In March last year, we at Kossie noticed news about a strange virus beginning to take over the world, setting off people’s anxiety everywhere. We wrote a few articles trying to ease minds, having no idea what was going to unfold over the coming months. Now, nearly a year on, we’ve been through a lot and are finally seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel: a vaccine.
Despite this, after a long period of uncertainty, stress and worry, it’s obvious that people are going to have some reservations. Across social media, while celebrating in the news, some people do of course, have worries.
To help with some of those concerns, we have Dr Marianne Trent, a Clinical Psychologist on hand to help.
What Kind of Vaccine Anxiety Do You Have?
#1 “I am a frontline worker and am due to have the vaccine soon. I know I need it and actually want it – but I’m so scared of needles to the point that I want to avoid it. How can I get over it?”
Dr Marianne: It’s completely understandable to want to avoid distress and things which are fear inducing for us. It’s a really tricky position for us as humans when we are asked to do something which scares you even though the logical part of our brains might know that it is the right thing to do. This happens because it’s not the logical part of our brains which are in charge of fear and the fight or flight reactions, it’s our much more primitive ‘reptilian’ brain. However, please know that you’re not alone in your needle aversion. Research has shown that between 12 and 20% of people reported themselves as having some degree of needle phobia.
So, rest assured that you will not be the first person in the vaccine queue to feel anxious about this. Speaking as a key worker who recently had the vaccine the nurse was genuinely a vaccine ninja, I barely felt a thing. It’s okay to tell the nurse that you’re feeling anxious. It’s part of their job to help calm you as it will make their job easier and safer in the long run.
Between you and I…I don’t have needle phobia but as I was sitting in my car outside the vaccination centre I felt a bit emotional. It felt strange to me to be about to go and sit very close to a stranger after so long being socially distanced! It felt really surreal to be going to have the much talked about vaccine! So, maybe some of that is around for you too? Whatever you’re feeling it’s valid and important and it’s ok to talk about those feelings. Be kind to you.
#2 “It seems there is so much conflicting news at the moment and it really confuses me. I’m constantly scrolling on my phone, it’s seriously getting me down and affecting my mental health – I feel hopeless, especially when I see so many people having such opposite reactions. Should I stop reading the news?”
Dr Marianne: Okay. Take a breath. And Another. It’s okay. You’re doing the best you can to get through this pandemic with the resources available to you at this time. It’s the way any of us gets through any given day at any given time let alone in the middle of a pandemic and lockdown situation. Those of us who love a good scroll are often doing it because we’re searching for the answer which is going to help us feel safe and reassured. At the moment however it can feel pretty tricky to feel safe and reassured. I’m sorry to hear how stressed this is making you. You deserve to give yourself a chance to reduce your suffering. What we know is that the current way you’re engaging with the problem is not making you feel good so we have a few choices:
#1 Do nothing, carry on as you are
#2 Tolerate the current situation by embracing it. You can appreciate that allowing yourself to scroll might increase your anxiety and lead to you wanting to scroll more to search for reassurance
#3 Do something different. This might look like limiting your scrolling time, it might look like only reading COVID-19 related content on a reputable news channel site. It might look like only watching official briefings. You get to choose how to make the difference and what makes sense for you.
It’s important to know that it’s unlikely that you will miss any of the important updates relevant to you by taking a step back from the way you currently engage with content. It’s also worth mentioning that it’s not always helpful to compare ourselves to others because everyone has had different experiences which then affect how they cope with any given situation.
#3 “My family is quite negative about the vaccine and I am becoming anxious in my own home. I feel angry and upset and completely at odds – like an outsider in my own home. Is it possible to either fix this rift or manage my emotions myself?”
Dr Marianne: Oh gosh. What a pickle. Poor you. That does sound like a tricky position to be in. The way that our brains are structured means that it’s supposed to feel very uncomfortable when we are not getting along well with our family group. It’s because as a rule we need our social groups in order to make our survival more likely. So when we are feeling cast out of the group it floods our body with all kinds of complicated hormones to encourage us to heal the rift! However, that said, it’s important to bear in mind that just because others don’t share your opinion it doesn’t mean that it’s wrong or that you need to change it. It’s possible to heal the rift and both still maintain your own position on the debate. It’s okay to tell them that you respect their right to have a different opinion for you but that you can choose to make a different decision. Please don’t ever feel you need to keep your feelings to yourself. Emotions are a valid and important communication.
#4 “I really have fear of the unknown in terms of the vaccine and what happens next. It’s a step in the right direction but so much has been taken from us already, and I hate not knowing what’s coming next. How can I be more present in the moment?”
Dr Marianne: I hear you! I feel that the next pandemic coming to us is one of grief about everything we have lost and everything which has passed us by since March 2020! It can feel so tricky to have any control at the moment and that so much has changed so quickly. If we look back to the changes we have been able to make as individuals and as a society since we first heard the term COVID-19 it’s massive! When you feel distressed or even when you have good moments it can be a really good and helpful idea to take 3 – 4 slow, purposeful cycles of in and out breaths whilst holding that thought in mind at a safe and comfortable distance. This will help your mind learn that it can tolerate having both good and bad moments and in turn these will be easier to handle in future.
Dr Marianne Trent is a Clinical Psychologist & author of The Grief Collective: Stories of Life, Loss & Learning to Heal. Until 16/2/21 you can enter Marianne’s competition to win a whole heap of goodies to improve your sleep and mental health, just click here.