Wed. May 18th, 2022

For months, the end of the New South Wales lockdown has been teasing out of reach. But as many welcome the easing of restrictions under the state government’s roadmap, a return to normalcy is a cause for concern for others.

Alannah Webb, who lives with her family in Sydney’s southwest, describes that she feels fear the moment reopening dates were revealed.

“When … people started calling it Freedom Day, I felt the pressure of having to be social and regain the time lost in lockdown,” the 19-year-old says.

Forced into lock-in, right after she started a new retail job and stepped into her college break in the middle of the year, Webb says that “endless weeks with nothing” has made her “habits of sociability deteriorate.”

Webb fears it will be a struggle to get back to the rhythm of being social. “Even by just making friends, I do not know where the conversation is going,” she says. “What did you do in the lockdown? Nothing?”

Webb still needs to complete university online when the state reopens, and she’s nervous about unlocking the routine of lockdown. “It took us weeks to get used to being locked up and we are just getting used to it. And the longer the lockdown was, the worse the anxiety of leaving it.

“Any shift to a routine is stressful,” she says. ‘But the scale of this is so much greater than most people experience. You learn again how to exist in a work environment, feel good among a crowd on public transportation and just talk to people again. ”

Linda Marigliano
Linda Marigliano says she ‘can already feel a social anxiety creeping in’. Photo: Jess Gleeson / Linda Marigliano

ABC’s Linda Marigliano, who films weekly podcasts from her home in Sydney’s Darling Point, says living alone in a lockdown has helped her “prioritize myself for the first time”.

She feels the “collective excitement” of getting to sit in a restaurant and dancing at a nightclub again, but Marigliano also says: “There are levels of anxiety that come into play, especially in terms of having to learn to say no.

“I can already feel a social anxiety creeping in and thinking of non-essential plans that could very easily take over your calendar just because you feel you should do something.”

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Mental health experts have said that the feeling of discomfort of resuming faster and busier lives will be common.

For Marigliano, lockdown has been a postponement of that rush. “So much of my life has been about packing days, nights, weekends and saying yes to more work.”

As she reintegrates back into society after the lockdown, she says, it will be important to “learn boundaries” and “keep them in place.”

For her friends in the music and hospitality industry, reopening is “full speed ahead”. At the other end of the spectrum “mute group chats” and “will never see another picnic again”.

“I think I’m sitting somewhere in the middle,” Marigliano says. “Making plans about not having plans is as legitimate as filling your Saturday with a brunch, then a trip, then a drink at a bar and a restaurant.

“Taking it day by day will be really important. And just find time for people who matter – yourself is the one who matters most. ”

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Webb is slowly returning to the social scene. “The other day I booked tickets to see a show in January.”

She says she orders events so far into the future because “even though part of me lacks normality, I subconsciously feared rushing into it”.

“There is anxiety about going back to the public and worrying about an external perception of you that you should not worry about when you are at home in an oversized T-shirt.”

At the same time, she says, “another part of me will not miss the opportunities to be social – especially after these opportunities were first taken away due to lockdown”.

Lloyd Viray, 20, says the lockdown in Sydney’s inner west has been “stagnant”.

“Usually, it’s healthy to have a routine,” he says. “So it’s a bit of a paradox that the routine for this lockdown has felt toxic and limited.”

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Viray feels a mixture of tension and anxiety as the state reopens. But unlike Webb, the anxiety he feels is “not really about the social stuff.” Instead, Viray describes the feeling of insecurity that the state may be hit by yet another sudden lockdown in the future.

“It’s like there’s this cloud hanging over you,” he says. “Every second, a storm can come down and take everything from you again.”

After reflecting on March, after “a few golden months with less concern”, Viray says his and his friends’ thoughts on Covid were “complacent”.

“As a country, we seemed to be doing really well. Stress about Covid was not in the forefront. Then came the week of June 20 and took months and months away, ”he says. “And I’m just really worried it’s going to happen again.”

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