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Feeling overwhelmed in public spaces or anxious about going back to work? Medical professionals say you're not alone

Some people report feeling overwhelmed in busy, public spaces. Others feel anxious about going back to work. Doctors say some people have enjoyed the slower pace.

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — Going back to the office, eating at restaurants, and planning vacations: Some people say things are starting feel normal again, and they're excited. Others, though, are feeling anxious. Mental health experts say those feelings are normal.

"We've switched into what is now the 'norm,' per say. You don't leave home without a mask anymore, and I feel like some people are going to wear them," said Aaron Surotchak of Denver, Lancaster County. 

"We have been... we had it drilled in our heads for the last year plus that being around people is dangerous," explained Dr. Jonathan Gransee, a psychologist.

Dr. Gransee explains why that thought may now be causing some people to experience anxiety.

"It's kind of hard to reprogram your brain from having that thought to seeing people as friendly and a source for potential happiness and enjoyment," he added.

He's not the only medical professional who is hearing about people's feelings of anxiety.

"As a nurse, I was, very early on, attuned to the isolation patients were experiencing," explained Vanessa Felty, a nurse who oversees clinical vaccination at the Community Vaccination Center in Lancaster.

Now, a little more than 12 months later, Felty says staff is seeing some of the effects of that.

"There are some patients who walk into our clinic -- they have not been around this many people in over a year. It can be very overwhelming," she explained.

Felty says the center will accommodate to make the experience more comfortable for them. Staff offer private vaccinations to people who experience extreme anxiety or who are prone to passing out from injections. 

However, it's not just public spaces causing some alarm for people. Mental health experts say there can be stress associated with returning to the office.

"I experienced some of that myself," said Dr. Gransee. "COVID-19, aside from the horror it caused, it forced a lot of people to slow down. They could not work at the same pace for a while because they were forced to stay home. It was a breather. It was a breath of fresh air. When it's over, and it's time to go back, and it's time to resume the pace, maybe some people are feeling, 'I really don't want to do this. I don't want to go back to that pace.'"

He recommends a few things:

"Be nice to yourself. Slowly bring yourself back up to pace. The other thing is: It gives us all the chance to decide if we want to work at that pace," he said.

Dr. Gransee reminds people that anxiety can develop when stress persists. For many people, he says, it's been a stressful time.

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