COVID-19 PTSD Is Inevitable

As COVID-19 cases begin to surge across the country, again, questions surrounding when life will truly return to normal rise along with it. And yet, our current plight is anything but a mystery. Did we really think we had this thing beat in less than four months? Was reopening such a good idea?

As New York State’s numbers, once the epicenter of the pandemic, continue to decline the only thing that everyone (well, almost everyone) can agree on is that, no matter where you are, this is still far from over. In addition to the virus itself, according to the American Psychological Association COVID-19 aggravates existing mental health problems while potentially onsetting new symptoms– symptoms that can outlast the virus.

There is a universal trauma happening.

It’s been well documented that trauma occurs from war, oppression, natural disasters, and individual experiences. The current pandemic is no different, except it is a “mass trauma” filled with “anticipatory anxiety” on a worldwide scale. Without a cure or vaccine, society collectively wonders– will it come back? Is it safe to reopen? As more people file for unemployment and businesses continue to shut their doors, physical recovery is compounded with an eye on financial recovery. These anxieties are known as “peritraumatic”, occurring around the time of trauma in the form of intrusive thoughts.

Jessica Corea, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, explained, “The world is experiencing a unifying trauma of loss and uncertainty. Patients are facing anxiety, depression, and financial stress all at the same time while trying to adapt to a new normal.” Even when the pandemic itself passes, it is sure to leave mass emotional destruction in its wake in the form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a classified mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Like any radical shift, the traumatic effects can go on for years.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder can happen to anyone.

“Previous epidemic studies report high prevalence rates among people exposed to the trauma resulted from an infectious disease epidemic,” the National Center for Biotechnology Information reported on June 5, 2020. Just like SARS, MERS, and HIV/AIDS, COVID-19 survivors are most at risk for PTSD, followed by family members who directly witnessed a loved one suffer or die, medical workers, and the general public. Further, the psychological trauma was categorized into three groups. First, directly experiencing the symptoms. Next, witnessing those who struggled. And third, experiencing a “realistic or unrealistic fear of infection, social isolation, exclusion, and stigmatization.” Essentially, like the virus itself, everyone is at risk.

“There is now a new normal that may be with us for a long time. Just as 911 impacted our lives in many ways so has this pandemic. I would certainly call this a traumatic event that has impacted everyone,” noted Elissa Smilowitz, Director of Triage and Emergency at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center on Long Island.

Health experts across the globe are now preparing to treat patients with COVID-19 PTSD. Except the underlying issue is that PTSD symptoms don’t begin to develop until weeks or months after a traumatic event, and we are still in the middle of the pandemic itself. So, when does peritraumatic end and posttraumatic begin?

Medical News Today explains the four symptom types of PTSD are reexperiencing trauma, avoiding situations, negative changes in perception, and hyperarousal, in the forms of nightmares or flashbacks. Michigan Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry also reported, “PTSD is also associated with exaggerated activity in the brain networks associated with processing threat-detection and negative emotional responses.”

Reopening is contributing to a societal anxiety.

As cities across America roll back reopening, the response to COVID-19 is still being tackled on a state by state level. New York recently put gyms and malls on an indefinite pause while its New Jersey neighbor halted indoor dining. Meanwhile, in a reversal of events, New Jersey greeted shoppers at the local malls as Long Islanders enjoyed indoor dining at 50% capacity. In addition, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are now mandating a 14-day quarantine period for anyone traveling from 16 states– that’s double the amount originally reported only a week ago.

“The pandemic has really caused mental health struggles that I’ve never experienced. After postponing my wedding twice and losing two grandparents to COVID, all in less than a month, it feels strange that the world is trying to go back to normal so fast,” Long Island native Melissa Navon expressed of her personal struggles. “Nothing feels normal for me and the threat isn’t over yet. It’s difficult to explain how that feels to others who haven’t been personally affected. Many young people don’t think they need to wear masks. What they don’t understand, for some reason, is wearing a mask will protect those at risk. People like my grandparents might have survived this pandemic if everyone took the proper precautions.”

