Recovering emotionally from the pandemic

By By Karie Batzler, Capital Blue Cross

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Sonny Ross / The Guardian

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This editorial is part of Transforming Health’s Expert Voices, where health care professionals discuss issues facing our community. All information is based on the expert’s experience and is not meant to replace professional medical advice or treatment plans. We encourage you to contact a qualified health care professional to discuss your individual health concerns.

During the past two years, each of us has had to find a bit of comfort to help cope with all of the cumulative change and uncertainty the pandemic has brought. There was no running start, advance warning or time to plan, we all just needed to find some way to adjust and adapt.

Karie Batzler, director of behavioral health for Capital Blue Cross and a licensed professional counselor.

Our collective experience has taken a toll. We have spent two years on a roller coaster of pandemic-related emotions: isolation, sadness, loss, depression, uncertainty, fear, and anxiety. It is important that we grant ourselves and each other a bit of grace surrounding the many ways we sought comfort through these uncertain times.

The truth behind “bouncing back”

I am hearing more frequently from friends, family, and colleagues that it is time to “bounce back,” to resume life as it existed before the pandemic. For some, the ability to take our masks off and rejoin everyday life is a simple, even happy event, driven by the relief that the pandemic is beginning to resolve. For others, myself included, it will take some additional time to recover.

For many of us, the life changes that occurred due to the pandemic left us feeling depleted, exhausted, and overwhelmed – driven by the social and physical disconnection from our family and friends, the passing of loved ones, and changes in our work life including unemployment and/or the abrupt shift to work from home. These dynamics, coupled with the forced shifts in our everyday routines, created an emotional buildup of grief, upheaval, and uncertainty.

Readjustment doesn’t happen overnight

Under more typical circumstances, we are granted a mourning period following a major life change like a job loss or the death of a loved one. We are given time to heal and adjust to how those losses have impacted us. For many of us, those life-changing events happened in addition to the challenges presented by the pandemic. It is understandable if you are feeling out of sorts, like there is an underlying level of emotion that you didn’t feel pre-pandemic. Under more normal circumstances we would have had time and space to deal with each of these issues separately. The simultaneous nature of the processing of these overlapping, life-changing events came at an emotional and physical price.

Shifting gears

For those of us who need more time to adjust, please know that it is okay if you aren’t feeling like you are ready to bounce back just yet. Don’t be surprised if you feel a little awkward reconnecting with family, friends, and coworkers. We have lived through a unique and unprecedented experience. I have spoken with many people who feel they

have lost two years of their lives – the pandemic took away many life experiences and opportunities. Yet each of us has continued to age, change, and grow and, in fact, we are not the same people we were in 2020.

Please take the time you need to work your way through the many events you have experienced – both individually and within your family – and if you can, share your experiences with others. It’s a great way to start reconnecting, healing, and moving forward.

Karie Batzler is director of behavioral health for Capital Blue Cross and a licensed professional counselor.