The masks are finally off! After what seems to have been a lifetime, counties across Colorado, including Adams, are going to “level clear” and COVID-19 restrictions are fading away. As the number of people who are getting vaccinated increases and the number of COVID cases decrease, the state feels as though it is safe to move forward to open fully. The Tri-County area itself is over 54% vaccinated. Masks will no longer be required to wear everywhere, and other socially distancing restrictions will cease to exist. Moving to “level clear” allows everything to be open at 100% capacity, as lives and businesses carry on as they once did before the pandemic hit. This all is exciting news, free at last! With the excitement of returning to our previous lives, if you are like me and many others, this excitement also comes with some new anxieties.
I have been dreaming of the day when we no longer must wear masks. Now that it is here, I am not sure how to feel about it. Leaving the house the other day with no mask in hand felt wrong and created some anxiety within. I had gotten so used to the wallet, phone, keys, mask check before I walk out the door that when the mask was not there, I felt like I had forgotten something. It caused so much anxiety that I was relieved when I had one in my car that I could take with me.
Throughout the day I still had my mask on and found myself anxious when I attempted to take it off when notified I did not need to wear it. As I looked around me, I noticed and had discussions that many other people felt the same way and were not sure if they still wished to wear it or not. Not wearing the mask felt wrong and unsafe, but the want to no longer use it was also very present. Even the people who are fully vaccinated were sharing the same ideas of guilt and fear. The conclusion for many came to be that just like it took some time to get used to wearing the masks, it would also take some time to get back into the habit of not wearing masks and that it is okay to take your time. Doing what feels most comfortable and safe for you and your loved ones is what is most important. If wearing a mask makes you feel safer, then continue wearing one because there are many other people that feel the same way as you. If on the other hand, you are ready to leave masks behind, that is fine, too. Many of us have done our duties of protecting others with wearing masks and getting vaccinated. Our hard work and sacrifice are beginning to pay off and taking the masks off is now a safe reward.
Wearing or not wearing a mask is one thing, but reopening and rejoining society feels like a whole other ballgame. Many people have been isolated or seeing only a handful of people since the pandemic started that they feel as though they do not even remember what it was like before the world changed. Some feel as though they can barely remember how to socialize and feel strange when they try. I have been out with social distancing not in place, and it was slightly overwhelming. I am fully vaccinated and consider myself an extrovert, so I thought I would be more than elated that I could be back to the places I once loved fully. Instead, I was met with anxiety over the crowds and people being so close to me and to others. I also was surprised with how loud and overstimulating the area had become for me. Then I thought, if I am feeling like this when I once loved people and crowds, the people who did not enjoy crowds of people and loud environments must be feeling even more anxious.
Just like what was stated previously about wearing or not wearing masks, those same ideas can be used for going back out into society. Take your time and go as slow or as fast as you feel comfortable with. Be aware that humans are so adaptable, and over the last year and a half we have had to adapt to being away from other people. Now, we must learn to adapt back to being around others. You may find that at first it feels strange and uncomfortable, but you adjust quickly and begin to enjoy your freedom from social distancing again. You may also find that you feel better not being around crowds like you once did and both of those feelings can exist and hold true. Even with our communities opening back up fully, do not rush yourself to do activities you are not ready to do. You are not alone in what you are feeling, and if you need more support, resources, or tips and tricks to help adjust to another “new normal’ post-pandemic, the Colorado Spirit Program is here to help and listen.
This blog was written by Contessa Young, Crisis Counselor at Community Reach Center.