Needles? No Problem! Coping with your COVID-19 Vaccine

Reading Time: 3 minutes

People react to needles in all sorts of ways: some people are fascinated by them, other people have a mild dislike for them, and many people flat out cannot stand them. Whatever camp you fall into, you most likely already know how important vaccinations are.

And when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, its importance cannot be overstated. A COVID-19 vaccination will help keep you from getting COVID-19—protecting you from severe illness and even death—and may also protect the people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccine is one of the best tools that we have against ending the pandemic and gradually returning to some type of “normal.”

Still, this may not make lifting your sleeve any easier. Deciding to make an appointment—and actually following through—may seem like an insurmountable feat for someone with an intense fear of needles. After all, a fear of needles (known as trypanophobia) is said to impact about 25 percent of adults in the U.S., and can cause increased heart rate, fainting, and even full-blown panic attacks.

If you are one of those individuals who struggles with vaccinations, here are some tips to prepare yourself for the COVID-19 vaccine.

1. Talk to your doctor

Getting a shot can be anxiety inducing, even when it is something as common as an annual flu shot. With the COVID-19 vaccine, there is a lot of fearmongering and politicization that may be heightening your anxiety. For this reason, you may want to talk with your primary care doctor about the vaccine to dispel any rumors that you’ve heard.

Your doctor will be able to explain the differences between the available vaccine brands, can discuss possible short-term side effects, and can also address any medical concerns that may need to be addressed prior to vaccination.

If you really struggle with vaccinations, talk to your doctor about which local vaccine provider location will be best suited to your needs.

2. Book the appointment

Worrying about making an appointment will not make the process any easier, and it won’t do anything positive for your mental health. When you’ve talked with your doctor, gotten the information you need, and feel ready to take the step forward…do it! Then celebrate your bravery!

3. Familiarize yourself with the site

Sometimes when you feel anxious about a new experience, it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with the place or process. If you have questions about a specific vaccine provider location, visit their website and read about what you should expect when you arrive for your appointment.

If you are making an appointment with Skagit County Public Health at the Skagit County Fairgrounds, reading our blog post may help to calm your nerves: https://skagitcounty.blog/2021/01/21/covid-19-vaccine-clinic-step-by-step/.  You can also access our website by visiting www.skagitcounty.net/COVIDvaccine or call our Hotline at (360) 416-1500.

4. Take Your Time & Talk to our Nurses

When you arrive to your appointment, make sure to give yourself some time. Try to arrive a few minutes early so you aren’t rushing through traffic and be sure to eat a bit before you come.

If you have questions or concerns, be sure to talk with the nurse. Letting them know that you are nervous about receiving a vaccine is totally okay! Trust us, it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve heard this!

Your nurse will most likely offer some advice on how to deal with getting your shot and will provide you with some information that you will need post-vaccine (such as what to do for pain management if you have a sore arm). If you have questions, ask! We are here for you.

5. Use Your Coping Skills

If you know from experience that you will be feeling particularly anxious during your vaccine appointment, make sure to have some coping skills at your disposal. Here are some examples:

Deep Breathing

Slow, deep, and calming breaths can help you avoid panic. There are many different breathing techniques that you can call upon. It is important to find the ones that work for you.

Box Breathing is an exercise where you breathe in for four seconds, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for another four and repeat. It can help to imagine your breath creating an imaginary box in the air.

Another technique is Pursed Lip Breathing. To practice it, you breathe in through your nose and breathe out at least twice as long through your mouth with pursed lips.

Focus Shifting & Distractions

Distracting yourself may not help you get over your fear of needles, but it can help you cope in the moment. Need some ways to shift your focus or distract yourself? Here are some tricks:

  • Talk to someone about something random—the weather, sports, a TV show. Whatever!
  • Count backwards from 50 or try to say the alphabet backwards.
  • Think about fun plans that you have or what you would like to do on the weekend.
  • Look around and find three things you hadn’t noticed before.

Positive Affirmations

As you are waiting to receive your shot, be thinking about some positive affirmations. Remember that you have gotten vaccinations before and have been fine. That you’ve overcome difficult things. That you are not in danger, though your body or brain may be causing you to think so. You are okay, you are brave. You are making a difference in your community!

