OHIO — As COVID-19 restrictions loosen and more people become vaccinated, some people may feel perfectly comfortable working their way back into public spaces; however, Cleveland Clinic Psychologist Dr. Susan Albers said it's normal if you don't feel comfortable at all.

What You Need To Know

  • States are starting to roll back COVID-19 restrictions, which could cause some anxiety

  • Psychologists call it "re-entry anxiety," and there are two main types

  • Psychologist Dr. Susan Albers suggests listening to your anxiety and not running from it

  • One way to relieve the anxiety is by taking small steps, such as going to a grocery store or a coffee shop instead of something much bigger, such as a festival

Albers said it's called “re-entry anxiety” and there are two different types of it.

“The first is around safety," Albers said. "People are anxious that when they leave the house that they may unknowingly contract COVID or spread it. The second type is around social interactions. Over the past year, we have been social distancing, and there's less practice of how to meet with people in person, look them in the eye, and do every-day chit-chat."

She said our brains are primed to look for cues around safety.

"A little bit of anxiety is OK. It helps us to be motivated. For example, if you're going to take a test, having a little bit of anxiety is helpful because it motivates you to study. Too much anxiety shuts us down, and we become isolated and sometimes can't even function."

Albers said on average, it takes about 66 days to form a new habit, so she said give yourself time and don't force it.

"Psychologists use what is known as exposure therapy when people are feeling anxious. In other words, they expose them a little bit at a time to things that make them anxious instead of jumping right in and let them become habituated to it. So instead of going right out and going to a party, you may start with small steps, such as going into a grocery store or going for a walk or meeting outside with a friend to see how your anxiety does," Albers said.

Albers said anxiety is a messenger and to pay attention to it.

“Don't run away from it or shut it out, but ask yourself, 'What is this anxiety trying to tell me?' Maybe it's telling you to slow down. Maybe it's telling you to take a step back and really evaluate what the situation is," Albers said.

If you are feeling overly anxious and shut down during this time, or maybe you’re continuing to avoid social interaction, Albers said it may be worth meeting with a counselor or therapist to evaluate the root of your anxieties.