As restrictions loosen, some people are hesitant about returning to pre-pandemic life
Some plan to continue to social distance and wear masks when not required
While many are breathing a sigh of relief at the loosening of local restrictions, some are feeling hesitant and are questioning whether the county is moving too quickly.
On May 4, the county officially moved into level green, removing the 6-foot distancing rule and capacity restrictions. On Friday, May 14, the county was working to update its public health order to better align with the state’s in addition to new guidance on mask-wearing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As the county quickly drops restrictions that have become a part of everyday life for the past 14 months, some residents, including Stephanie Trasatti, are taking pause and wondering if this is the right move.
Trasatti is a nurse who works at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center and has helped take care of COVID-19 patients. Because of her job, and because she has underlying health conditions, she said she has significantly reduced her social circle over the past 14 months and limited how much she’s in public.
“I feel like I’ve also had to cut out certain people, friends who are not as cautious as maybe some other people, which has made my friends group very small,” Trasatti said. “(They’re) people I trust to hang out with. But that, in turn with the restrictions everywhere, has left me sitting at home a lot and totally changed my entire lifestyle.”
Since the pandemic began, Trasatti has canceled four trips to visit family and said she felt anxiety about attending her brother’s wedding. She said she continues to feel hesitant about traveling and being in large groups of people.
Now that life is slowly returning to normal, Trasatti said she’s nervous about transitioning to life post-pandemic, especially as mask requirements loosen.
“Almost going out without a mask on, you just feel so exposed and so vulnerable. And COVID’s not gone, so it makes it difficult,” Trasatti said. “You want to trust that they’re doing this for a reason, and they’ve done their research, but I feel like masks have almost become a security blanket, and it just makes you anxious because you could get sick. Your risks of getting sick are a lot higher being around people, and you don’t have that shield.”
Breckenridge resident Patricia Walker said she also isn’t sure whether the county is heading in the right direction.
“I’m not too sure we’re handling the relaxations very well,” Walker said. “I personally — as much as I hate wearing this mask, and trust me, I hate wearing this mask — I would rather wear this mask until (COVID-19) is completely gone.”
Walker said her life dramatically changed, too. Walker typically sees her husband six months of the year because he travels for work. When the pandemic hit, both of them were in different parts of the country and neither was willing to travel to see the other. Until recently, Walker hadn’t seen her husband since January 2020.
Though she’s visited a couple of restaurants, socialized with friends who are vaccinated and traveled some, Walker said she’s still hesitant to be in public without a mask.
Rachel Miller, mental health supervisor at the Family & Intercultural Resource Center, said she primarily sees individuals who are struggling with one of two responses: in some instances, Miller said individuals experience physical symptoms of anxiety and might be having a trauma-like response when reentering society. In other instances, individuals are trying to forge ahead and are questioning what normal looks like for them.
Miller said it’s important to establish practices that remind you you’re safe in the present moment. Activities like exercising, being outside, gardening, meditation, meaningful connection with loved ones and journaling are all coping strategies she suggested. Above all, Miller said it helps to validate feelings of stress in most cases.
“I just want to normalize that people are feeling that way, and sometimes just normalizing it is what we need to hear to move through it,” Miller said. “You’re not the only person feeling that way.”
On Thursday, May 13, Building Hope Summit County hosted a virtual event that focused on anxiety reentering society. Jane Hahn of Grit Therapy led the event and provided some tips and coping strategies for attendees to try as they begin participating in social activities again.
Some of her strategies included starting small, like mingling in a small group of people outside, and getting a “COVID reentry buddy,” or another person who feels similarly to you so that the two of you can try activities together.
Hahn also suggested separating caution and fear, setting boundaries with family and friends about what you are and are not OK with, limiting news intake, participating in virtual social events and going to therapy if anxiety is impacting your sleep or appetite.
Tips for managing reentry anxiety
• Start small: Socialize with a small group of people outside before attempting to socialize in large groups or indoors
• Get a reentry buddy: This person could be someone who has similar feelings as you who you can reenter society with
• Separate caution and fear: Are you staying home out of necessity or because of anxious or fearful feelings?
• Stay connected: Continue participating in virtual social events
• Get help: Go to therapy if negative feelings are disrupting sleep or causing loss of appetite