For more helpful tips and resources: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/coronavirus/821-133-BehavioralHealthTipsGettingTheVaccine.pdf


Restorative Practices to Heal Brain Fog

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Rosemary Alpert, contributing author

We have weathered this year, experiencing a “new norm.” Every aspect of our lives touched by a global virus, sending us home, keeping us separated and challenging our mental, physical and emotional endurance. It takes energy to keep going under stressful circumstances. If you are feeling exhausted, you are not alone: Pandemic fatigue is real. 

Last week, I forgot what day it was (a few times), my normal patience was running low, and exhaustion was taking hold. Friday, while getting ready for work, on a morning show I heard the term, “brain fog.” This referred to what some people, whether they have had COVID-19 or not, are experiencing after a year living this unusual “new norm.” Hearing the term gave me an odd sense of relief and a name to the mental exhaustion I had been feeling.  

For the past twelve months, we have been running a metaphorical race, restructuring our lives and trying to do the best we can, under extreme circumstances. Our collective exhaustion is understandable. It’s important to remember, take time to pause, breathe deeply and gift ourselves moments of rest. 

While experiencing the fatigue of the pandemic and foggy brains, it is important to be gentle with ourselves and those around us. Remembering the importance of selfcare, setting aside moments for ourselves is not being selfish, rather it is restorative. Not only for us, but for our families, too. The pandemic has taken an exhausting toll on our community from the young to our elders. Supporting one another with loving-kindness can make a huge difference in our collective movement forward.  

Over the weekend, I took time to rest and recharge. Thoughts traveled back to last spring. Remembering the unusual stillness, some days hardly a car drove past my window. It was so quiet. I could feel the earth reawakening, catching its breath without the busyness of all our coming and goings. Now as before the pandemic, I am continually grateful for time tending the garden, watching the hummingbirds zip among the blossoms and listening intently with all my senses to the unfolding of each season. Restorative time spent outside. 

These days, it is vitally important to create ways to recharge our inner beings. Refuel our endurance so we can show up with clarity and presence for our families, friends and community. 

Talking with some coworkers at the Skagit County Public Health vaccination site, each expressed experiencing some form of pandemic fatigue or brain fog over these past many months. I asked, “What is your favorite restorative practice?” 

Here are their responses:

“I head to the mountains.” 

“Every week I buy myself fresh flowers. Along with photography, it’s relaxing and creative.” 

“Play with my dog.” 

“I make sure I practice yoga every day.” 

“Call a friend, meet up for a glass of wine and walk outside.” 

“Crafting, that’s my jam!” 

“Put my phone away and unplug.” 

“Take a nap.” 

“Meditate.” 

“Listen to music.” 

“Sit quietly and watch the clouds.” 

“Gardening, tending the plants and soil, recharges me.” 

“Take a ride to the beach, spend time by the water, listen to the waves.” 

Whatever works, I hope these restorative practices can inspire you to creatively move through moments of fatigue and fogginess. Continue nurturing endurance for the days and months ahead as we move forward with deepening kindness, compassion and joy. 

Welcome Spring! 

“Daffodils” 
©Rosemary DeLucco Alpert, 2021

Keep It Simple: Self-Care in the New Year

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Article and image contributed by Rosemary Alpert.

The calendar has turned,
a new year’s begun,
here we go 2021!

Stepping into this new year with hope and resilience, slow and steady movement forward, one day at a time. No resolutions, rather, deciding to keep it simple, focusing on daily self-care and compassion.

At least three times a week, I call a dear friend who turned 99 years old last October. She lives in an assisted living facility in Connecticut. Our conversations are brief and meaningful, for both of us. Almost guaranteed, with each call, especially during challenging days of separation and isolation, my friend, Sylvia, shares two pieces of advice: “Put your oxygen mask on first,” and, “You’re dealt a hand, play it out the best you can.” Daily wisdom from an almost centenarian.

The simplicity of this advice resonates within. “Put your oxygen mask on first,” does not mean being selfish, quite the opposite. Rather, it is true self-care. Being full of care for ourselves is vitally important, especially these days. What works for you?

