Some anxious as COVID-19 rules are relaxed and ‘normal life’ returns

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — As COVID-19 restrictions ease, some people are excited to get back to a more normal life, but not everyone.

Psychologists say many people are experiencing anxiety about returning to work, school, or even the grocery store.

While some people can’t wait to rip off their masks and gather in groups, others are much less comfortable with crowds or indoor activities, even if the state allows them.

“If you’re feeling some anxiety about the reopening, you are right in line with many, many people,” explained Dr. Robin Gurwitch, a Duke psychologist.

A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found nearly half of people feel uneasy about adjusting to in-person interaction after the pandemic.

“We’ve been out of our regular routine for such a long time that this new routine actually seems to be the norm,” noted Gurwitch. “So, it’s true for children and it’s true for adults, that as we ease back in that anxiety may ramp up just a little bit.”

Gurwitch said taking things slowly may help.

“Maybe instead of going to a large store, I go to a smaller grocery store at an off-hour. It may be, I’d get together with some close friends instead of going out to a restaurant,” she suggested. “Take those small steps. Assess how you’re feeling about it and move forward.”

She says getting back to more pre-pandemic activities will bring strong feelings for some.

“There’s going to be a whole range of emotions, from those really positive, but you may have some people also feeling pretty angry that if x, y, and z had happened, maybe the number of deaths wouldn’t have occurred or maybe we would’ve been able to do this faster,” said Gurwitch, adding, “If you have, over the course of the pandemic, also experienced the loss a friend or a loved one, as things start opening back up there’s going to be some reminders of who is not with you.”

She noted that people have different comfort levels, different experiences, and different health situations that may guide their choices, and it’s important to respect each other, and give everyone time and space to adjust.

“Go with what feels comfortable for you,” Gurwitch said. “And be kind and compassionate.”

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