On July 23, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered a mask mandate that required all individuals in the state to wear facial coverings in addition to social distancing because of COVID-19. Almost a year from that day, the Ohio Department of Health is easing those restrictions in different phases.
“It’s like seeing daylight for the first time, after being in the dark for a while,” Noah France, a sophomore at LCCC, said.
People from around the state are now preparing to return to normal life after COVID-19.
“It’s surreal, but it’s definitely a relief, though,” France said.
For some, the lifting of restrictions offers a chance to reconnect with family and friends.
Kionna McIntosh-Pharms, LCCC’s student services navigator, was greatly affected by the social restraints that came into play due to the virus. McIntosh-Pharms’ family consists of essential workers. Therefore, she spent months away from the people she was closest to.
McIntosh-Pharms is just one of the millions of people who have had to make sacrifices to help contain the spread of the virus.
Tips to overcome agoraphobia
Social interactions used to be an everyday occurrence, but since the spread of the pandemic, there have been waves of social limitations put on the world’s population. As the distribution of vaccines continues and safety restrictions lessen, some people have found themselves anxious about assimilating back into society.
Charlene Dellipoala, project coordinator for the Caring Advocates for Addiction Recovery center and a crisis counselor at LCCC, said the switch from in-person meetings to virtual interactions and isolation has taken a toll on people’s mental health. Many people suffer from agoraphobia, the fear of interacting in a gathering, travel and open space, among other issues.
“Too much free time (in isolation) can be your own worst enemy,” Dellipoala said. “Take baby steps. If the idea of leaving the house is overwhelming, then try going for a walk. Find what works for you.”
LCCC student Marisa Molnar said, “Students feeling anxiety around their classes are almost normal nowadays. However, with the pandemic, there is even more pressure.”
In order to help anxious students, faculty and staff return to a safe environment, the college has enacted guidelines that lower the level of risk of spreading the virus.
Caitlin Valley, a staff assistant at LCCC, was concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic. Her family and her parents went into strict quarantine at the beginning of the outbreak. The transition to a lifestyle based around the lockdown and working from home brought special challenges.
“I was anxious about how susceptible I would be,” Valley said. “There was a lot of anxiety around the disease because we didn’t know when a vaccine would be available.”
LCCC responded to these fears and the challenges of the pandemic in a way that put those fears to rest.
“As we continued working from home, and eventually went back to the campus. The safety protocols, temperature readings, mask requirements, security officers and limiting how many people are together, the school did that well. Going back in person and seeing it for ourselves made me feel so much better,” Valley said.
Lindsey Maurer, an adviser, expressed similar views toward the college’s response to the pandemic. “I was worried about my health and safety, but LCCC has been prioritizing science. They stood behind the vaccine and were cautious,” she said. Despite some concerns about the pandemic, Maurer was excited to return to the campus and continue her work as an adviser in person. “We were the first school to move online, we moved fast and kept people safe. Just being able to go next door to a coworker’s office and knock on their door is so much nicer. I just look forward to being more at ease around others,” Maurer said.
For people who may need help preparing themselves to return to life after the pandemic, the Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic have advice that could help limit their anxiety attacks.
- Before going out into public, work on visualizing and overcoming stressful situations. This can help people maintain a stronger control over their mental state
- Practice going to smaller social events first, and slowly work into bigger gatherings
- Go out with a friend or family member, and
- Learn different types of breathing techniques to help curb anxiety.
(Anthony LaRosa, editor-in-chief, contributed to this report.)