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With cases surging, COVID is once again impacting Virginians' mental health

How to manage stress during the coronavirus pandemic based on personality type
Posted at 9:07 PM, Dec 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-29 23:25:38-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Governor Ralph Northam is encouraging Virginians not to panic over the increased spread of coronavirus.

Despite high case counts, he said the Commonwealth has the tools to combat the omicron variant including vaccinations and booster shots. Still, some people said the recent surge is reminding them of 2020 all over again.

If there's a silver lining of COVID-19, Virginia Finch and Gabriella Lane have found it.

“I found the friends I felt like I could have forever," said Finch. “The pandemic has been good for us and our friendship.”

However, the pandemic hasn't been good for their mental health.

“It affected me a lot at first because I had just gotten off of my antidepressants," said Lane "I already had some mental issues.”

Fast forward to December 2021 and trends similar to 2020 are on replay.

“I’ve just been doing what I can and trying not to let it hurt me too much," Finch explained.

With the omicron variant spreading, Virginia shattered a record for the highest number of daily new COVID cases at 12,112.

“I have been feeling a little bit nervous that school is going to start going back online more often, and things are going to start becoming a little more restrictive," Lane said.

However, others feel like the surge in cases does not pose a threat to their mental health.

“Please come out of the fear and start talking to people so you will understand the basic science behind the virus," said Raji.

Raji is a scientist from India who has been living in Richmond for the past two months. She has now witnessed two different countries respond to the coronavirus.

“In India, people are more fearful than what I see here," she said.

She encourages people to not allow omicron to invade their inner peace, echoing a call from Governor Northam.

“I don’t think you need to get more panicked, rather improve your immunity," Raji said.

Sarah Mclillard, the clinical director of WHOA Behavioral Health said people have mentally responded differently to each wave of COVID-19, noticing a difference in how they're reacting now.

“We’ve seen a lot more depressive symptoms," Mclillard said. “A lot of people are going into what we call the dorsal shutdown state which is really centered around the fact that people are feeling a little bit exhausted from what they've been through."

She said the dorsal shutdown is a power response from the body stemming from prolonged trauma.

“I think people are starting to realize that this may be a part of our life forever," she explained. "There comes a lot of grief that comes with that realization, and I think people are trying to still figure out how to manage that grief."

Mclillard said there are helpful ways to cope for those who are struggling.

  • Talk about your experiences with a friend, family member, online community, or even a mental health professional.
  • Exercise.
  • Do activities that bring you joy.

“Those things release the hormones that we need to increase the positive response in our bodies," she said.

Mclillard believes hope is on the horizon.

"As mental health professionals, that's our base," she said. "We live in a place of hope that anybody and everybody can change and grow and that we can really survive through anything."

Meanwhile, Lane has this advice.

“Just keep trying, and never give up because you're not alone," she said. "Sometimes you can feel very alone, but you aren't."