Keep it Simple. Besides making sure to get enough rest, drink plenty of water, wash our hands, and wear our masks, here are a few keep-it-simple self-care thoughts: Let’s notice our breath; be gentle with ourselves; learn our limits; be our best advocate; ask and reach out; express daily gratitude; get outside; however it may be, take super-duper care! Then, we can show up for one another, with more presence and awareness.

Each day, we are gifted 86,400 seconds, a fresh start. Over these many months, when my mind started to turn into a hamster wheel, spinning out of control, I would stop whatever I was doing. Pause, focus, take a few breaths, remember what my friend Sylvia would say, “You’re dealt a hand, play it out the best you can.” One of my daily practices has become starting fresh with each new day. As with any practice, it is an ongoing learning experience. Some days, it’s not so easy. What this advice has offered is a way to appreciate, notice, and celebrate the littlest of moments within the progress of each day. Our accumulation of seconds count!

While working at the COVID-19 testing site, I asked a few coworkers how they keep it simple with self-care. Here are some of their responses…

  • Relax in bed, all propped up with a bunch of pillows, surround myself with snacks and watch Hallmark movies
  • Take a long hot bath
  • Search for painted rocks on hikes with my son
  • Call a friend
  • Long walks by the river
  • Learned how to quilt
  • Walk my dog
  • Quiet meditation
  • Spend time reading and journaling
  • Go for hikes
  • Spend time gardening, getting my hands in the dirt, connecting to the earth
  • Listen to calming music
  • Make dinner with my partner, then watch a funny movie.

Simple pleasures nourish the soul, keep us in the present, and keep us moving forward. Remember my dear friend Sylvia’s advice: Don’t forget to “put your oxygen mask on first,” and each day, do the best you can with your 86,400 seconds.

Happy New Year!!!


Healthy Community Recovery: Add Your Voice

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Skagitonians have discovered a wide range of fun and interesting ways to capture their day-to-day COVID living: creating video montages of each day using the 1 Second Everyday app, photobooks of puzzles completed, “QuaranTime capsules,” COVID plays, song parodies, and more. Cataloging these trying times in creative ways helps us process our new reality and expand our connectivity. Also, these activities will give us tangible ways to look back on these strange days when we emerge from the crisis.

The Population Health Trust (often known as the Trust) has another way for individuals and families to capture their experiences with COVID-19—a way that will help us understand the behavioral, economic, social and emotional impacts resulting from the outbreak. We are rolling out the Community Recovery-Oriented Needs Assessment (CORONA survey), which is open for responses between now and the end of September. By participating in the CORONA survey, you will add your voice to this countywide discussion.

Survey participants can opt into a prize drawing! Take the survey today!

It is the Trust’s role to pull together information from across the community, determine key health issues facing Skagitonians, and devise a strategic plan for regaining health and wellness. We need to understand the variety of ways that COVID-19 has impacted you and your family in order to prioritize the critical needs arising as a result of COVID-19. 

You can support our community’s recovery by completing the CORONA survey at wacoronasurvey.com. To take the survey by phone, call 855-530-5787; interpreters are available to assist. We rely on your experiences and needs to drive our work toward healthy community recovery. Thank you for taking the time to add your knowledge and perspective to this community conversation.


Coping with Pandemic Fatigue

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The COVID-19 pandemic has many of us stressed and worn out. We have all faced changes to our daily routines, reduced contact with friends and family, and a loss of our sense of normalcy. Many Skagitonians have been hit with financial challenges due to job loss or changes to their businesses that could not have been anticipated prior to a few months ago. Adding to the stress is that the pandemic conditions appear to be getting worse and there is not a definite end in sight.

You have probably heard of the “fight-or-flight” response. This response works well if you need to run away from a bear, but not so great for long-term stressors like the COVID pandemic.

WHO Coping with Stress during COVID19

So what can you do if you are feeling stressed and worn out?

1. Limit how often you check news or spend time on social media.

It is important to be well-informed about the pandemic. Although some people take comfort in being informed, it is easy to get worked up and anxious from watching nonstop news coverage. Have you heard of the term “doomscrolling?” It’s a newly coined word for scrolling through a never-ending doom-and-gloom on your Twitter or Facebook feed for hours and hours. Many of us do it, but we can all find better ways to spend our time.

If you want to stay informed, you should seek out COVID-19 information from local and trusted sources, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Washington State Department of Health or Skagit County Public Health. And set reasonable limits for the time you spend on social media.

