By ModiHealth practitioner, Jane Johnson Wall, MA, LMFT

Restrictions are lifted… NOW WHAT??!! YAY! Restrictions are lifted! Restrictions are lifted?? Many people are feeling a mix of these 2 reactions. People want to get back to “normal” life, but also realize that at this point, “normal” is simply a dryer setting. People feel relieved in many ways, but are also feeling anxious knowing that they need to rely on others to do the “right” thing. It’s been a long time since we have needed to make so many decisions, especially in real-time situations. So, what do you do? Do you ask all of your family members, friends and colleagues to provide proof of their vaccination status? Do you only dine at restaurants that require staff members to wear masks while working? Or, do you just continue to keep your social circle small? When you ask different experts, you may get different answers. The lack of clear guidelines is bringing up anxiety for many people.

The question becomes even more complicated for parents who have children who cannot be vaccinated, or for people who have loved ones with compromised immune systems. This is where the philosophy of “wearing your mask for others” is still applicable. So, how can you figure out what is best for you and your family? How do you “re-engage” with the world in a way that feels safe and comfortable, before/during/after the event? For people who are feeling cautious, it’s important to have self-compassion as you honor the very real concerns that are still part of daily life during a pandemic. Factors such as the number of people that will be at an event and the length of time you will be there are important considerations. Clarifying the expectations regarding mask requirements can be a valuable piece of information as well. As you look to expand your world, here are a few tips:

1. Pick your pace: less frequent, small gatherings, familiar places/people

2. Limit your time: shorter visits/outings

3. Have an exit strategy: if the situation is not what you had envisioned and/or changes, you have permission to leave

4. Be flexible: if the situation is easier/more enjoyable than you had expected, then give yourself permission to change your pace/timing for future gatherings

For people who are feeling confident with resuming normal activities, it’s important to understand that other people’s “reasons” for making specific decisions may not make sense to you. If the goal is to spend time with others doing activities, it will be helpful to focus on the enjoyment. As you interact with others who are feeling unsure, here are a few suggestions:

1. Give space: physically, mentally, and emotionally

2. Shift your focus: prioritize being with people who seem to share a similar comfort level

3. Have empathy: you never know what is going on in someone else’s life

4. Be flexible: if you find yourself in a situation that makes you uncomfortable, give yourself permission to leave

Having conflicting feelings about these changes can feel confusing, but it’s actually quite common. It’s ok to be excited and nervous about seeing people after so much has happened in the world. (Our family uses the term “nerve-cited” for situations like this… think of the first day of school or a new job!) Working with a therapist can be a helpful way to get additional support in creating the boundaries that will help you during this transition. No matter how you feel about the world “opening” again, it is ok to pick a pace that feels comfortable for YOU!

To schedule a session, click here: Jane Johnson Wall, MA, LMFT