Getting outside and walking in your neighbourhood or at a local park are effective strategies to help keep your mind occupied.
Recent polling reveals some Canadians are feeling “uncomfortable” with restrictions being lifted
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a life-changer. Since March 2020, the pandemic has had a significant impact on people’s physical and mental health. While it is a good sign that COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in BC, there is still a lot of anxiety about returning to our “pre-pandemic” normal.
While many people are reconnecting with friends and family members in person, there is still apprehension among those trying to cope with what has transpired over the past two years. Business in Vancouver reported in a March 2022 article that many Canadians still feel uncomfortable after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Research Co. and Glacier Media conducted a poll in March 2022, asking Canadians about their level of hesitancy—including their plans for the next 14 days: “More than half of Canadians (52 percent) say they are ‘very anxious’ or ‘moderately anxious’ about COVID-19 restrictions and mandates being lifted in their community, while a slightly lower proportion (46 percent) are ‘not too anxious’ or ‘not anxious at all’ about this development.”
Furthermore, regarding peoples’ level of anxiety, the poll found that anxiety about life without mandates and restrictions is higher among women (56 percent) than men (49 percent). In addition, the numbers are consistent across generations as the same Business in Vancouver article stated “54 percent among Canadians aged 18 to 34, 51 percent among Canadians aged 35 to 54 and 53 percent among Canadians aged 55 and over.” Additionally, the poll also revealed that some Canadians are still not comfortable being indoors without wearing a mask: “Practically two-thirds of Canadians (65 percent) plan to wear a mask when entering an indoor premise in the next couple of weeks. On this issue, Ontarians are at the top of the list (69 percent) and British Columbians at the bottom (59 percent).”
Dr. Steven Taylor, a professor in the department of psychiatry at UBC and a clinical psychologist—believes the easing of restrictions must be gradual. “If you just suddenly lifted all the restrictions, that transition would be quite stressful for some people, particularly the people who are worried about getting infected,” he told Dr. Brian Goldman, host of the CBC podcast The Dose.
Moreover, Dr. Taylor also states that people should be aware of their own comfort levels. “Let’s say mask-wearing mandates have been lifted, but you don’t feel safe for whatever reason,” he said. “I think it’s [ok] that you wear a mask if you want to until you start to feel safer. Ultimately, it’s a question of your own risk tolerance.” He also states that people should not feel pressured to go out in public without a mask. “There’s no race to be ditching your mask,” Taylor told CTV Morning Live in March 2022. “People have been through a lot of stress during COVID-19, they don’t need to stress about when they should take their mask off. That’s their choice and we should show some compassion for other people.”
In addition, Dr. Melanie Badali, a clinical psychologist at North Shore Stress and Anxiety Clinic in North Vancouver, recommends people be aware of their current provincial or territorial health guidelines. Badali says peoples’ emotional response to restrictions being lifted will be different for each person. She understands people are feeling anxious. But she reiterates that there is a difference between anxiety and fear. “Anxiety is our response to potential threat, and fear is our response to imminent, right-now-happening threat,” she told CBC News. “And with COVID, there’s a real dance there to try and figure out what’s true danger and what’s reasonable risk that we have to take to live our lives.”
As well, Dr. Taylor also offers advice for people struggling with anxiety amid restrictions being lifted. “If the anxiety is getting in the way of your life and it seems to be excessive, if friends or family said, ‘Hey, you don’t seem to be your usual self,’ […] then that’s the suggestion that you might benefit from seeing a mental health professional,” he said.
Lastly, self-care is important to help people cope with increased stress and anxiety—with restrictions being lifted. Getting outside and walking in your neighbourhood or at a local park are effective strategies to help keep your mind occupied. But if your levels of anxiety are unbearable to manage, call a friend or family member or seek professional help. Dr. Bonnie Henry’s signature mantra throughout the pandemic has been to always be kind to others. We must instill that kindness and compassion in ourselves. And most importantly if you are struggling—just remember—that you are not alone.