“I don’t think we are out of the woods yet.” That's what Dr. Cliff Robertson, president and chief executive officer of Saint Francis Health System, said about the ongoing battle against COVID-19.

And that battle is mental as well as physical for many of us.

The number of cases of patients being admitted to hospitals with COVID-19 as the primary complaint is declining. But the worry now is the delta variant that is fueling a surge of new cases. This surge affects primarily the unvaccinated and a younger segment of the population and has resulted with more hospitalizations and ventilator usage.

But it's not just physical health that we need to pay attention to. The pandemic has also produced a greater demand for mental health services.

People are struggling to cope with losses the pandemic has created — loss of family and friends, loss of employment, loss of normalcy. Many people have been able to continue going to work during the pandemic. But there are plenty who are working from home or who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19. 

Part of our identity is through our employment. If you are not working, part of your identity may temporarily be lost. Only when you go back to work and get your kids back to school may you see some semblance of normalcy and feel more like your old self. 

Dr. Ondria Gleason, a psychiatrist at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa, said people should get outside when they can to help ward off depression and stress.

“If you are outside in nature it really does a lot for your mental health and your physical health," Gleason said. "It reduces anxiety and improves your mood, even in the short term.”

Get outside when you can (and remember to practice social distancing).

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