NEW YORK (WABC) -- As life continues to reopen amid the pandemic in the Tri-State area, many people are hesitant to take off their masks in public.
After 15 months of playing it super safe, society is now taking some big steps toward a return to normal.
But for some, it's hard to let go of anxieties associated with reopening. Experts are offering advice for how to ease the nerves during Mental Health Awareness month.
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The CDC announced new mask guidance last week, including not needing to wear one when exercising outside.
"I think working out with a mask is the most challenging thing, so I'm really happy to no have to wear the mask while working out, it's great," Elisabeth Bernard said.
Bernard, 30, is vaccinated - but still keeping her distance.
"People don't automatically look at you and know whether or not you're vaccinated so it's important to be mindful of other people," she said. "I make sure that I stay and keep my distance from others to make them feel comfortable as well as myself."
It's a nod the fact that there's still a lot of anxiety out there.
"The important thing to keep in mind is that anxiety soars with uncertainty," said Dr. Youssef Khalil Hassoun, Medical Director of South Oaks Hospital.
Hassoun says to help ease anxiety, people should focus on what is certain: that the vaccination provides strong protection.
If the science and data don't do the trick, it may be time to talk with an expert.
"We need to be able to function... are we able to go to our jobs like we used to, are we able to connect with others like we used to," Hassoun said.
And some activities may be easy for some and daunting for others.
Some New Yorkers who spoke with Eyewitness News said they are simply more comfortable keeping their mask on.
"Even though I'm vaccinated I still don't indoor dine, only outdoor, I'm not ready for that," one woman said.
After all, we've spent more than a year learning new behaviors and it could take just as long to get comfortable with stepping back into life.
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