Life in General

Make it easy How to Get Over a Post-Pandemic Fear of Crowds

Illustration for article titled How to Get Over a Post-Pandemic Fear of Crowds

Photo: Leszek Glasner (Shutterstock)

Imagine this: You’re out with your friends at a park or a beer garden when one of them suggests going into a bar. Two summers ago, that’d be no big deal, but after such a long time away from crowds during the pandemic, you might be a little nervous.

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To be sure, the world is well on its way to opening all the way back up, and while plenty of people are advertising their joyous returns to crowded museums, restaurants, sporting events, and more, there are still a few people who are uneasy about getting back into the mix. Here are some tips for easing back into crowds post-lockdown.

Know the science (and trust it)

There’s one thing we need to do above all else: Know the science, and then trust it. This writer, vaccinated, attended a large-scale event last week—a big one, with a lot of people. Brandon Austad, the also-vaccinated 29-year-old coordinator of the gathering, had some simple advice when asked how someone should plan for facilitating or being among such a crowd at the tail end of a pandemic.

“Follow CDC guidelines,” he said.

Let’s start there. Familiarize yourself with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Fully vaccinated people can now, per the CDC, “resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”

Know the guidelines inside and out to give yourself some peace of mind. If you’re vaccinated, let that ease some of your anxiety here, like Angela Nardello, who manages the East Village bar Augers Well, did.

“I had been very cautious during the early stages of the pandemic and was initially hesitant to get back to work, but when New York opened vaccine eligibility to restaurant workers I jumped at the opportunity to get my shot so that I could get back to work and get back to normal,” said Nardello. “We did our best to make both the staff and our customers feel comfortable and safe and eventually I had to let go of any anxiety I felt and trust the vaccine and other safety precautions we’ve been taking.”

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Know the safety precautions 

Nardello pointed out she and her staff have been implementing “safety precautions,” and Augurs Well is far from the only establishment doing so. You have a right to ask managers and staffers about what precautions they’re taking and what their cleaning routines look like.

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Asking another person—especially a stranger—about their personal health history is an ethical no-no, so while you might not be comfortable questioning partygoers or servers about whether they’ve gotten the jab, you can ask event planners and managers what expectations or rules, exactly, they have for guests and employees.

Melissa P., an immunocompromised 26-year-old in Orlando, said that months away from other people coupled with the mixed messages around COVID itself coming from local and state government officials in Florida, left her with anxiety and “dread” when she initially contemplated going out or returning to her office. Her bosses, she recalled, kept flip-flopping on whether employees should work remotely or not, which wasn’t helpful to her state of mind as she tried to prepare to spend hours a day around other people again.

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Ask clear, direct questions, whether it’s from your managers at work or the friends with whom you’re trying to plan a group outing. You deserve to be informed and you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.

Ease back in

As businesses opened back up, Melissa and her boyfriend started small. They dined out just two times before they were vaccinated, but now they’re happy to be reentering restaurants and eating among the masses of strangers.

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Nardello, the New York-based bar manager, said her advice for anyone feeling nervous is to take public outings step by step. She suggested embracing outdoor dining or finding locations that are especially well-ventilated.

“I notice wearing the mask in between drinking and eating makes a lot of people feel more comfortable,” she added.

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Of course, some of your concerns may stem from months away from big groups, not necessarily lingering fears of catching COVID. If you feel awkward or claustrophobic around a lot of people, you’re not alone.

“I’d just say start somewhere smaller, like a coffee shop or a place with outdoor seating where there may be a lot of people but the lack of walls makes it seem less crowded, and slowly reintroducing yourself to places that may see more people,” said Johnny Marquez, a 29-year-old bartender in North Dakota, who pointed out he’s always had social anxiety and has some experience trying to combat it.

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If easing in isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to leave a party or location. Your comfort should be a priority. You can try again as many times as you need to, no matter what it is that’s making you uneasy about being in a big group.

Remember why you’re out and about

You deserve to have fun after so much time away from others, as do the people who are flocking to venues and establishments alongside you.

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“Be empathetic. COVID-19 has caused so much sadness and burnout,” advised Melissa, who still feels a little guilty sadness while enjoying herself among friends when she remembers how many people will never have that opportunity again because of the deadly pandemic. She said she trusts her friends and is grateful to be back to hanging out with them and suggested making sure you’re surrounded by people who support you, even—or especially—if you’re feeling anxious about social reintegration.

When you’re feeling a little uncomfortable in a large group, remember why you’re there. Maybe you just want to reconnect with friends. Maybe you missed church or other community-based gatherings. Everyone around you is acclimating, too, and wants the same things. That’s why they’re there.

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Drema Greer, church council chair at Unifour church in North Carolina, recalled how much planning went into opening services back up to real-life attendance.

“We were careful to listen to the CDC guidance while also staying to attuned to the needs of our congregation. We knew people wanted to meet but what good is having church if we were going to get people sick?” she said. “We were on the later end of coming back to in-person services in North Carolina, but we were sensing that the need to be together coupled with our wanting to be as safe as possible made it possible for us to return.”

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Read it again: “The need to be together.”

Companionship and communication are vital to people, regardless of the venue. It’ll be good for you to get back out there, no matter how strange it feels. Find your reason, find your supportive crew, and reread that CDC page one more time before you head out to the big gathering. You got this.

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Source link: lifehacker.com

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