Which is harder - isolation or reintegrating back into everyday life after the COVID-19 crisis?
A Tasmanian expert says returning to normal after the isolation and restrictions of COVID-19 will be another challenging phase of the pandemic.
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University of Tasmania clinical psychologist and authority on confinement and reintegration Kimberly Norris compared reintegration to a highly amplified version of the "culture shock" experienced when people return home from travelling or to people's experiences after long period of working in Antarctica or space.
"Everyone is holding out for restrictions to be eased and there is a widespread assumption that everything will be wonderful, however reintegration comes with its unique difficulties," Dr Norris said.
Dr Norris said, while there would be an initial elation at reuniting with loved ones and engaging in activities people used to enjoy, people should expect an emotional dip a few weeks later when they would experience "reverse culture shock" as the realities of their former everyday life re-emerge.
She said this could include agitation at being stuck in traffic again, stress about racing children to schools and sports training, and dealing with personal or work issues that were put on the backburner during isolation.
"Essential workers may experience the 'let down phenomenon' as they move from a challenging environment that required a lot of effort to navigate but was personally meaningful, back to the 'everyday'," Dr Norris said.
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"People may also experience 'fear of missing out' (FOMO) where they engage in erratic behaviour and flout restrictions because they don't know when they will be able to do something again.
"Or people may simply feel angst and apprehension about engaging with society again."
Dr Norris said the key to many of these issues would be to transition slowly, with full adjustment often taking up to 12 months for some people.
"Relaxation of restrictions in this first instance means that our health system is better able to manage any spikes in transmission, not that the virus has gone," Dr Norris said.
"People might be feeling they've got to make up for lost time, but that is the worst thing we can be doing - we need to take things slowly.
"We have to develop shared experiences all over again and slowly spending time together will help us establish a new sense of normal."
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