Many people had big plans for summer: travel, concerts, gatherings with family and friends. But now, the more transmissible delta variant of COVID-19 is delaying, once again, a full reopening in Chicago and beyond.
The seemingly endless cycle of coronavirus control followed by surges in infections has left some people feeling stuck in a rut.
We asked David Rakofsky, a licensed clinical psychologist and the president of Wellington Counseling Group, for tips during this turbulent time, including how to have a positive mindset and keep healthy habits amid pandemic burnout.
How does this particular COVID-19 spike impact mental health differently than previous surges?
This is so different from a year ago when we would have been talking about, sort of just a pandemic fatigue. When you’re in pandemic purgatory, it seems that there’s no solid ground to make any plans with. We felt like there was a light at the end of the tunnel, there was a vaccine, and that most people would be taking it and we’d be out of this by now — making plans, dates, and all kinds of things. Now it seems that for the time being we’re kind of out of traction again.
You’ve called it “pandemic purgatory.” What is the effect of people not seeing the end of the pandemic in sight?
I think of it as a purgatory because I think there’s these tasks, as a society we have to account before we can move on. So, how does it leave us feeling? Well, we’re humans and humans evolved on this planet as big brain planners, that’s what we do and when we can’t do it, we get very upset. We’re pretty spoiled in our society in the sense that our forebears didn’t have quite the ability of stable society that we have today, but now we’re getting a taste of what it’s like to not have the stability we thought we had. So, I am seeing hopelessness, depression, anger.
In the meantime, how do we escape “pandemic purgatory”?
Well, there is no escape, but I think it’s fair to say that there’s a way to embrace this period, because it won’t be here forever. And I think it’s important for us to recognize that life is not always so certain. We may have been living for a long time with this illusion that things are certain and there’s all kinds of ways that we can plan for the future, but mother nature tells us that it’s not so. And what that means is that we can sleep on it, we can take a breath, we can —not be pushed into making these decisions, and wait another day, and feel it out and learn to be okay with that until we can start planning again.
How can people regain a sense of hope?
I’ve always found that when we talk to people we trust and talk to people who know us and talk to people we love and care about these things become ultimately accomplished and easier to get through. So, stay connected to some kind of affiliation group or friendships and buddies that you can turn to when you’re getting to that point of frustration.