UNC psychiatrist provides tips on how to to reenter a post-COVID world

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Start small and know your boundaries; that's part of some expert advice on how to reenter society after COVID-19.

"There are people who have barely left their houses in a year and that causes all kinds of problems because it can lead people to agoraphobia, which is fear of leaving the house," said Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, chair of the department of psychiatry at UNC-Chapel Hill.

It's important to recognize how normal it is to have some kind of PTSD from the last year, according to Dr. Meltzer-Brody.

Next, she said you should be reassured by the number of people getting vaccinated and high success rate of those inoculations.

After that, it's about baby steps through exposure therapy. She said venturing out with a small group or thinking about one errand you can do.

If you're still having issues, Dr. Meltzer-Brody said then is the time to seek mental health counseling.

"It's been an entire year that people have been in this place so for many it's not going to be a blow the barn door open and go racing into the street idea," she said.

Shaquita Boone, a Raleigh mother of four, was hesitant at first to let her children run free and swim in Myrtle Beach given the lack of social distancing and mask guidelines. She's now on the family's first official vacation since COVID-19.

"Today I loosened the reins a little and allowed them to swim freely," Boone said. "We can't control everything, unfortunately. So we're going to go with the flow and pray for the best."
Cordell Gibson, an IT worker for a bank, in the meantime would just prefer to stay at his "home office" in Durham versus going back inside a physical office.

"There are some people who are okay with this and they've adapted," Gibson said. "They don't want to go back and I think that's going to affect business from here on out."

In addition to starting small, experts say to brace for some tough conversations, set boundaries for yourself and most important, take your time.
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