How do I deal with anxiety about COVID-19 restrictions being lifted?

As mask mandates and capacity restrictions end, many people are feeling anxious about their health and safety. Take things step by step!

Can I pace myself?

For the past few years, everyone in Ontario has been socially distancing, wearing masks, and taking many other precautions to keep themselves and the public safe. 

It can feel strange to study, work, and socialize again with less and less restrictions. 

Remember that while the rules might be easing you can go at your own pace – where possible of course! People around you might be making plans to go out to restaurants and social events, but you don’t have to join in on everything. Communicate your concerns to people around you and make decisions that prioritize your own comfort. 

Take small steps to allow yourself time to adjust. You can do this by:

  • Wearing masks when you’re in a crowd
  • Socializing outdoors instead of indoors 
  • Avoiding events or places where you know there will be a lot of people, or leaving early if it gets too busy for you
  • Confirming ahead of time what precautions others are taking, or willing to take to make you feel more comfortable 
  • Keeping up with updates about COVID-19 in your area (as long as it doesn’t make you more anxious!)

Where do I get accurate information about COVID-19?

There’s a lot of misinformation that’s spread throughout the pandemic about COVID-19. Keep in mind that the virus is still relatively new, and scientists are studying it as it evolves. Therefore, the world’s responses are experimental, so information is bound to change. Despite this, try to avoid getting news and updates from questionable sources, like social media or group chats. Make sure you’re getting information from reliable public health services, like Public Health Ontario. Provincial governments and municipal governments like Toronto also have data on cases and recommendations on reopening.

How do I set boundaries?

It’s important to communicate with your family and friends about boundaries. If you are not ready to make lifestyle changes and prefer to only leave your house for work, school, or basic necessities, that's okay. Remember that others might not have a positive reaction to your boundaries, but they are important for your health and safety.  

If you are open to some spaces but not others then communicate that too. Maybe outdoor concerts, picnics in the park, or lunch on a patio is okay, but indoor spaces or places with crowds are too much right now. There might be pressure to participate, if you stay firm in your boundaries while you will adjust both emotionally and mentally to the post-covid reality. 

There may be less flexibility with your school or work, but you can ask for accommodations that will make you feel safer about going back in. If you have certain health conditions, make sure to discuss options with your doctor. Speak to your guidance counselor, HR or union representative to confirm what safety measures are being taken, and what concerns you have.

How do I get mental health support?

If you feel nervous about upcoming changes and it begins to affect your well-being, then it’s time to seek support from your health care provider. There are many signs that indicate that your well-being is being impacted, like:

  • Changes in your sleeping habits or waking up feeling nervous
  • You focus only on the change, or it’s always in the back of your mind causing you stress
  • Thinking too much about the change makes you so nervous that you panic, or you feel dizzy
  • You avoid conversations about the change because it makes you irritable or nervous

If this is what you’re feeling it is  important to get mental health support. Call 211 or the Kids Help Phone for mental health resources and referrals. You can try free self-guided programs like BounceBack or AbilitiCBT or research some other options. If you are a recipient of OW or ODSP, Wrap Around programs are free and designed to support mental health struggles.