Finding a New Normal and Staying Safe

June 24, 2020

Having cabin fever? Or feeling anxious about returning to any outside routine?

After months of limiting movement, individuals are having dramatically different responses to the re-opening of businesses and other activities in West Central Florida. 

Thousands are excited to have a chance to return to the gym, go to a restaurant or see a hairdresser – and may not always be adhering to public health guidelines on masks and social distancing. Others remain fearful to leave their home, particularly as they see COVID-19 cases are still increasing in the community.

The path forward, BayCare experts suggests, lies in the middle. Returning safely to any kind of normal activity during a pandemic requires vigilance and new routines. Knowing how to create a “new normal” for yourself by being prepared will help both those who are anxious about re-entry and those who are impatient to leave their homes.

“Prior to COVID-19, Americans had developed a style of living where the center of their lives was not their home,” said Tracy Daniels, BayCare Behavioral Health Educator.  “Once COVID came, this changed.  People enjoyed being back in their homes and learning new strategies for taking care of themselves. We call this ‘cocooning’.”

Now that restrictions are being lifted, some people are hesitant to leave their cocoons for fear of getting the virus, hence the term “re-entry anxiety,” others are just fatigued by the pandemic and are in denial about it’s virulence.

“What people need to remember is that the feelings they have are normal,” Daniels said.  “But, we need to have balance.  We still have to live but we want to live in a way where we can identify our emotions but not live in them.”

Daniels recommends:

  • Do things in moderation. 
  • Adapt your mindset. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, identify why you are feeling this way and make a conscious effort to do something about it.
  • When you leave your house, make a mental note of what you need to be mindful of in the grocery store, riding the bus, getting gas or going to the gym.

“You can do a lot to mitigate your risk,” said Dr. Nishant Anand, chief medical officer for BayCare Health System. “As we navigate to a ‘new normal,’ you want to make sure you’re being mindful of the risk in each situation and responding accordingly.”

There are three main lines of defense to mitigate virus exposure risk when venturing outside your home: 

Here are some additional tips to keep in mind, as you return to routine activities:

Going to the grocery store

  • Honor one-way rules for aisles to keep you out of face-to-face contact with other patrons.
  • Avoid any hand-to-hand contact with cashiers as you exchange currencies or receipts.
  • Sanitize or wash your hands before getting into your car.

Use of public restrooms

  • If a stranger has just exited the stall, delay entering for a few minutes.
  • Use a seat cover, if available.
  • Use your foot to activate the flushing mechanism.

Use of public transportation

  • Limit touching frequently touched surfaces such as handrails and benches as much as possible.  
  • Travel during non-peak hours when there are likely to be fewer people.  
  • Skip a row of seats between yourself and other riders.

Getting Gas

  • Have disinfecting wipes to apply to handles and buttons before you touch them.

Once you feel comfortable venturing out for routine activities, you may be ready to add some nonessential outings.  Here are some tips on how to do them safely:

Going out to eat

  • Be sure to pick a restaurant that is respecting social distancing guidelines and whose servers are wearing masks.
  • Choose a table outside
  • Avoid touching anything unnecessary and wash your hands prior to beginning your meal. 
  • Wear a mask until your food is delivered. Once your food arrives, remove your mask and place it under your napkin in your lap, being careful not to touch the outside with your hands.

Going to a salon, spa or other personal service, including a medical visit

  • Call ahead to ask about health safety procedures in use, such as spacing appointments to allow for additional cleaning.
  • Ask if there are any mechanisms to shorten the time spent face-to-face. Can you show up with freshly-shampooed hair for a haircut? Can you wait in your car until they are ready for you? Can you pay up front over the phone?

Going to a movie or other indoor event

  • Call ahead to make sure social distancing is being observed.
  • Ask about turnover cleaning protocols.
  • Bring sanitizing wipes to wipe down your seat prior to sitting down.

Going to the gym

  • Choose to go when it will least crowded, such as early morning.
  • Wipe down equipment before and after use.