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Society is opening again, now what? Dealing with COVID re-entry anxiety

Published: May. 28, 2021 at 1:46 PM MDT
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(CNN) – With more states easing restrictions this Memorial Day holiday, some people may be feeling overstimulated and not ready for the transition to a new normal.

Crowded spaces and eased restrictions are forcing Americans to adapt again to large social gatherings, maskless conversations and a faster pace of life.

For some folks, the thought of it may seem intimidating or cause pangs of fear.

“Memorial Day weekend can get extremely stressful because of the traffic, the busy beaches,” said Sunitha Posina, an internal medicine doctor.

After a year of isolation and strict measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, medical experts say some people are experiencing “re-entry anxiety,” an uneasiness about returning to the old normal of social interaction.

“This phenomenon has been observed by psychologists before in people who have spent protracted periods of time in isolation. For example, people who have gone into space,” said psychologist Ana Nikčević.

It’s something former astronaut Chris Hadfield said he’s experienced, readjusting from extreme isolation after spending nearly half a year in outer space.

“There’s been change and we’re going to have to move forward into that as we come out of the pandemic,” Hadfield said. “It’s sort of similar to when I landed a spaceship. I didn’t expect the world to be the same as when I left.”

Doctors say it may be helpful to start going out with a friend or family member and go at your own pace.

“At the same time, it’s also important to recognize that social interaction is very, very important and crucial for a good mental and physical health,” Posina said.

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