With no sense of stability or continuity mindsets are becoming increasingly fragile. After months of self-isolation reopening became a source of hope. The phases were planned, something to look forward to. Smilowitz said, “Some families are recognizing that the reopening is a good sign. However they are still anxious about whether these safety protocols will be enough.”

Focus on what you can control.

Beyond wondering how to behave there is continued concern over others behavior as well, as mask shaming trumps even political agendas. But the longer the pandemic goes on the less secure it all feels. Society is losing trust with its government and health officials, as new information spreads on a daily basis. Without a sense of guidance the internal battle to feel some sort of normalcy is lost.

Corea explained that early in the pandemic “patients were experiencing guilt for small aspects of joy” while others were suffering. Throughout, it has remained important for individuals to find balance and process fluctuating feelings. “It can shift within minutes given the current circumstances. Patients are encouraged to prioritize self-care and avoid running themselves down so they can be fully present, even if that means making a difficult decision to say no to others and setting more boundaries.”

Unlike scenarios of the past, isolation has been a key factor of the pandemic making traditional stress management unattainable. Something as simple as seeing loved ones can onset anxiety. But there are ways to cope.

“These thoughts don’t serve you. Live in the present, do not dwell. Having some control in your environment helps you feel more grounded and less anxious. Go slow, maybe just do one thing you would like to do and see how it feels,” advised Smilowitz.

How will we navigate PTSD in a post COVID world is yet to be seen, but experts across the board agree that for a large percentage of humanity it is inevitable. For a comprehensive list of ways to get ahead of COVID-19 PTSD, visit the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs National Center For PTSD.

Going Big At Big SNOW

There are a few things New Jersey is known for — its diners, “The Sopranos,” Bruce Springsteen, and MetLife Stadium, to start. But, now the Garden State has fresh new bragging rights with the first indoor real-snow ski and snowboard park in North America.

Big SNOW, which is operated by Snow Operating, the same team behind Mountain Creek Resort, is located inside the American Dream mall, East Rutherford’s latest attraction in the Meadowlands Sports Complex. The year-round winter wonderland impresses with specs before even stepping inside the controlled 28ºF interior: four skiable acres across 180,000 square feet, making 4.4 tons of snow per hour at an average snow depth of two feet, with a 16-story vertical drop at 1000 ft long and 200 ft wide.



Hitting the slopes may not be what comes to mind once getting off the often-times gridlock of I-95, but here slope grades vary up to 26 percent at the steepest point, marking a moderate run or a difficult Blue, with two moving carpet lifts and a fixed-grip quad chair-lift.

“Our involvement with Big SNOW stems from an idea we’ve long had about bringing the mountain to the people. The idea of making skiing and snowboarding accessible for the masses by providing the opportunity to get on snow right where people live is game changing,” said Hugh Reynolds, vice president of marketing and sales at Snow Operating.

This idea was 10 years in the making, and Big SNOW had its first chair-lift on December 5, welcoming Olympic medalists Kelly Clark, Lindsey Vonn, and Red Gerard.

As you walk through the doors of Big SNOW, you’ll pass the retail shop before arriving at the check-in counter. Here, sign up for any two-hour time slot and receive a wearable wristband ticket, which includes any rentals you may need — jackets, pants, boots, gloves, and equipment. Then, enter one of three gondola welcoming areas where you’ll meet Big, the friendly yeti mascot of the mountain, and watch a brief welcoming video.


Continue on and it’s just like a real ski area, with secure lockers that are activated using your wristband. Entering the park itself is a little trippy, like a massively oversized ice-skating rink you can throw snowballs in. In one direction, there’s terrain and in another, faux pine trees line the walls between windows that overlook the arena, the aesthetic of a real-life snow globe. The ski chalet décor, once finished, will host a complete dining area, in addition to the already completed hot chocolate and pretzel station.

Opening weekend alone saw visitation in the thousands, with half being novice or beginning skiers and snowboarders. Reynolds said,

“The current U.S. ski data tells us about 50 percent of first-timers choose not to take a lesson,” which is why Big SNOW offers “a self-guided lesson experience that incorporates specific stations, signage, and videos to assist guests who want to go at it on their own.”

