12 Tips For Riding Out The Omicron Wave Safely, Protecting Your Mental Health (& What To Do If You Get It)
*The photo is a very blessedly swollen river on Steep Ravine Trail in Stinson Beach. I’m so happy it’s been raining nearly all month!
First, a disclaimer. I am not a public health doctor, nor a front-line Covid worker. But my colleagues, friends, and clients are, and I’ve been listening to those I trust and weaving their direct feedback with public health guidelines to make my own decisions. So…take it with a grain of salt, but for those of you who ask me how I’m handling the New Years’ holiday in the midst of the Omicron surge and whether I have any advice for you all, here’s my answer.
1. Get your booster. I got boosted last night. It took me this long to get an appointment, but I finally got one. If you haven’t gotten your booster and you qualify and don’t have any contraindications, I recommend you do the same. Some of my functional medicine doctor friends are recommending taking glutathione if you’ve had vaccine side effects with other doses. I didn’t have side effects so I’m not taking anything but Aleve. So far, 18 hours in, all I have is a slightly sore arm.
2. Consider avoiding indoor dining. I’ll eat at a restaurant that has outdoor seating, but I’ve decided not to risk taking my mask off indoors right now.
3. Consider not flying anywhere for non-essential travel. If I did have to fly, I would abstain from eating and drinking so I wouldn’t have to take my mask off.
4. Ditch all your pretty cloth masks in favor of real N95s or KN95s. If I to go to a grocery store or other necessary indoor venue with lots of people, I’m donning my N95. I am not masking outside, however, especially since I’m not in outdoor settings with lots of people. If I were shoulder to shoulder with people outside, I might mask up outdoors too.
5. Consider abstaining from non-essential indoor entertainment with lots of people for the next few weeks. I said no to a very fun and festive but large indoor New Years’ concert, dinner, and dancing party in favor of a one on one night with one friend indoors together. We are both vaccinated. This surge will pass and you’ll be able to go to the movies, eat indoors, go to sports events and theater and concerts again soon. This is just a temporary sacrifice.
6. Prioritize gathering indoors in small groups with others who are vaccinated. The mental health risks of avoiding our close loved ones for any longer probably outweigh the risks of Covid. We can’t stay locked down and isolated forever. People’s mental health is already very fragile, and people need people. Cuddle close with your vaccinated loved ones, and avoid exposing or being indoors unmasked with anyone who is unvaccinated (for their protection and your own.)
7. Continue any prevention strategies you’ve been employing. As I say, “Germ theory AND Terrain theory!” We can keep our terrain optimized as best we can while also trying to prevent unnecessary exposure. Personally, I take my Vitamin C and drink my green juice and engage in general healthy behaviors, like hiking in nature every day, doing some yoga stretches, meditating, getting 8 hours of sleep, and eating a high nutrient diet. I’m not going crazy popping expensive supplements, given how mild most Covid cases seem to be at this point among the vaccinated, but it’s fine if you’re doing so and can afford to keep doing so.
8. If you get cold or flu-like or obvious Covid symptoms, get tested. Take a rapid test if you can find one and get the PCR for confirmation. Stay isolated until test results come back. If you can find rapid testing, you might test everyone before gathering with your elders. If you can’t find the tests, gather anyway if they’re willing to take the risk. Your elders need love in addition to protection, and you need them too. We can’t avoid each other forever.
9. If you do get Covid, here’s what my most trusted functional medicine doctor Rachel Carlton Abrams recommends. Start at least some of these immediately:
- Additional fish oil (my pick is Nordic Naturals Pro Omega 2000 or Complete Omega 2x, 1–2 caps) or curcumin (Theracumin 1 cap or Curapro 1 cap) is additive here for reducing inflammation, as is melatonin 3–15 mg before bed, which also helps with sleep.
The Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) has a good write-up on natural treatment and prevention here.
If you get any respiratory symptoms, see if you can get a pulse ox and let your doctor know if your O2 sats go below 94%. If symptoms are severe, early intervention with monoclonal antibodies and/or fluvoxamine seems to help. Ivermectin does not seem to help from what I can make of the studies, though it’s not particularly dangerous, and it’s cheap and accessible, so some doctors are using it anyway. Ivermectin has gotten very politicized but I’m saying that based on the data, not on a “belief.
10. Covid is here to stay. It is endemic. We will still hopefully hit herd immunity one day, and just like the 1918 pandemic ended, this one probably will too at some point. But until then, this is our new normal. It is possible or even likely that we will all get Covid at some point, so we can’t wring our hands or isolate in lockdowns forever, but I think it’s worth watching your local case numbers and adjusting your behavior depending on what’s happening in your local community. This current surge will likely peak and fall quickly since Omicron is so contagious. It is likely to blow through rapidly and then burn out just as quickly. The best we can do is watch our local case numbers. When they are low, we can play and relax more. When they spike, we can hunker down for a phase. The main reason to make those sacrifices is to avoid hospitals getting flooded. If your local hospital has no beds, unnecessary deaths will happen because there will be no room for heart attacks, strokes, car crashes, or other infections, much less Covid. So we can’t just say “Well, Covid is mild so we can just let ‘er rip.” If we care about preventing unnecessary deaths and have empathy for those who might lose their lives because we failed to make choices to help prevent those deaths, we need to make sure we have adequate staffing and adequate open beds in our hospitals. Otherwise, people will die needlessly of all kinds of medical conditions, and that’s tragic.
11. That said, mental health is an equally valid consideration here. My friend who runs the psych hospital at Harvard recently told me there were 84 people waiting in ER for psych beds. The hospital is also full of mental health workers, including psychiatrists. So our systems- inner and outer- are buckling under all this. Our minds are cracking under the strain and trauma of all this, and our mental health workers are burned out and overwhelmed, as are our front-line hospital workers in ERs, ICU’s and clinics. People die from mental health issues too- suicide, overdose, side effects of addiction. So take care of your emotional needs, your needs for touch, your needs for companionship. And if you can find and afford a good trauma therapist, consider yourself blessed and use that resource liberally. If you can’t, do what you can to find alternatives, even if you’re joining a 12 Step group on Zoom. We are doing our best to make affordable group healing accessible to anyone who wants in Healing With the Muse. We do IFS-lite, psycho-education, art therapy, creative writing and journaling, parts processing, and other group healing practices.
12. Now is a good time to call upon your spiritual practices, not as a spiritual bypass but as a kind of energy transfusion, as a way to fill yourself with life force so you can bolster your resilience and keep on keepin’ on. This is why we practice- for the times we really need it. Use your meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, contemplative prayer, art therapy, dance therapy, nature therapy, hiking, earth rituals, and other nourishing practices that uplift you and keep you feeling hopeful when things might start to feel hopeless.
I won’t say “Happy New Year” because that sounds a bit pithy right now, but I will wish you blessings and connection and compassion and heart-opening as 2022 dawns and we rally through this next surge. May your heart be full even if you’re feeling weary. Tomorrow, I’ll post an art ritual I like to do for the new year, as a way of processing the year past and preparing for the year to come.