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Concerns Over Latest Surge Giving Some 'COVID Whiplash'

 July 27, 2021 at 10:44 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Between spiking case rates and the potential return of a mask mandate, San Diego ones are struggling to make sense of the latest COVID surge as county residents continue to face this ongoing pandemic uncertainty. The term COVID whiplash is being used to describe the current situation along with the increases in anxiety, trauma, and exhaustion that come along with it. Joining me with more is Kim Eisenberg, a licensed clinical social worker and the lead therapist of the sharp Mesa Vista PTSD and trauma recovery program. Kim, welcome. Speaker 2: 00:34 Thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be here. So, Kim, Speaker 1: 00:37 Why do you think COVID whiplash is the term that some are using to describe the current situation? Speaker 2: 00:43 It really is a great synopsis of what we're all experiencing. We thought we were coming out of the woods and experiencing a return to normalcy or figuring out the new normal, and now all of a sudden we're faced with there's no other way to put it whiplash back to where we were, um, you know, earlier this year and it's really painful. It's really jarring and we don't really know what to make of it and, and what kind of injuries we're gonna sustain from it. So I think, um, as, as far as terminology goes, this is a great analogy. How Speaker 1: 01:16 Are you seeing people cope with COVID whiplash Speaker 2: 01:19 Really at this point? Not, not too well. Um, people are coping, you know, very much the same way as they have been all along. Um, really we're all kind of making it up as we go, um, leaning on, um, you know, advice from public health and medical professionals and then doing our best to muddle through with, um, you know, what we know about self care and prioritizing our wellbeing and cultivating our resilience, but it is tough and, and most people are not weathering this too well. I mean, Speaker 1: 01:52 As you mentioned, there, there was a sense for a lot of people that we were out of the woods with the worst of this pandemic, how do you think that particularly affects people's ability to process the situation? Speaker 2: 02:04 I think, you know, most of us have never had to deal with anything like this in our lifetimes. And so in terms of our ability to process that again, we're very much making it up as we go. So this has really thrown folks for a loop and, you know, so much of what has I think helped us to all get through COVID throughout most of 20, 20 and 2021 was thinking and believing and feeling like there was a light at the end of the tunnel. And so, um, and to have that, and, uh, kind of slipping away is really degrading people's ability to process what's happening and make sense of it. And so it does lead to increases and fear and anxiety and anger and trauma response and, and everything that we're seeing. And given Speaker 1: 02:52 That this is such an unprecedented time. Do you think that a lot of people just aren't mentally equipped to deal with this level of uncertainty Speaker 2: 03:00 Up until the pandemic started? You know, there was a relatively stable arc to our lived experience for most of us that have been, um, around, you know, there hadn't been a pandemic in our lifetime and we hadn't had to deal with the sort of public health crisis. So this is really new territory. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, Speaker 1: 03:20 In your work, have you dealt with anything similar to this where people constantly have to adjust their understanding of a highly stressful, highly fluid situation? Speaker 2: 03:30 We see it in other ways, um, especially with in trauma treatment, certainly people that have been in, you know, really invalidating, hostile, painful, violent environments, whether that's, you know, a specific environment related to a natural disaster or combat or other types of highly stressful environments like navigating the community as a person of color or as an openly person, you know, there are, there are certain ways that we navigate the world that can place us under tremendous amounts of stress and strain. Um, so there are some similarities, but this, the, the prolonged pandemic situation that we're in is, is unique in a lot of ways as well, major Speaker 1: 04:11 Challenge for so many people throughout the pandemic was the loss of a lot of social interaction, uh, that it really spurred on intense feelings of isolation for many. Is it possible that people are afraid that we're going to go back Speaker 2: 04:25 To that? I think not just speaking as a, as a mental health professional, but as, as a person, um, we, we deeply deeply need connection and, and our shared humanity and community, whether it's our, you know, family of origin or the families that we create, or our broader extended communities, that is how we get through things. We don't get through things in isolation. We do it together through our, our common connections, and that felt sense of the human experience that we all have to share together. And, uh, yeah, my, my personal opinion is that part of what's cultivating so much fear and anxiety and anger in people is the sense that we've just started to tap back into that community and that connection and the prospect of having it taken away again is really de-stabilizing. So that Speaker 1: 05:16 In mind, what are some of the ways that people can better mentally prepare for these day-to-day psychological changes that the pandemic can bring on? Speaker 2: 05:25 I think one of the biggest things is to really firstly acknowledge that this is hard and this is painful. We don't really do ourselves a lot of favors by pretending that everything's fine or denying that this situation is what it is and that it's challenging. So acknowledging and accepting the reality of where we are is the first piece. And then reflecting on all of the ways that we've been able to tap into our own internal and shared resilience over the past many months, that I've stopped counting. So really reflecting on what are the healthy coping strategies that we've employed so far throughout the pandemic that have allowed us to weather it and really recommitting and, you know, essentially doubling down on those things while still being really compassionate with ourselves and cutting ourselves some slack, because none of us is doing this perfectly. That's just impossible. Speaker 2: 06:20 And then I think the other really big piece is looking to within the scope of what public health officials are recommending, um, what can we do to continue to have community and connection, um, everybody, you know, going back inside and closing their doors and, and hopping back online as their only source of human connection is, is going to be really tough to sustain. So I think it's important to know what our individual risk level and risk tolerance is, and then adjust our behaviors accordingly. But, um, you know, for the time being to still, um, see people outdoors, to see people while masked to do things in a way that public health officials are still saying is within the bounds of what's acceptable, especially as we shift potentially from a pandemic to an endemic situation, and this does become our new normal, um, we need to figure out ways to stay connected so that we can weather it all together. Speaker 1: 07:18 I've been speaking with Kim Eisenberg, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist at sharp Mesa Vista, Kim, thanks so much for joining us today. Speaker 2: 07:27 Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure.

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A new spike in COVID infections is causing concerned San Diegans to revisit their pandemic anxieties.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments