“When you push life, it will push you back!” declared Eric Mares, clinical director at Taos Behavioral Health (TBH). “I see it in a lot of ways at TBH as people have strong expectations and believe life is returning to how it was before COVID.”
As 2022 arrives, the holiday season has been filled with memories, expectations, and celebrations. Some of the memories are wonderful to create—but often not realistic. Research has shown that the human mind generally keeps positive memories intact and lets the negative ones recede—it is a self-protective pattern. We think about the extended family gathering to celebrate, and may forget about the divisions and animosities that exist.
The arrival of holidays reminds us of familiar patterns—and we expect to create them again. Even this fall, the world was beginning to suggest that old patterns may be returning as hope for reduction in the COVID spread—in time for REAL celebrations. Yet then the news turned discouraging with the advent of Omicron and the absence of real data to predict the future. What could/can we expect?
At TBH we know students have struggled with the fall return to face-to-face learning—for shouldn’t it feel just like before? Just like before COVID? Yet it hasn’t. There is the mask wearing, the wider separation in classrooms, the heightened diligence related to temperature taking, and reports of cases in families requiring decisions about quarantine. Do you separate a whole class? It is hard to admit that this is really a new normal.
What can we say to youth about planning for the new year? Already the New Year’s celebration on the Taos Plaza was cancelled due to a winter storm and the Taos Municipal School District has decided to delay face to face learning again for at least until January 18th. Expectations are changed and students and families have to adjust. The stress is palpable—felt by students, their families and TBH staff. We meet again in pods in the Christian Academy and arrange for meals to be delivered at homes or in temporary meeting sites.
TBH clinicians are receiving more referrals from families, and we have the longest client waiting list we have ever had. The agency has received a greater number of requests to intercede in custody disputes. The holidays—the complex family expectations of celebrations—the fear and stress around COVID spread and the disagreements about how to protect family members all probably contribute to many tough conversations. We have seen anger and bullying from various sides.
What should we expect?
In this new normal, our tools are challenging. The most important is openness and flexibility—especially for parents, teachers and counselors guiding youth. We must admit we do not have the answers and science is changing its understandings day by day. Understanding that science is a process of discovery—that asking the correct questions enables us to learn what will save us—is often hard to accept.
What is our task?
Our task is not to push back at life, but listen, learn, and respond with the most positive practical actions. There are no guarantees except to ask for the best scientific advice and assure those we love that we will strive to learn all we can to keep them safe. And we can survive what life tosses at us.
TBH has the largest credentialed and licensed behavioral health staff in northern New Mexico. We can be reached at www.taosbehavioralhealth.org, 575-758-4297 or for schedule appointments at 105 Bertha St. in Taos.
Mary McPhail Gray is the Co-Chair of the TBH board and can be reached at 575-779-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org