Once you’re fully vaccinated, you’ll be able to explore life just like before, right? Not so fast. Even after vaccination, some precautions are still needed—and fear, anxiety and other feelings from the pandemic will not disappear overnight.
I believe it’s important for everyone to make the transition at their own pace. It’s totally normal to experience mixed feelings as you transition back to more public engagement. Long-term changes like isolating more and increased vigilance can have lasting psychological impacts. Or perhaps you experienced a personal loss, change in employment or long-term health effects. Take it slow.
You may need a nudge to get the social contact that can benefit mental health. Think of habits you can take baby steps to shift outside the house—visiting a coffee shop during off hours, taking a walk on your breaks, maybe seeing a movie matinee in the theater.
Next, consider an indoor visit with one person outside your “bubble” or a brief gathering with a small group of friends. Give yourself time to get comfortable with that change, then extend it again. It’s natural to feel anxiety at first, but you may find relief as you take these steps safely.
As venues start reopening, venture to places you enjoyed before the pandemic. Acknowledge any feelings of fear and uncertainty you have, and don’t push yourself to do something you’re not ready to do just because others are. Likewise, when exploring with others it’s important not to invalidate their feelings if they’re not ready for things you’re comfortable with.
Of course, continue to wear face coverings and practice social distancing as needed. The medical field is still learning about the degree of protection the vaccine provides, so now is not the time to let your guard down. Evidence for the vaccines’ effectiveness and safety is very positive, however the rare Johnson & Johnson complications show us we are still learning. Learn more from www.CDC.gov, or your doctor.
Anxiety can affect anyone. If you are feeling extremely anxious or have panic attack symptoms such as hyperventilating, heart palpitations, blurry vision or feeling as if you may pass out, talk to your provider. Remember to venture out slowly—so you can gradually enjoy life more and more over time.