As we safely open up some areas of our economy after social distancing to help fight the spread of Covid-19, it's only natural that some people may experience anxiety related to resuming activities in public and adjusting to the "new normal." Even if/when businesses achieve several benchmarks before they can safely reopen, and even with many state governments implementing a phased approach, the idea of actually "going out" might be incredibly stressful for some, even more so than the stress of self-quarantining.
Dr. Charles Herrick, chair of psychiatry at Nuvance Health, has developed some ways to manage and overcome fears and worries related to reopening of our economy. These tips will create opportunities for you to re-engage socially in a natural and gradual way, which may help to reduce your anxiety.
Focusing on the facts can help you make informed decisions as you resume normal activities. Make sure you’re getting your COVID-19 information and recommendations from trusted sources, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your state and local health departments, and hospitals and healthcare systems in your area.
Find out about the health and safety measures that businesses, hospitals, and medical offices in your community are taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Nuvance Health, for example, has implemented new infection prevention protocols, including screening, enhanced cleaning/disinfecting, personal protective equipment (PPE), and check-in/check-out procedures designed to help protect our patients and staff.
Just because your community is starting to reopen doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll feel ready to resume your normal activities right away. Make decisions based on how you feel and your interpretation of the facts. If you choose to be more cautious because you’re part of a high-risk group — or for any other reason — it’s reasonable to wait to see how reopening goes before resuming activities in public.
It’s important to understand your personal and community risk factors and accept responsibility for the risk you choose to take on. And remember, nothing in life is without risk, it’s just a part of living.
You may experience a wide range of reactions to reopening, from being very anxious and overly cautious to being thrilled to resume normal activities.
Anxiety is a normal feeling and happens for a reason — it helps you stay alert and determine your level of risk. However, it can be difficult to reasonably judge a risk if you feel terrorized or excessively fearful.
If you’re so worried about COVID-19 that you isolate yourself to an extreme and are unable to function, take care of yourself, sleep, or you’re having panic attacks, you may need to seek help from a mental health professional.
It can be easy to get caught up in what other people are doing during reopening, especially if people aren’t wearing masks or are gathering in large groups. It also can be tempting to criticize people who are quick to resume normal social interactions and activities.
It’s important to remember that you can’t control what other people do, only what you decide to do. So continue to follow CDC and state guidelines and weigh the benefits and risks of your activities for yourself and your family.
It’s likely that COVID-19 will be with us for a while. Most of us will eventually get used to the changes brought about by COVID-19, such as wearing masks and social distancing, and become more comfortable living with some degree of risk related to the virus. Although you should remain vigilant to protect yourself and your loved ones, your anxiety around COVID-19 will likely diminish over time.