CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us in one way or another, but not all of its effects are physical. The pandemic is also taking a psychological toll.
As this latest wave of COVID-19 sweeps across Texas sand the Coastal Bend, many find themselves growing more and more anxious as the pandemic continues.
Jessica Sustaita is one of many worried about how COVID-19 will affect their lives.
“It’s very scary, I’m worried about returning back to work and my kids going back to school and my husband having to go to work, and my family members that have to go out,” said Sustaita.
Mental health professionals say there are more like Sustaita every day.
“Our counseling and training clinic on campus is providing telehealth services, and we’re seeing that in our clients,” said Texas A&M Corpus Christi Psychology Professor Dr. Michelle Hollenbaugh. “A lot of our clients are experiencing higher anxiety.”
According to Hollenbaugh, people who have grown used to staying at home can now find crowds stressful.
“What happens when I go somewhere and there are more people than I was expecting? What happens when I go somewhere and someone isn’t wearing a mask? That kind of stuff, planning for potential, can really decrease anxiety,” said Hollenbaugh.
Early on in the pandemic, Coastal Bend case numbers were low, which led to people relaxing their level of precaution, especially as the state started reopening. But since Memorial Day, local cases have soared.
“Me and my wife drove by the beach, what I saw: no mask, no 6 feet,” said Rick James. “I told my wife, 'You watch, in two weeks it’s going to go supreme up.' That’s exactly what happened.”
As the case numbers mount, the virus has started to hit close to home for many people.
“Now, most people know someone (who has had COVID-19), some people know someone who has died,” said Hollenbaugh. “That can be really scary, and that does really hit home.”
Hollenbaugh believes people with COVID-19 related stress especially need to find a way to relax.
“It’s really important for everybody right now to think about what they can do to take care of themselves, engage in activities that they enjoy and really keep in mind that they’re gaping through a traumatic experience,” she said.
Hollenbaugh said, in addition to finding safe activities, people should also limit their amount of news coverage of the virus if they’re feeling anxious.
The Texas A&M Corpus Christi Counseling and Training Clinic offers free remote counseling to everyone. Anyone who is interested can call (361) 825-3988 and leave a voicemail, and someone will call them back ASAP to set up an intake appointment.