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Sound Health is a recurring series that airs twice each month on WGLT's Sound Ideas program.Support for Sound Health comes from Carle Health, bringing care, coverage, support, healthcare research and education to central Illinois and beyond.

Sound Health: Re-Entry Anxiety Emerges As Society Reopens

In this file photo, a masked student walks on the Illinois State University campus.
Emily Bollinger
In this file photo, a masked student walks on the Illinois State University campus.

Returning to a more typical way of life hasn't been easy for everyone as pandemic restrictions ease.

A psychiatric nurse practitioner in Bloomington says re-entry anxiety affects people who remain cautious about social interactions, even if they are vaccinated.

In this installment of Sound Health, Annie Robbins with Chestnut Family Health Care in Bloomington recommends easing back into your old way of life to reprogram your brain if you aren't comfortable being back out in public.

Annie Robbins
Annie Robbins

“That age-old saying of ‘Practice, practice, practice,’ getting back out there is important, but practicing it safely is a good thing for our brains to let us know we are safe, we are OK, it’s OK to get back out there,” Robbins said.

Robbins said the isolation that many people felt during the pandemic has created many mental health challenges, and it’s not clear for how long society will feel its effects.

“In my opinion I think it is huge. The pandemic really pushed us to be isolated,” Robbins said. She added people who are introverted or have social anxieties may have done well during the last year, but she said it’s unhealthy to go long periods of time without human interaction.

“Physical presence and touch (are) a big deal, and we have taken a lot of that out of our lives in the last year,” Robbins said.

Robbins added the potential for a uncomfortable conversation about vaccinations or mask wearing can also contribute to anxiety, especially for people who remain skittish about being out in public during a pandemic.

“Getting that question directed at you can be uncomfortable. I think what we have to do is answer it safely, saying ‘I am taking precautions by wearing my mask when I feel unsafe, washing my hands still regularly,” Robbin said.

Robbins said if you are “messing up or missing out,” it's time to seek help. She recommended contacting your primary care physician and they can refer you to the services you need.

Robbins said Chestnut Family Health Care has a “significant” waiting list for people seeking psychiatric care. She said patients who aren’t showing serious symptoms can generally get an appointment within a week.

“Business is definitely picking up as people are getting back out there,” Robbins said.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.