How to cope with 'reopening anxiety' as restrictions are lifted

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Whether it's returning to the office, sitting on a crowded train or trying to decipher mask guidelines, so-called "reopening anxiety" is real.

The stress is impacting people who typically take things in stride. It's all especially poignant during this Mental Health Awareness Month.

It's the moment we've all been waiting for - finally being able to walk around in public, even to a bar, without putting on a mask.

But as desperate as we've all been to get here - are we really ready?

"I'm gonna personally wear the mask a little longer to see what happens," said Jill Homorodean with Blondies Sports NYC.



Homorodean is an owner of Blondies - a once jam-packed sports bar on the Upper West Side. And as excited as she is for a return of business, she is still so conflicted.

"It is gonna be a little stressful I think because you're so used to being careful and making sure you stay apart from everybody," Homorodean said.

Eyewitness News asked patrons how they felt.

"As much as I love sporting events and concerts, probably staying out of arenas a little bit longer till we know how safe it is even for people that have the vaccination," one man said.

"Not knowing who's been vaccinated or not, that makes me a little nervous, so even though I've been vaccinated, I will continue to wear my mask," one woman said.

After all, it feels like a lifetime has passed since they made it illegal not to wear one.

It's been 13 months since it was made state law to wear a face covering.

"For me it feels like if I walk outside without a mask, if I walk into my office without a mask, it's basically like walking around without my pants on," said Dr. Adam Mandel with NYU Langone.

Mandel is a clinical psychologist at NYU and he says hesitating to take off the mask is perfectly normal.

After all, we've been trained to fear the virus. And fear isn't something that easily goes away.

But just as we got used to the masks, we'll adjust to life without them.

"I wasn't this worried about walking outside without a mask a year and a half ago, the vast majority of us will be resilient," Mandel said. "The vast majority of us will learn to feel comfortable again. But it's gonna take a little time."

He says there's nothing wrong with easing into the "old normal," but for those who have trouble, try taking the mask off for a short walk and then a longer walk, until it's comfortable to be around the vaccinated masses.

And above all, he says for those who believe in science in the first place, there's no reason to doubt it now.

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