice a week. Start small,” she said. “Notice how you feel afterwards. That you managed this successfully. You were effective because that goes a long way to helping you do it again.”

She said this past year, she’s seen the demand for mental health services increase significantly.

“I say that’s awesome that people are reaching out now and saying ‘hey I need to talk to somebody, I need help.’ Go get it,” she said.

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