Anxiety is Expected as Life Starts to Return to Normal From Pandemic
Myranda Tetzlaff is a 25-year-old who has two pit bull mixes named Bub and Goose. She takes them on long walks for exercise. But she recently caught herself backing out of a hike— because she was afraid of seeing other people on the trail.
“Oh, it's nice outside, we've been in a pandemic, and everyone's been cooped up in their homes,” Tetzlaff said. “Oh, that means everyone's going to probably also be at the park. And so that just kind of terrifies me.”
Tetzlaff, a childcare worker, lives in a suburb of Indianapolis. There are still about 1,000 new COVID cases a day in Indiana, but Gov. Eric Holcomb recently lifted the statewide mask mandate and ended restrictions on businesses.
Daily life is slowly starting to resemble pre-pandemic times. And Tetztlaff says that worries her.
“I don't know what the next person is doing with her life,” she said. “I don't know, if they just got off a plane, I don't know, you know, what they're doing and how they're keeping themselves safe.”
Tetzlaff has been vaccinated but is still overwhelmed when she notices people not wearing a mask or not taking social distancing as seriously as before.
“It's just anxiety I feel like that's like what I feel when I think about having to go to the park or like see other people,” she said.
Kevin Rand, a psychology professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, says feeling anxious about going back to pre-COVID-19 activities is normal.
“So given that many of us have been sort of, you know, staying at home or not doing the things we typically do for the last year, as we start to re-engage in those activities, they're going to seem new and a little bit anxiety-provoking,” Rand said.
He said these feelings are similar to the anxiety felt before the first day of school— and are likely to pass soon.
“Because we're going back to something we've done before, that predicts it'll be a pretty quick recovery to feeling normal again,” he said.
Rand said some people might experience anxiety for longer. If feelings extend for a few weeks, he recommends seeking professional help.
And he said people will have legitimate concerns about their health.
“There is still a pandemic going on,” Rand said. “So even though you know, we're making good progress with vaccinations and things like that, there is a health stressor out there.”
That’s the sort of thing that concerns Misty Asbury, an office worker for a utility company in Indianapolis. She’s worked from home since the pandemic started and is hesitant to go back to the office.
“I'm very concerned about going back into a workplace and working just because it is an office where you're in cubicles, so you're not enclosed in your own workspace, per se,” she said. “We have one break room for essentially 80 people.”
Asbury worries about not being able to assess the cleanliness of the office.
She is fully vaccinated, but is still erring on the side of caution— limiting public outings and declining family gatherings.
Thomas Duszynski, an epidemiologist with the Indiana University’s Fairbanks School of Public Health, said he recommends everyone do a personal risk assessment.
Duszynski said it’s important for people to look at what they— and others— are doing to reduce the chance of catching the virus, especially as it mutates and continues to infect people.
“So, it's assessing how much risk an individual has, and then I think there's also the social responsibility that we all have a certain social obligation to help each other out,” he said.
Like getting vaccinated, wearing masks and continuing to social distance.
Asbury said she doesn’t feel comfortable quite yet in going back into the world.
“I'm anxious, in a happy way, to be around people,” she said. “But I kind of think I want to, on my own terms, to be able to do that.”
Asbury said she’ll finally feel safe when COVID cases and the positivity rate fall. And when everyone is fully vaccinated.