2. If you feel like you are stuck in a rut, change your routine.

We are now four months into the pandemic, and most people have settled into a familiar routine. Many of us are spending more time than ever at home and are growing tired of looking at the same four walls as our days blur together. If you feel like you are stuck in the same rut day after day, you should mix up your routine.

How? If your employer allows you to work from home and is open to flexible work hours, you can try working a different schedule. Take the time to exercise before you start work, or take a longer lunch hour and go for a long walk and end your workday later.

You can also take advantage of the time cooped up in your home by focusing on a do-it-yourself project that you have been putting off. Clean your garage, touch up some peeling paint, or take on a project in your yard. In addition to keeping you busy, when you are done with the project you will get the added satisfaction from having completed a project.

3. Find healthy ways to let off some stress.

The CDC provides some great tips on coping with stress during COVID. Most are common sense tips like:

  • Take care of your body—stretch or meditate, eat healthy well-balanced meals, and exercise regularly.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol and drug use.
  • Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

4. Don’t be afraid to seek out professional help.

For some people, general stress and pandemic fatigue can become more serious. You should watch for warning signs that you’re having trouble coping, and should call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.

If you do not know where to turn, Skagit County is maintaining a list of behavioral health services and resources. A few key resources that are available 24 hours a day and 365 days a year are:

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, and know that like all pandemics, this one will eventually end.


No Opening Day

When will it be Opening Day?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Sports and COVID-19

No sports?! What do we do between now and Opening Day?

It took just a few hours on March 11th for life in America to change completely.

Yes – people had been uneasy, but things weren’t bad like in other countries. Then President Trump gave a somber address shifting COVID-19 from a nagging concern to an immediate national threat. Next the widely beloved Tom Hanks shared he was diagnosed with coronavirus. And the trifecta dropped when we heard Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert – a 2020 an All Star and a two-time Defensive Player of the Year – had COVID-19. Before that news sunk in, Commissioner Adam Silver announced the NBA season was suspended. It made sense health-wise. The NBA is all about boxing out, sharing the ball, and getting up into the other guy’s face. That’s more chance for straight-on coronavirus transmission than most of us would have in months.

Of course, the NHL followed suit, along with baseball’s spring training, pro wrestling, March Madness, the Masters, on and on. Our national pastimes just went poof and disappeared. Shots of stadiums full of empty seats were eerie as a ghost. A lot of us are used to coming home from work, plopping on the couch and catching a game. At lunch break, we might pause to check the box scores. These bits of sports are footholds throughout our day. They give us a little reprieve from the pressure and rushing around. Looking for a silver lining in all of this? The Mariners are in first place! Actually, Seattle is tied for first place with every other team, each with a 0-0 record. But it’s first place all the same.

We need sports more than ever.

Sports are not a life and death thing. But I’m reminded of a story a sportswriter shared a few years back. He loved sports more than anyone, but he was a little embarrassed by his profession. He was a grown man devoting his days to games. Then he lost his mother to cancer. Grief just swallowed him whole. And part of that grief was he couldn’t sleep a wink. Depressed and battered, he found a reprieve. In bed, in the dark, he started replaying the most important games in his head. The World Series, Super Bowl, Final Four, NBA finals. He relived the thousands of games his profession enabled him to see in person. Triples plays, flea flickers, logo 3-pointers. Plus the regular stuff – the grind-out fullbacks busting through the line for first downs, goalies withstanding shot after shot on goal, a crossover dribble, or a drag bunt single. He immersed himself in the things he loved. Then sleep found him, sweetly giving him relief. It was much better than counting sheep!

Life has become hard — and just when we need them most, sports have gone missing. But don’t let the fact that ESPN has stopped live broadcast sink you into depression: revel in past moments of glory. Catch your favorite games of the past, and remember why the greats were so great! Also, settle in real quiet and think for a moment how indescribably sweet opening day will be. A batter will dig in next to the plate. A pitcher will wind up. And in that moment, a rush of anticipation will take over, all the pain will drop away, and the world will be well, perfectly well.

A footnote: If you want to check out the intersection between sports and COIVD-19, see Stephen Curry’s interview of Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who serves on the President’s Coronavirus Task Force: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRwkNQXbGKg