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Dealing with Health Anxiety as Mask Requirements End [AUDIO]

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Mask requirements are coming to an end in Washington state on Saturday, more than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic. But the transition could be stressful for some who may experience health anxiety.

Dr. Trenton James – a psychiatrist for Kaiser Permanente in Seattle – said stress, fear, and exhaustion are normal responses to this health crisis.

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He said people shouldn’t ignore the strain the pandemic has put on mental health – and can take care of themselves in other ways to help alleviate that stress.

“Identify good self-care routines and stick to them,” said James. “You know, I often encourage my patients to be kind to yourself and focus on the basics, like going for daily walks. Even being able to go outside and enjoy the sunshine, when we do get it, and breathing in fresh air.”

Washington, California and Oregon have all decided to lift mask requirements for indoor settings on Saturday.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also has revised its recommendations, saying people who aren’t in counties with high transmission rates can go without masks.

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But Kaiser Permanente and other hospitals in the Evergreen State still are recommending that people wear masks in crowded settings and public indoor spaces.

James said many folks are feeling COVID fatigue and some are even angry at the policies designed to keep people safe. He described these as typically secondary expressions that stem from fear, anxiety and depression.

“Another really important thing is just to be able to seek out help when you’re overwhelmed,” said James. “And there’s a lot of uncertainty right now, but keeping in mind that this won’t last forever.”

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James said it’s also important to keep in mind that official guidance on masks and other safety policies could evolve as the pandemic continues, so people should follow the latest guidance from state and federal authorities.


Erik Tegethoff headshot
Eric Tegethoff | WNS

Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He’s also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.

The above article was provided by Washington News Service. The Auburn Examiner has not independently verified its content.

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