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Staying indoors from Puget Sound wildfire smoke can worsen anxiety, depression

With air quality from wildfire smoke reaching levels of 'very unhealthy' on top of existing coronavirus restrictions, many in Seattle may be feeling the isolation.

SEATTLE — With the air quality from wildfire smoke reaching levels of 'very unhealthy' on top of existing coronavirus restrictions, many in Seattle may be feeling the isolation more than ever.  

“People are already having increased anxiety as it is. Just because of increased social isolation, not being able to go to gatherings, not being able to go to social functions and now we’re asking them to isolate even further,” said Dr. Amy Markezich, the Pulmonary Medical Director for Overlake Medical Center.  

Although the National Weather Service said the smoke will slowly start to clear starting Monday, it will continue to linger for the rest of the week.

Markezich said between the lockdown and the smoke, she’s seeing more anxiety in her patients. Stress can amplify existing conditions in those patients.

“This is not something that is going away anytime soon. And this is something that we’re all going to have to learn skills to deal with. And getting that extra outside help can be – make a world of difference,” Markezich said.

She advises anyone to try a workout at home as a way to get moving. Exercise can be an effective remedy for reducing the symptoms of mild anxiety. 

Also, consider reaching out to friends or family via Zoom or the phone. 

If you need help from a mental health professional, don't hesitate to reach out.