Healthcare officials have been warning Americans to avoid large crowds during the pandemic, instilling a fear that for many can trigger anxiety attacks when they do attend events.
According to Vox, experts say that while a lot of people are looking forward to partying and traveling once they’ve been fully vaccinated, others may feel trepidation about returning to pre-pandemic activities.
Dr. Tamar Chansky, a Philadelphia-based psychologist and author of numerous books on overcoming anxiety and negative thinking for adults and children, tells Vox that there is a difference between experiencing fear and anxiety. While fear is a normal, adaptive response to a potentially dangerous situation, anxiety exaggerates that risk.
Being in a crowd where people are not wearing masks or social distancing “on some level should trigger a feeling of being unsafe,” she says. However, she adds that people are adaptable and while acknowledging their feelings, they should try new things as long as they are feel secure and the COVID-19 situation begins to improve.
“But it’s really premature because we’re not in the clear,” she says. “That all-clear signal will not be a trumpet. This is a gradual process.”
Chansky says that each person needs to work within their own boundaries and comfort zones. Someone who has lost a loved one to COVID-19 may have a harder time interacting with large groups of people than a person who hasn’t been affected by personal loss.
“Don’t feel pressured to do something until you’re ready to do it,” says the expert, according to Vox. “You have to really want to be in a crowd to safely be in a crowd right now.”
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, you can help curb social anxiety by setting realistic intentions when venturing out in public and follow the rules that make most sense to you. Acknowledge your fear and do not judge yourself. “It is natural and inevitable that we will feel uncomfortable in uncertain social situations,” says the ADAA.
Chansky says that some people may decide never to attend a concert again because of the effect and influence of COVID-19 restrictions, and their children may follow the same pattern.
“What is comes down to is each of us needing to make decisions that we feel comfortable with, that don’t endanger ourselves or anyone else, and that aren’t led by distorted perceptions of risk,” she says. “Where we can help ourselves is really sticking to the facts, rather than going on the feelings we have as if they are facts.”
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