ROCHESTER, N.Y. — As masks and mandates return due to a new rise in COVID-19 cases, mental health professionals say many of their patients are feeling frustrated, stressed and anxious.
Heather Bayly-Henshaw says the pandemic has changed more than her grocery shopping experience.
“Over the last year, I’ve never had a panic attack before,” Bayly-Henshaw said. “But now, I actually have panic disorder. Grocery stores make me very nervous for some reason. Lots of people, lots of noises stresses me out.”
And with COVID-19 variants like the delta strain causing even more uncertainty, Bayly-Henshaw says she feels uneasy.
“I’m very nervous there’s going to be another lockdown. I’m nervous about the restrictions that are probably on the way," Bayly-Henshaw said. "And the new variant makes me nervous because even if you have the vaccine, we don’t know how much it can affect you.”
And while some don’t mind the return of masks and mandates, Bayly-Henshaw is hardly alone.
“It is a little bit annoying, but there are bigger things to worry about at the end of the day,” Rochester resident Devin Williams said. “And it’s really not in our control if we wear the mask or not. But again, I think there are a lot more important things to worry about.”
Take Rebecca Carman, for instance.
“It’s definitely a little stressful, a little overwhelming,” Carman said. “Because we thought we were over the curve, essentially, and now we’re back into it. So it’s a lot.”
Dr. Telva Olivares is a psychiatrist with the University of Rochester Medical Center, and runs a Spanish-speaking mental health clinic. She says many of her patients are feeling frustrated – vaccinated or not.
“I see that anxiety as well,” Olivares said. “The anxiety of being told to do something they don’t believe in, and being mandated to do something also comes out.”
She says education is a powerful weapon in dealing with stress, but so is talk therapy.
“I think there’s so much misinformation out there that actually fuels the anxiety and mistrust in the system,” Olivares said. “We’re all going through this, and we need to figure out a way we can all come together to talk about these feelings and how this pandemic has upended all our lives.”
Bayly-Henshaw has taken up yoga, and Carman enjoys spending time outside – coping methods they will continue to lean on.
“At the end of the day, we just have to keep moving forward, moving forward with our lives and adapt to anything that comes our way,” Carman said.
Olivares says you may want to seek a professional if negative thoughts become persistent and debilitating – or suicidal.