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Hello Idaho: Managing Anxiety about Omicron

Maggie O'Mara talked to Dr. Nicole Fox from St. Luke's Behavioral Health, she specializes in psychiatry and lifestyle medicine.

BOISE, Idaho — In March of 2020, our lives changed in a big way. The pandemic hit. At first we thought it would be just two weeks to stop the spread, but that two weeks has turned into almost two years.

Now, we are dealing with the spread of the Omicron variant. That's causing some anxiety for some of us, especially with holiday parties and gatherings coming up.

Maggie O'Mara talked to Dr. Nicole Fox from St. Luke's Behavioral Health, she specializes in psychiatry and lifestyle medicine.

Dr. Fox says people are exhausted right now, and rightly so. She says it's important to remember to focus on what you can control. Things like masking, hand washing, and vaccination. Connecting with others is also very important. If you feel fearful and you are isolated, she recommends finding connection in healthy and positive ways.

"If you are a person who doesn't have any family nearby, or friends nearby, if you have lost touch with people during the pandemic and sort of find yourself alone and isloated, this might be the time to find a group on one of the social media outlets that has a similar interest," said Dr. Nicole Fox. "So that's one thing I would recommend, absolutely find a way to connect with people, whatever that may be."

When it comes to holiday parties, Dr. Fox says people may be hesitant right now to celebrate in big groups. There are so many unknowns about the Omicron variant. What we do know is that is spreads quickly. Fox says ask questions, and if you feel uncomfortable it's okay to say no.

"I think it's very normal to be nervous and it's okay. This is a time when it's okay to be forthright and ask questions that are on your mind. Will I be masking? Do you know if the folks that are coming will be vaccinated? Will they be masking? As long as you come from a place of curiosity and not judgement, that's okay. It's okay to ask important questions about your safety. If you decide you're not ready yet, because we have this new variant and you don't know what to make of it, I think it's okay to say thank you so much for the invitation, can you keep me in mind for next year?"

Fox says if you get to the point where fear and anxiety are taking over, you should reach out to get help.

"Absolutely, absolutely. There are the daily stressors that are manageable, and when things become unmanageable we need to take them very seriously. I want you to reach out to your primary care team, talk to them about if this is the time to have a referral for therapy or maybe you should look into medication. If you start feeling like there is no way out of this for you, you can't live your life, I want you to call that suicide hotline or 911, get help. What I don't you to do is sit and suffer alone... this is a big world and there are times when we are alone, but you are never alone."

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