Staying Safe (and Sane) While Waiting for a COVID-19 Vaccine

Woman wearing a surgical mask outdoors

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Key Takeaways

  • COVID-19 vaccines are on the horizon, but it will be months before they are widely available.
  • COVID fatigue has many people challenging the restrictions meant to prevent widespread infection.
  • With a plan, it is possible to stay strong and safe until a vaccine is widely available.

This year has been quite a struggle for many people throughout the world as we grapple with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For months, it has often felt like there was no end in sight.

Now, with hope on the horizon in the form of multiple vaccines that may soon gain FDA approval, we may begin to have a more positive outlook on the state of the pandemic. Experts warn, however, that we should not ease caution just yet.

The most recent spike in COVID-19 cases around the country is evidence of what happens when we do just that. Defying recommended restrictions—especially as colder weather pushes people indoors—has caused the virus to spread in places that were once able to flatten the curve.

Microbiologist and immunologist Andrea Love, PhD, says, “This virus is both elegant and insidious, which complicates the ability to quell the rampant outbreak. Mask-wearing and limiting person-to-person interaction is key to mitigating community spread, and this includes anytime you are indoors where the chance of airborne transmission is highest.” She explains that COVID-19 has a long incubation period of two to 14 days, and people are most contagious before they even show symptoms.

According to Love, “While it is encouraging that we have several promising candidates on the horizon, it is still going to take time before we have mass uptake of a vaccine. It is anticipated that limited distribution might be available by the end of the year or early 2021, but widespread access for the general public won’t be until well into next year.” Even after the vaccine is available, Love says that around 65% of the population will need to be vaccinated before we can obtain herd immunity.

With the uncertain timeline, it may feel like running a never-ending race. So how do we stay sane while waiting for a glimpse at the life we once knew?

Expect the Unexpected

That is what mental health expert Aaron Bernard, MS, has been telling his clients. “This year has been one big trigger. We thought that the quarantine would last a couple of weeks. Then three months. None of us could believe that more than six months later, we’d still be here.”

He explains that with the changing seasons, many are losing the ability to be outside and with others. “People are missing birthdays, funerals, and weddings are canceled, everything is canceled. So moving forward into the colder months, of course people might be on edge. I recommend that my clients stay as proactive versus reactive, as possible. No matter what, give everyone and yourself grace.”

Christina Tarantola, PharmD

I believe that what you focus on, you feel, and where your attention grows, your energy expands.

— Christina Tarantola, PharmD

Bernard says that practicing self-care is necessary for coping. “If you’re in a warmer area, go for walks around the block, put your mask on, and get fresh air. Keep your appointments with doctors and therapists, even if they're virtual. I also recommend reading books, listening to music, and allowing yourself to laugh. Eat well, but allow yourself a donut, or order takeout. Just be kind to yourself.”

Be Innovative 

Workout programs and classes have moved online, which has made it easier to work towards mental and physical fitness, as well as taking on creative projects. Considering the unemployment rates during lockdown, this has been a key to maintaining mental health for a lot of people. COVID-19 has introduced us to the first women’s recession. In September, 865,000 women left the workforce, an alarming 80% of the 1.1 million people who were no longer working or looking for work.

Brit Morin, the founder and CEO of Brit + Co, felt compelled to help. “When I realized how much this pandemic affected women, it was clear to me that we needed to forge new opportunities for women, even during a crisis. So, I quickly curated everything I’ve learned during my decade-long entrepreneurial journey into a signature course called Selfmade, and we launched our first cohort of 200 women in June.”

Morin explains that over the 10 weeks of her Selfmade course, women had the opportunity to learn skills that could lead to innovation and the creation of new opportunities for themselves. Her website also offered over 120 digital courses, many free of charge. “As a result, we’ve received messages from women who were able to learn a new skill, either for a mental health break, or to put into action and earn money.”

Andrea Love, PhD

Mask wearing and limiting person-to-person interaction is key to mitigating community spread, and this includes anytime you are indoors where the chance of airborne transmission is highest.

— Andrea Love, PhD

Platforms like Morin’s are useful for women in transition, which is where Christina Tarantola, PharmD, saw herself a few years ago. She made a dramatic career change from pharmacy to becoming a transformational coach. With her young yet lucrative business Enlightened Wellness Solutions, she’s had to switch gears again because of the pandemic. “I’ve pivoted my transformation coaching business to be 100% online through virtual retreats, online events, and digital VIP sessions with clients.”

Tarantola has tried to remain curious and optimistic during the pandemic and around this year’s unrest. This has been a challenge, but it has spurred her creativity.

“I believe that what you focus on, you feel, and where your attention grows, your energy expands. I’ve intentionally decided to focus my energy on creation during 2020," says Tarantola. While social distancing, I’ve decided to start working on my fourth book to help empathic women master their energy and discover their soul gifts out in the world.”

Many sites such as Coursera and Udemy offer online courses, some from elite colleges like Stanford and Harvard. These could also help you hone in on a new skill or hobby, such as photography or web design.

Until there is a widely available vaccine, Love recommends continued safe practices, “Masks, limiting indoor interactions, physical distance from others, and limiting the number of persons you interact with will have to be continued—even after a vaccine is officially released. Until we have widespread immunization, we must continue to be vigilant with these other methods to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

What This Means For You

Being proactive and embracing COVID’s unpredictability can be the key to maintaining sanity until there is a widely available vaccine. Until then, social distancing and self-compassion can help to keep you mentally and physically healthy.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Britton T, Ball F, Trapman P. A mathematical model reveals the influence of population heterogeneity on herd immunity to SARS-CoV-2. Science. 2020;369(6505):846-9. doi:10.1126/science.abc6810

  3. National Women's Law Center. Four times more women than men dropped out of the labor force during September.

By Tonya Russell
Tonya Russell is a Philadelphia-based journalist with a passion for mental health, wellness, and culture. When she isn't writing, she's training for a marathon or riding horses.