Summer & COVID-19 Have Never Been Friends: Balancing Summer Fun With Post-Pandemic Fear

TW: Mentions of COVID-19 and losing a loved one.

COVID-19 has a history of dampening our summer plans. Ever since its initial insurgence in 2020, something just hasn’t felt the same about summer vacation. There’s a twinge of excitement surrounding summer per usual, followed by new bouts of dread when thinking about large gatherings and the possibility of secondhand exposure to the virus. Many of us have traded beach days, movie outings, and routine ice cream trips for staying inside due to our lasting fear and anxiety about COVID-19. 

I have an important message that I need you to hear: If you are feeling this way, THEN YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I’ve found myself spending the majority of my 2022 summer inside writing journal entries and self-proclaimed sappy poetry. Thrilling, right? While there’s nothing wrong with being extra cautious and wanting to avoid large crowds, it can be exhausting to self-isolate for an extreme length of time without exposing yourself to some form of social stimulation. We don’t need to relive our routines during the height of the pandemic! Though cases of COVID-19 continue to periodically spike, vaccination efforts across the U.S. have created an environment in which hyperactive concern about contracting the virus is less.

It is still advised to follow the mask guidelines of your local stores and community, wash your hands regularly, test when you have symptoms, and stay up-to-date with your booster shots — but if you follow these four golden rules, you will minimize your risk of contracting and spreading the virus. In light of changing times, we can throw away any debilitating fears we may have surrounding the virus, to the best of our ability, and feel free to live our lives with that weight carried off our shoulders.

I’ve found that I feel my healthiest — both mentally and physically — when I balance my caution and concern for COVID with my need for social experiences. This will look different for each and every person – we all have our own levels of introversion/extroversion and what feels right for us. I also like to keep in mind my level of thankfulness to even be alive and have survived such a rampant global pandemic. Millions and millions of people across the world lost their lives, or the life of a loved one to this virus. I try not to dwell on that train of thought, for the path it leads down is dark – rather, I approach it from a place of gratitude for my own life and the health of my family and friends. This newfound preciousness I see and feel for life is something I try and never take for granted.  

If you do find yourself increasingly (and understandably) worried about COVID, there are plenty of ways you can keep yourself stimulated indoors, along with healthy ways to remedy the anxiety around COVID.

  • When in public, continue to wear a mask if you feel the need to, even if others around you are not. 
  • Purchase a small-sized hand sanitizer to keep in your purse, in your pocket, or on hand, and use as needed.
  • Try and get outdoor time as much as possible – vitamin D emitted by the sun is essential to your health. Local parks and walking trails are great places to go visit with your family or get some exercise, and the exposure rate of COVID in these outdoor areas is lower. 
  • Decide to either master an existing hobby/talent, or pick up a new one – this will surely fill up your free time.
  • Find alternative ways to keep in touch with your friends over the phone or computer – apps like Zoom, FaceTime, and Discord are particularly helpful for this. Try scheduling a movie night over Zoom and have one person be the designated person to share their screen and stream the movie; if you like to play video games, play with your friends and chat in real-time using Discord to make communicating easier and more effective. 

If you want to try gatherings, here’s ways to stay safe during a large gathering or public event (obtained from the CDC’s website):

  • Make sure you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines.
  • In general, people do not need to wear masks when outdoors.
  • If you are sick and need to be around others, or are caring for someone who has COVID-19, wear a mask.
  • If the COVID-19 Community Level where you live is
    • Low
      • Wear a mask based on your personal preference, informed by your personal level of risk.
    • Medium
      • If you are at risk for severe illness, talk to your healthcare provider about wearing masks indoors in public.
      • If you live with or will gather with someone at risk for severe illness, wear a mask when indoors with them.
    • High
      • If you are 2 or older, wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status or individual risk (including in K-12 schools and other community settings).
  • If you are at risk for severe illness, wear a mask or respirator that provides you with greater protection.
  • Stay home if you are sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Communicate with the people you will meet about prevention strategies.

Moderator disclaimer: For additional resources and guidance on COVID precautions, please visit CDC, WHO, and your state or local health department website (can see Allegheny County COVID-19 updates here)

What are some ways you balance covid anxiety with social needs? Have you tried any of the tips listed above? If so, what was your experience like?

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