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President Biden reiterated the CDC̵

7;s new guidelines, which suggest that fully vaccinated Americans do not have to wear masks outdoors unless they are in a large crowd.

USA TODAY

Last week came the official word: If you are vaccinated, you can finally ditch your mask in certain social settings. One would expect the message to be met with waves of relief and an immediate shift in behavior. For some it was there.

But others remain silent hesitantly – though it is certain they will not take off their masks yet.

According to new guidelines released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fully vaccinated Americans do not have to wear a mask outside except in crowded environments and can deworm during small outdoor gatherings with vaccinated people.

Masks have offered security in unprecedented times. They were also divisive and were often signaled to which political group you belonged, with surveys showing that Republicans were less likely to carry or believe in the effectiveness of the masks than Democrats.

Wearing a mask meant you complied with the CDC and local mandates. The act of removing these masks will feel strange and unsettling to some, and this reaction is not unexpected, experts say.

“Behaviors take time to implement and adopt. They also take time to un-adopt,” says Abraar Karan, an internal medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Remember, it’s not an on / off button.”

CDC guidelines: Fully vaccinated Americans do not have to wear masks outside, except in crowded environments

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‘Wearing a mask was one of the only forms of action’ during the pandemic

Normalcy was shattered when the pandemic hit. The pandemic robbed us of control: We could not control when we would be able to return to our workplaces, when our children could go to personal school, when we could be able to hug loved ones or when we resume the collection in large groups. At the start of the pandemic, with so many unknowns, it seemed like we could not even check if we got the virus.

Then experts began to recommend masks. Finally we had agency.

“In the last year, we have not had much control, both in terms of vaccine rollout or tests performed early in the pandemic or sending children to school. But what everyone can actually control is putting the mask on,” says Peter Chin. -Hong, a specialist in infectious diseases in San Francisco.

“It’s something everyone can do, and frankly something most people felt comfortable wearing.”

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People are afraid to take a ‘risk’

Mike Bordieri, an associate professor of psychology at Murray State University, says it is “predictable” that some people hesitate to follow the updated guidelines, and their cautious behavior can be explained by the psychological finding that people often “overanalyze the risk.”

Those concerned about the pandemic are more likely to find the latest information on news variants and global COVID-19 increases, which could lead to a stronger compulsion to wear a mask, he said.

Karan said the updated guide may also pose a struggle for those who have endured a traumatic experience associated with the pandemic, such as the loss of a loved one. People suffering from mental illness can also struggle to adapt.

“People have already gone through so many losses and tragedies during the pandemic, so it makes sense that some people are wary of adopting these recent recommendations until they feel it out of themselves,” Karan says.

Ditching the ‘norm’ pandemic can be ‘stressful’

Nearly half of Americans say they feel uneasy about thinking about personal interaction when the pandemic ends, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2021 report on stress in America. And Sheriece Sadberry, a psychologist, says masks have acted as a “natural barrier” to unwanted social encounters.

“You have some people who have benefited from being able to distance themselves from people,” Sadbery says. “It may suit their personality or be practical for those who are not good at setting boundaries or enjoying the peace of having limited social interactions.”

Bordieri adds that it can be stressful for those who are prone to anxiety or an intolerance to insecurity to start thinking about how to get used to the social environment when we start giving up the masks.

“It’s awkward and scary for some people to start thinking about how to meet new people, make new friends and adapt to this new society. And by wearing the masks, they can temporarily put up with it,” Bordieri says.

Research shows that after the pandemic ends, there may be an increase in mental health conditions such as agoraphobia – an “irrational fear of being in open or unknown places, resulting in the avoidance of public situations” – and obsessive-compulsive disorder – “characterized by recurrent intrusive thoughts (obsession) that get the performance of neutralizing rituals (coercion). “

Bordieri recommends taking things in stride to acclimatize to pre-pandemic routines.

More: Why we are afraid the pandemic will end

How to facilitate your transition back to the ‘real world’

Experts say it is important to acknowledge your stress during this transition. It is normal to feel nervous. Once people accept this, they can start taking small steps towards re-integration with these tips:

  • Remember that it is normal to be stressed when you are social again
  • Prioritize with whom you should hang out with first
  • Appoint time for self-care
  • Know it’s OK to just reject invitations

Contribution: Elise Brisco

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