As life begins to return to normal, psychologists say to expect anxiety


FILE -(AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

INDIANAPOLIS (WXIN) – As more COVID-19 restrictions and mandates end, many people are feeling uneasy about the return to what’s so-called “normal.”

“For the last year, we’ve been told that we have to avoid people—even people in our family, even if they don’t live in the same home as us,” said Libby Durbin. “It’s weird to just flip a switch, even though I’m double vaccinated.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced fully vaccinated people can resume pre-pandemic activities, changing the routines many have gotten used to over the last 14 months. With restrictions beginning to ease, Durbin, like many others, is hesitant about a return to normal.

“Last year has been kind of horrible,” said Dr. Paul Calkins, associate chief medical executive at Indiana University Health. “If people are having lingering problems with the last year, that’s perfectly understandable.”

Dr. Calkins says to expect even more social anxiety with mask mandates ending. “If you’re having disease anxiety, the last thing you need is to worry about someone judging you for wearing a mask on or not,” Dr. Calkins said.

“There’s a lot of different anxiety that people are feeling,” said Dr. Hillary Blake, a clinical psychologist at Riley Children’s Hospital. She says gradual exposure is the best way to ease anxieties about returning to normal. If the anxiety persists, Dr. Blake recommends seeking help, but be prepared to be patient. “Everyone across the field is overloaded, and it’s very hard to get care right now.”

Mental health services have seen a record number of patients since the pandemic began. “We do not see a slowdown any time soon,” Dr. Blake said. “I’m a child psychologist, and we’ve seen a big spike in the child world, and it has not slowed.”

Dr. Blake says the best way to deal with anxiety caused by resuming pre-pandemic activities is to start small and be patient with yourself. “Everyone’s lives are about to be turned upside down again, for the good or for the worst,” she said.

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