A Stranger in a Strange Land

The COVID pandemic is waning and public health authorities are removing restrictions. It is clear that we are moving towards an endemic approach to COVID-19. Mask mandates are ending along with capacity limits. Proof of vaccination is no longer required to gain entry in many places. It is a welcome return to “normal”…and yet I feel unready.

I’ve read the science. I know my odds of hospitalization is very low. Yet, I’m not sure I’m ready to go back to “normal”. Perhaps it is because I’ve had it drilled into my head for over 2 years that wearing a mask protects the people around me or maybe I’m just traumatized by the stories of people who have gotten COVID (thankfully all recovered).

When I travel to places where masking is voluntary, I find myself still donning my mask indoors.

On top of that, I avoid any buffet-style food. If it is not individually wrapped or served by a person wearing a mask, I give it a hard pass. I’m just too uncomfortable with eating food where there are no sneeze guards or masks required.

I’m a little embarrassed that I feel this way. After all, I had no problem before COVID-19 lining up to have lunch in the buffet line at conferences. I never gave it a second thought. Now I’d rather eat a protein bar.

Am I alone in feeling this way?

An understanding friend who noticed my avoidance of buffet food and my constant mask-wearing told me that it was okay for me to feel like a stranger in a strange land. It had taken her several months before she felt comfortable not wearing a mask indoors. Eventually her fear and nervousness subsided. I hope that will be the case for me.

I wonder if COVID-19 has made some of us permanently virus-vigilant? Will I be one of “those people” who always wear a mask in crowded places like a bus or subway? I know for certain that I will never go into work if I have the sniffles or am coughing. That’s something that COVID-19 definitely drummed out of me.

Join us on the next HCLDR tweetchat, Tuesday March 8th at 8:30pm ET (for your local time click here) when we will discuss how we are adjusting to the transition back to “normal”.

  • T1 Mask mandates are ending in many places. Are you or will you be comfortable not wearing a mask indoors in a crowded space? Why or why not?
  • T2 Are there hings that you did before COVID-19 that you feel you will have difficulty returning to? (ie: eating at a buffet, sharing a drink with someone)
  • T3 What can be done to help those who feel uncomfortable returning to in-person doctor visits or those that continue to delay getting the care they need?
  • T4 What practices/habits (if any) would you like to see people continue with, as COVID-19 moves to the endemic phase?


Stieg, Cory. “Why you feel awkward without your mask on, and tips from a psychologist to help ease back to ‘normal’ life”, CNBC, 26 June 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/26/study-wearing-mask-increases-social-anxiety-struggles-coping-advice.html, accessed 7 March 2022

“How to Deal When It Feels Like You’re the Only One Still Wearing a Mask”, Cleveland Clinic, 27 September 2021, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/still-wearing-a-mask/, access 7 March 2022

Howard, Jacqueline. “It won’t be a pandemic forever. Here’s what could be next”, CNN, 31 December 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/31/health/covid-19-omicron-what-pandemic-end-might-look-like/index.html, accessed 7 March 2022

Ngan, Jadine. “Anxious about Going Back to “Normal”? You’re Not Alone”, The Walrus, 13 February 2022, https://thewalrus.ca/anxious-about-going-back-to-normal-youre-not-alone/, accessed 7 March 2022

Mayer, Beth Ann. “Why You May Feel Anxious About a Post-Pandemic Return to ‘Normal’”, Healthline, 28 April 2021, https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/why-you-may-feel-anxious-about-a-post-pandemic-return-to-normal, accessed 7 March 2022

Image Credit

Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

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