With COVID-19 restrictions on the verge of being loosened, if not dropped altogether – not everyone is ready to head back into the crowded spaces we all remember from pre-pandemic life, with or without a mask.
While some are celebrating the return to some semblance of normalcy, anxiety is being stoked in others. Mental health experts are calling the phenomenon ‘re-entry anxiety,’ and it’s affecting people from the the White House all the way to your house.
“Yesterday, as soon as the guidelines came out, we got a note that came across our emails that says you don’t need to wear masks here anymore,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
But some people are saying being in large crowds after a year of isolation isn’t everyone’s ideal situation.
“It makes so much sense that our bodies and our minds are telling us ‘no.’” clinical psychologist Dr. Ashley Soloman said.
She said if the idea of returning to pre-pandemic life worries you, you’re not alone.
“I’ve seen so many people over this past year with COVID anxiety that was new to them as well as people who have perhaps struggled with anxiety in different points in their lives and it was extremely exacerbated by the pandemic,” Soloman said.
She said it’s important to start with small steps – a little league game over a MLB game played in a large stadium, short trips over flights, Airbnb’s over crowded hotels.
“Don’t feel like you have to go to a crowded stadium or concert as the first time that you’re reentering public life,” Soloman said.
She stresses the importance of being patient with others feeling more or less caution than you.
“I think it’s really important that we’re honest with each other about how we’re feeling and our comfort level in reengaging in our more social lives,” Soloman said.
And while restrictions are expiring, the pandemic’s effects are here to stay.
“The mental health issues that have come out during COVID are really not going anywhere,” Solomon said. “They’re really going to persist.”
She said if you’re venturing into a crowded space for the first time in months, you may want to do so with a partner – that way you have someone to confide in if you get overwhelmed.