It is natural to be stressed about returning to normal activities.
Returning to normal social life can be stressful as COVID-19 restrictions loosen across the country.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last month that fully vaccinated people can participate in small or large indoor or outdoor activities without wearing a mask or social distancing. Now, businesses like bars and restaurants have started welcoming more and more customers as more people get vaccinated and feel comfortable returning to some normal activities.
But not everyone is ready to resume their pre-pandemic social life or be back in the crowd. A American Psychological Association survey conducted in March found that 49% of Americans, regardless of their vaccination status, would feel uncomfortable returning to an “in-person interaction” after the pandemic.
Experts say it’s natural to feel stressed about returning to normal life after more than a year of social distancing, avoiding crowds, and staying home.
“Think about it: we are more than 15 months after the start of this pandemic and over a year after the mask became normal, ”Dr. Shilagh Mirgain of UW Health in Wisconsin told WAPT. “We had finally sort of adjusted to this life change to make it shake overnight a few weeks ago with the change of directives.”
But, experts say, there are things you can do to make the transition easier.
Do not rush
Experts say that a gradual return to public spaces and crowds can make the process less stressful.
“It’s not going to be okay that you can’t touch anyone at a big party,” Tara Well, associate professor of psychology at Columbia University, told Healthline. “It’s something that will be done gradually.
Sheva Rajaee, psychotherapist and director of the Center for Anxiety and OCD, told CNBC that starting with small outings you are more comfortable, like dining out in a restaurant, and progress can be helpful.
Dave Smithson, director of operations at Anxiety UK, also told Verywell Health that facilitate social outings is preferable because a lot of anxiety about being in public can stem from worries that others will not follow CDC guidelines.
“If you want to go to the pub the week after the restrictions are lifted, maybe go in the afternoon or early evening, when it’s a little quieter,” he said. declared at the point of sale. “Rest quietly rather than rushing around at 10 p.m. at night when everyone has had a few drinks and is less inhibited than usual. “
Rajaee told CNBC that it is normal to experience an increase in anxious thoughts when returning to normal activities, but that it is important to remember that “these thoughts are not necessarily true.”
Talk to your friends or family
Experts tell Verywell Health that it can be helpful to have a companion who can provide “emotional feedback” when deciding how comfortable you are to resume public activities.
Psychiatrist Arthur Bregman told the outlet it could help people “get out of their heads.”
“(Fear) is building up in people’s minds, but it may not be the same in reality,” he said.
Ariane Ling, psychologist and clinical assistant professor at NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York City, said TODAY that it is important to having conversations with friends and family on what everyone is comfortable with.
“Ask people what they’re comfortable with and share what you feel comfortable with,” Ling said TODAY. “Try to make it part of the conversation. We are all trying to reintegrate together.
Have a plan
Hannah Weisman, vice president of clinical operations for virtual group support platform Sesh, told CNBC that writing down your fears helps recognize them and turn them into “something you can assess and prepare.”
Ling said that there may be a “power” in knowing that you can leave a crowd or a social setting at any time and that having a plan for doing so can come in handy.
“Act out these scenarios, what things make you socially nervous or anxious,” said Deborah Serani, psychologist and professor at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. “What can you do to install some type of grounding, safety or structure for yourself? Boundaries and boundaries are a form of self-care and it’s a new environment. We are not coming back to the same old place. We are not virus free, we may never be. If post-pandemic life requires us to be a little more vigilant and a little more autonomous, that’s okay. “
Weisman said it was a good idea to have a mantra such as “it’s important for me to connect with friends” or “I’m here for fun” to repeat to you if you start to feel anxious in a social setting.