Instructors are available for more hands-on assistance if needed — a complimentary service.

All of this is done through a Terrain Based Learning method with specific shaped snow features to aid in the learning process. Kacper Polus, one of the ski instructors on site with 10 years of coaching experience, guides beginners through TBL before assisting them down the steeper slope, skiing backwards as he holds on.

With only 500 people allowed inside at a time, projected visits are 500,000 per year. Big SNOW’s main allure is that it’s only a 20-minute drive from NYC, but it also benefits in feeling very much like any other mountain within a two-hour drive of the city. Without the effects of outside elements, making every day a snow day, the snow actually feels mildly fluffier than other snow-making systems, making it less icy and therein less frightening for beginners. Their snowmaking process replicates nature’s; water from units in the ceiling freezes into snow as it falls. The radiant cooling system below ensures powdery consistency and any melt is recirculated into the water supply to reduce the environmental impact.

Right now, hard-hitting skiers and snowboarders are heading to the real thing, but come the warmer months, Big SNOW will be the only place to get those runs in.

Big SNOW is open daily from 10 AM to 10 PM. Packages start at $49.99; private lessons and group rates are available. Big SNOW American Dream is located at 1 American Dream Way in East Rutherford, NJ.


This article first appeared in the December 17 issue of The Independent Newspaper.

The Mayor & The Spring Flower

Kuppi Coffee Company in Edgewater, New Jersey, was a fun little find on my search for a healthy place to drop in after working out.

Subway tile line the walls, brick to compliment the room, hanging lights, wide windows in the front overlooking the parking lot, and airy windows in the back afforded a view of the Hudson River. Couches, high tables, communal wooden tables, and trendy stadium style seating scattered throughout the room. A place for every type of customer. I arrived at the counter and ordered a Chickpea Smash, smashed chickpeas over multi grain bread with arugula, radish, and topped with Sriracha, side of cappuccino.


As I placed my order an elderly man struck up a conversation with me. He was an Armenian fur designer living in Cliffside Park who moved to the area from Istanbul many years ago. I bit my tongue not to mention my adversity to animal cruelty amid my animal rescue efforts. By the time I signed my receipt he offered me a seat at his table. Since my original position was surrounded by several children playing under the age of five, adorable but no thank you, I took up the offer for a quieter atmosphere. Here, I’d sit for the next two hours as I sipped and nibbled.




I enjoy meeting strangers in public places, especially those from another country. I find there’s so much to learn, like an audio book in first person perspective. The individual paths that led such a stranger to the exact moment I share with them, listening to their passions, discovering a foreign city that is soon added to my travel list, and trying to understand their, oftentimes broken, English. The Mayor* did not disappoint. I soon discovered he was a regular at Kuppi and the owner dubbed him Mayor because he spoke to every new face that entered the shop.
What I found most amusing about Mayor was the amount of times he seemed to contradict himself. He doesn’t like when others talked about history, he has no use for the past, and yet he loves to read history books; he doesn’t like people but yet smiled at everyone in the room; he thinks those who talk too much don’t understand when to ask questions, and somehow in the two hours we sat with one another he monopolized the conversation for about an hour and 45 minutes. As he spoke, I remained essentially silent but smiled and nodded my way through. Sometimes people just want to be heard, and I’ve made a career off of listening.

Journalists are oftentimes treated like therapists with a byline.

I looked around as he pointed to the Turkish woman dying of cancer, the Russian customer with the billionaire husband, the Palestinian millennial always with her laptop, the mortgage (or insurance) salesman typing away, the disgruntled Eastern European on line who is inherently miserable with two children, and the owners mother who sat directly next to us. Each person with their own backstory, and the Mayor was privy to them all. Then, there was me, a new character for him to learn. I’d undoubtedly be his ‘spring flower’ (a nickname I quickly acquired) from Long Island with a penchant for smiling.

Our time together grew to a close as my two hour parking was up. We shook hands and I gathered my turned off laptop. I didn’t get the work done that I had planned but I walked away with something more. Kuppi’s became more than an atmosphere. For me, it’s the story of The Mayor & The Spring Flower.