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Removal of Covid Restrictions: How to Cope with the Uncertainty that May Follow

These are uncharted territories – adjusting to the removal of most Covid restrictions, including masks. Over the past two years, we have all worked to adjust to these restrictions to the point that they have become ingrained within us. There has been a sense of safety in having these restrictions in place - in knowing that we are doing all we can. Now, we are left to decide for ourselves how/whether to use extra precautions, as we evaluate the risk as time goes on. 

You may find that you experience a myriad of emotions at this time: relief over life returning to what was previously normal; increased fear of contracting the virus, and perhaps uncertainty about how to operate in a world that is less restrictive. You might feel social pressure to act in one way or the other (e.g., mask or no mask), depending on what others are doing around you. We know that others’ behaviour can have a powerful influence over our own behaviour, for better or worse.

Below are some points to consider, should you find yourself struggling with some of these emotions.

  • Now that restrictions (have mostly) been lifted, know that it is OK to decide for yourself what you are, and aren’t comfortable with. It is completely OK to keep wearing a mask if you wish to do so, even if others around you aren’t acting in the same way. 

  • Should you find yourself anxious about returning to social life/showing your face after it has been covered for so long, attempt to keep the expectations for yourself (and others) low. We have been through a period of reduced social contact, and you may find yourself socially “rusty.” Know that social skills and comfort will increase with time, similar to riding a bike in the spring after a long winter.

  • Feel free to discuss with loved ones, friends, and work colleagues what your comfort level is with respect to the restrictions. It is OK to have different comfort levels and expectations than those in your life. Resolving these discrepancies ahead of time may help prevent tension with others, as you ease back into “normal life.”

  • As restrictions lift, you may wish to get back in touch with the coping strategies that you previously used for mental health (which may not have been accessible with restrictions in place). Should you feel comfortable and safe doing so, you may wish to join a social group, re-join a club, or invite a friend for coffee. Getting back in touch with what makes you feel like “you” may help to ease feelings of depression and anxiety.

  • At this time of transition, it could helpful to reflect on how the last two years have been for you, and/or your family and friends. You may wish to journal some of your thoughts and feelings. We sometimes aren’t aware of how we are thinking and feeling about a difficult experience until we give voice to these thoughts and feelings. You could frame a journal entry with questions such as, “How have I changed since the pandemic started?”; “What have I gained and what am I missing?” and “What do I want to add to my life at this point?”

  • Keep touch with the idea that the path we are on is winding, and not linear. Restrictions may come into place again at some point, and then ease again at a later point. Recognizing this idea may help to keep expectations reasonable. When times are more positive, we can work to stay in the moment. When times are more difficult, we can trust that they will once again resolve, as the seasons go on, and precautions are put in place.

Above all, know that there is no one right answer on how to proceed. Anxiety is normal as we go through transitions such as these. Should your anxiety start interfering in your day-to-day life, you can reach out to a therapist who could help you with your concerns. 

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