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What is re-entry anxiety and how can I manage it?

COVID-19 cases are climbing, but safety restrictions are dropping, making it difficult for many people to decide when to ease back into social events.

TAMPA, Fla. — Florida is seeing a rise in the number of recorded COVID-19 cases as the Delta variant spreads rapidly throughout the country.

Over the past month, Florida's COVID cases and hospitalizations have been growing, mostly in unvaccinated populations. Only 58 percent of the state's population has been vaccinated.

For the week of July 2nd, the state recorded 23,697 cases or about 3,385 cases a day. Only a few weeks prior, the week of June 11, the state recorded 10,463 cases or about 1,495 cases a day. 

Credit: WTSP

The number of new COVID-19 infections continues to grow as safety precautions, like mask requirements and social distancing, continue to be dropped by local institutions and businesses. That can cause many to feel some anxiety about transitioning back to work, school and social events. This is known as re-entry anxiety.

Many people are feeling pressure to drop their masks by coworkers, friends and family since many restaurants and stores no longer require them. This can be tough for some, as masks have become routine for many.

 "For some people, they may be extremely worried about it and not want to let it go, because for them they don't mind wearing it and they think 'Why would I take a risk when it's unnecessary?' and other people might say 'I don't think not wearing a mask is terribly risky' and their chance of catching COVID is low," explained Dr. Wendy Rice, a psychologist.

Dr. Rice says you need to approach it on a personal level, as everyone's comfortability will vary. "If you feel most comfortable wearing a mask that's fine," she said. It's okay not to be on the same page as your friends, family or coworkers because you need to do what will make you feel the best at the end of the day.

One large part of managing some of the anxiety you may feel is distinguishing anxiety from real risk. 

"Your anxiety will always go to the worst-case scenario and blow things out of proportion," said Dr. Rice. 

One example of how to do that is looking at a small family gathering. Are you all vaccinated? Are you outside? Your risk of contracting coronavirus is low, so that's a situation where there is low risk and you can try to let go of wearing a mask and getting a little closer to each other.

Dr. Rice offers some more tips on managing re-entry anxiety in the video below.

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