News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

COVID recovery plan

COVID has messed with my mind. Oh, I didn’t actually contract COVID and I know very few people who did, but more than a year of COVID restrictions has definitely changed how I think and act. And I know I’m not alone.

I’ve jokingly told friends we need a COVID recovery plan. And now that we’re moving into a less restrictive season, but still suffering uncertainties and inhibitions, I think it’s no joke. Especially when we want to be free from any lingering shadows of the intrusive pandemic that shut us down. Easier said than done.

I still feel conflicted when entering the grocery store or post office. Although I’m vaccinated, I’m uncertain. Do I need a mask? How far apart do I stand? Is it okay to visit with a friend, or do I just take care of business and scram? It’s confusing, frustrating, and sometimes embarrassing — especially if you get glared at for being maskless. How did these everyday social situations become so complex?

They say it takes just two weeks to create a new habit. So consider more than 60 weeks of indoctrination into COVID “safety” practices. How engrained have these habits become? What’s the price to us as a community? It’s not surprising that some caved to paranoia, imagining COVID as a hoax designed to unravel society as we know it.

After some research I discovered that our long stint of social distancing, obsessing over sanitation, wearing masks, prolonged isolation etc. truly has altered how our brains function. I’m no medical expert, but I’m going to label this psychological affliction “CTSD” (COVID Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Now, I’m not trying to be flippant or to minimize the serious reality of PTSD, but there’s definitely a correlation between these two psychological ailments. Some of their common symptoms include anxiety, apathy, social isolation, fear, mistrust, hyper-vigilance, guilt, sleep disorders, physical ailments, and so on. Does anything on that list feel familiar? I know I’ve experienced some of these symptoms. So what do we do about it now?

The first step to resolving a problem is to acknowledge it exists. There’s no shame in admitting we’re experiencing some level of CTSD. Then we need to remind ourselves that as humans we need and crave human companionship — it’s simply how we’re made. And it’s well worth some initial uneasiness to get involved again.

A few of us might actually need professional therapeutic help to regain social skills. Most of us probably need a more casual rehabilitation. Like going out spontaneously, meeting up with friends, joining an organization or volunteering. But it seems it will require an intentional effort to return to a healthy, interactive community.

Pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones (which could become prisons) results in many benefits. Socializing is connected to better brain health, increased quality of life, reduced blood pressure, more energy, more confidence, more purpose, and so on. Whether it’s taking in a concert, doing an art walk, going to church, or sharing a meal with friends, it’s just plain good for us! It helps us to recover from CTSD.

And don’t forget, you’re not alone. Your friends and neighbors are in the same boat. We’ve all experienced some level of emotional deprivation from COVID. We can help and encourage each other to move beyond it. We renew our minds when we reach out to one another. We restore our souls as we restore our community. And Sisters is a town that thrives on friendship and community. I am trying to do my part to reenter, and I hope you do too!


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