With Pasadena and Los Angeles County having moved to the least restrictive yellow COVID-19, many people are understandably embracing the move as a sign of the beginning of the end to the pandemic.
For others, however, facing a return to openness and face-to-face interaction can lead to anxiety and other mental health challenges, following more than a year of isolation in which we saw changes in the way we shop, interact and communicate primarily through virtual means.
“We still don’t have all the answers in how to best combat this virus, and now that it seems as though we’re going to start opening up our society to return to what we hopefully remember as a sense of normalcy, we might find that we’re ironically anxious about doing so,” said Dr. Luis Sandoval, a psychiatrist with Kaiser Permanente. “After a year of quarantine, the body and mind have adapted to this new lifestyle. As such, there will be a readjustment period for many of us to once again engage in public venues and socializing in person. It’s natural to lose some confidence in doing things you haven’t done in a while.”
According to Dr. Sandoval, examples of sources of anxiety can include:
• Is it safe now to go out to restaurants, stores or department stores?
• What happens if I contract COVID-19?
• Should I get the vaccine or not?
• What if I have the vaccine and others don’t? Am I still at risk?
• Do I still have my same friends, or have we lost touch?
• My children are now in school and I am worried that they will contract COVID-19.
These and others are natural concerns, but we can help to combat this anxiety by trying to reintegrate into the new openings one step at a time, says Dr. Sandoval. He advises to not be too hard on yourself if you’re finding it difficult to get back into a routine as more and more restrictions are lifted.
He explained that as many of us had to readjust to a lockdown at the start of the pandemic, we should anticipate it might take time to get used to a return to normalcy, as change is never easy. “Being hit with a lot of stimuli can lead to a sensory overload,” he explained.
To help protect your mental and physical health, Dr. Sandoval, who is also a physician, suggested the following:
• Continue to keep good hygiene.
• Wear masks as recommended.
• Listen to your comfort level of how often, where and with whom you are comfortable going out.
• Remind children to keep good hygiene while at school.
• Remember that we will become more immune to the virus as time goes on and more people are vaccinated.
“It’s all about taking it step by step and moving at your own pace,” Dr. Sandoval said. “Don’t rush. Take your time to readjust, and you will find that the return to normalcy will be much easier to embrace.”