Photo by Leszek Glasner ( Shutterstock)
Imagine this: You're out with friends in a park or beer garden and one of them suggests that you go to a bar. It would have been no problem two summers ago. But after so many years away from the crowds of the pandemic, it might seem a bit nerve-wracking.
The world is on the verge of opening up and many people are promoting their joy at returning to packed museums, sporting events and other venues. However, some people still feel uncomfortable about returning to the crowds. These are some ways to ease back into the crowds after a lockdown.
Be educated about the science and trust it.
One thing is essential: We must first understand the science and then be able to trust it. The writer was vaccinated and attended a large-scale event last Wednesday. It was large, with many people. Brandon Austad (a 29-year-old also-vaccinated coordinator of the gathering) gave simple advice to those who were asked about how one should prepare for helping or being part of such a large crowd during a pandemic.
He advised that you follow the CDC guidelines.
Let's get started. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines for vaccinated and not vaccinated persons are available. According to the CDC, fully vaccinated individuals can resume their activities without having to wear masks or physically distancing - except when required by federal, state or tribal laws, rules, and regulations, as well as local business and workplace guidance.
To give you some security, be sure to read the entire guideline. If you have been vaccinated, it can help ease your anxiety. Angela Nardello manages Augers Well in the East Village.
Nardello said that although I was cautious in the initial stages of the pandemic, I was hesitant about returning to work. However, when New York made it possible for restaurant workers to be eligible for vaccines, I took advantage of the chance to get my shot. Both the staff and customers were made to feel safe and comfortable. I eventually had to let go any anxiety and start to trust the vaccine as well as the safety precautions that we have been taking.
Be aware of safety precautions
Nardello noted that she and her staff have been taking safety precautions and Augurs Well is not the only one. It is your right to inquire about the safety precautions taken by managers and employees, as well as their cleaning practices.
It is not ethical to ask strangers about their health history. So while it might be uncomfortable asking partygoers or servers if they have had the jab, event planners and managers can tell you what rules and expectations they have for employees and guests.
Melissa P., a 26-year old immunocompromised woman from Orlando, stated that she felt anxious and scared after months of being away from people and the mixed messages about COVID from officials from Florida. She recalled that her bosses kept switching between whether remote workers should be allowed to work. This was not helpful for her mental state as she tried to get used to spending hours each day with other people.
Ask direct, clear questions of your managers or friends, no matter if they are at work. You have the right to be informed, and you don't have to do any of it.
Retire in ease
Melissa and her boyfriend began small when businesses started to open again. After being vaccinated, they only ate out two times. Now they are happy to return to restaurants and enjoy the company of other people.
Nardello, a New York-based bar manager said that her advice to anyone feeling anxious is to go slowly on public outings. She recommended outdoor dining and finding places that are particularly well-ventilated.
She said that wearing the mask between eating and drinking makes people feel more at ease.
Some of your worries may be due to months spent away from large groups and not necessarily the lingering fear of contracting COVID. You are not the only one feeling awkward or claustrophobic when you surround yourself with a lot of people.
I would suggest starting somewhere smaller like a coffee shop, or outdoor seating, where there might be a lot of people, but it seems less crowded. Then slowly introduce yourself to other places that may have more people. Johnny Marquez, a North Dakota bartender at 29, said that he has had experience with social anxiety and has tried to overcome it.
Don't be afraid to leave a place or party if you feel uncomfortable. Comfort should always be your top priority. No matter what is making you uncomfortable about being with a large group, you can always try again.
Keep in mind why you are out and about
After so many hours away from your family, you deserve to have fun.
Empathy is key. Melissa said that COVID-19 caused her sadness and burnout. She still enjoys being with friends, but she also remembers how many people won't have the chance to do so again due to the deadly pandemic. She stated that she trusts her friends, and is thankful to be back with them. Melissa also suggested that you surround yourself with people who will support and encourage you, especially if you are anxious about social integration.
If you feel uncomfortable around large groups, think about why you are there. Perhaps you are just looking to make new friends. Perhaps you have missed church or other community-based events. Everybody around you is also adjusting and seeking the same things. They are there because they want the same things.
Drema Greer (Church Council Chair at Unifour Church in North Carolina) recalled the amount of planning that went into opening services back up for real-life attendance.
While we listened to the CDC guidelines, we also stayed attentive to the needs and wants of our congregation. She said that while we knew people would want to meet, what good was having church if people were going to be sick? Although we had been unable to go back to North Carolina in-person services, we felt the need to be together and our desire to be as safe as humanly possible.
It is important to read it again.
No matter where you are, companionship and communication are essential for people. No matter how bizarre it may seem, it will be beneficial for you to get out there again. Before you go to the big event, make sure you have a reason and a support group. This is possible.