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Community Psychiatry’s Moe Gelbart, Ph.D. and Allie Shapiro, M.D. were featured in Verywell Health discussing anxiety surrounding the reopening of the United States amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

How Reopening the Country Might Be Affecting Your Mental Health

Coronavirus anxieties may linger, even if the worst is over.

If you’re anxious, worried, or concerned about life after the coronavirus pandemic, you’re not alone. As we emerge from our homes to resume work, shopping, dining out, exercise, and daily life, many of us are scrutinizing routine decisions we once thought nothing of — not to mention, we’re also facing the reality that our health and financial well-being is much different now than it was going into quarantine.

Plus, there is still a lot we don’t know. Like how safe is it to resume daily life without a vaccine? And how should we feel about states being on different timelines? Even as things open up, there are still complicated feelings and thoughts about being around other people.

We talked with five mental health experts about the psychology of opening back up and how we can adapt to the new normal.

If you experience increased anxiety while walking around in a mask, Shapiro says to pause where you are and try taking a few deep breaths.2 It’s also a good idea to remind yourself why you’ve gone outside and remember that you are doing the best you can to keep yourself safe.

Gelbart suggests that people remind themselves that things like hand washing, social distancing, and wearing a mask — all of which provide some measure of control and makes the unknowable known — reduces fear and anxiety. It’s also beneficial to remind yourself that wearing a mask is an act of kindness and care for others.

Balancing the Need for Normalcy While Feeling Unsafe

As different parts of the country open up at their own speed, Shapiro says it’s important to realize that acting, feeling, and being normal is going to look different now. Even in places that are now open, or were never closed, to begin with, things look and feel different. “Knowing you have full control to keep yourself safe, can make accepting the change easier,” she says. After all, it’s not the crowded space that is the source of danger, it’s the virus.

“Wearing protective gear, like a mask, and staying vigilant, as we are now accustomed to doing, drastically reduces the risk of infection,” adds Shapiro.

And Gelbart agrees. “Our behaviors are risk-reward based, and each of us has our own needs, and our own levels of risk we are willing to take and are justified in whatever our reaction and decision may be,” he says. We balance the need to get out with the fear we experience by how necessary the action is to us.

Why It’s Normal to Feel Scared

The news and social media paint a picture of people feeling pure joy and elation about being out of quarantine. But what if you have mixed emotions about re-entry? Is it normal to still feel scared?

“It’s not only normal to feel scared but very appropriate,” says Gelbart. “The more unknown something is, the less control we feel we have, and the more our feelings of anxiety and fear are spiked.” That’s why Gelbart says it’s important to know that we can listen to our feelings of fear, or we can act differently despite them. But most importantly, he says, we need to acknowledge and validate the feelings we experience as normal.

Most importantly, Shapiro reminds us that no one has ever been through anything like this in the modern world, so no one really knows how to do it “right.”

Even the experts don’t have all the answers, so it’s normal to have your own uncertainties and doubts.

Click here to read the entire article on Verywell Health

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