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Improving pandemic conditions have many feeling happier, but anxiety is still an issue

There are still quite a few people struggling with pandemic related issues, especially surrounding their return to work.

SAN DIEGO — It’s been a rollercoaster ride of emotions for many San Diegans trying to navigate their way through the pandemic. But now, with the vaccine rollout well underway, new coronavirus cases dropping to their lowest levels in months, and schools working on plans to re-open, doctors say they’ve noticed a major improvement in our mental health.

“People are less afraid,” said Dr. Michael Lardon. “They kind of know that they're going to get to the end game. The fear is less. We know more about the virus and you start to see people start to brighten.” Dr. Lardon says the pandemic sparked anxiety and depression in levels his psychiatry practice hasn't seen since 9/11. “The uncertainty, the fear, the economic toll, was just really too much and we saw people that normally - pretty level headed - really having a bad time.”

But now, especially with the vaccine, he’s says things are finally starting to turn around. Patients are happier and feel better about life returning to normal. Dr. Lardon adds that he’s seen a silver lining to the pandemic - more people are paying attention to their mental health. “People really are making an effort to go take a walk, go exercise, try not to drink too much and try to be a bit healthier... which was really a good thing.”

But there are still quite a few people struggling with pandemic related issues, especially surrounding their return to work. Many people admit that they're concerned about catching COVID-19 on the job, especially if being asked to return to work before being fully vaccinated.

“I think we have to figure out - does the anxiety make sense or is it overboard?” Dr. Lardon said.

He says having some anxiety about returning to work is normal, but you have to keep things in perspective. “We can never eradicate all the risks of our behavior in life. When we go on the 805 freeway, there's an inherent risk in driving on a big freeway.”

From a social aspect, the pandemic has been really hard on a lot of people. We’ve been isolated away from friends. As a result, for many employees, returning to work can be a big step in the right direction. “It is important to reengage, especially in our social life, and our work life is a big part of our social life,” Dr. Lardon said.

But you also have to feel comfortable doing it, so head back to work while taking precautions that make you feel better. Dr. Lardon says that can including wearing a mask and talking to your boss about moving your desk to a more open, spaced out area. “So you slowly graduate your risk and you become increasingly comfortable and then you can kind of up the ante and go to the next place. If we do it all at once, we call that flooding and that's maybe too much for some people.”

Dr. Lardon spoke to News 8 from a nursing home where everyone is vaccinated. It allowed him to see patients mask-free for the first time in a year... and he could tell it made a huge difference… for everyone. “We're really feeling a lot better as physicians that take care of older folks and the older folks themselves are feeling better.”

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