For 14 and a bit weeks, Belinda Nash's life has been largely confined to the 40sq m flat she calls home in the central Auckland suburb of St Mary's Bay.
Like most of the 1.72 million others living in our longest-locked down city, Nash, a writer for investment platform Hatch, retreated to her home when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a snap nationwide alert level 4 lockdown on August 17, hours after a Devonport tradie with no links to the border tested positive to Covid-19's highly infectious Delta variant.
While much of the country would within three weeks slip back into the wide-ranging freedoms of alert level 2, Nash and her fellow City of Sails' citizens were left to wait it out at home as isolation and vaccination worked in tandem to fend off the prospect of a wildly out-of-control outbreak.
After seven weeks, picnics - albeit masked, socially-distanced and limited to two bubbles - were allowed.
A month after that retail, also with distancing and mask mandates, opened its doors.
But the biggest step back to normality comes on Friday, when the Government's "traffic light" system replaces alert levels and, with it, gives the roughly 84 per cent of fully-vaccinated Kiwis more freedoms, no matter where they live.
Beauty salons, gyms and, to the delight of Nash - double-jabbed, thank you - hospitality will again be part of Aucklanders' lives.
"When I heard", Nash says, "it was, 'Yay'", although she retains the slightly-raised eyebrow of a longtime lockdownee.
"I was still thinking, 'Is this real? Will it happen?' Because we've kind of been taught over these past few months to not look forward to things, because all our hopes have kind of been dashed."
Raised eyebrow or down face, few can expect to emerge completely unscathed from stay-at-home orders that dragged on so long an entire meteorological season passed under their watch.
Even the pre-lockdown socially active Nash felt a pang of alarm when a friend immediately suggested a "traffic light level" meal out.
To her surprise, her earlier "Yay" turned into a sharp intake of breath.
"I had this gut reaction of panic ... I thought, 'Couldn't we just get a picnic?' And then I thought, 'No, we're not having a picnic, we're going out to a restaurant'. But I genuinely had a bit of panic and thought, 'Oh, people!'
"For me, it's kind of the paradox of feeling excited and hopeful and optimistic, but also a little bit daunted at the same time."
'We're all going to be in a slightly different place with this'
Apprehension about again being around others, for work, education or pleasure, may not feel normal.
After all, we begin learning how to live as part of a society from the moment we leave the womb - an explosion of learning in our first six to eight years, social development expert Annette Henderson says, is followed by continual honing of those social skills for the rest of our lives.
Little should feel more comfortable.
But anxiety about returning to a life among many more people than we've become used to is "absolutely" normal, Mind Matters psychotherapist Kyle MacDonald says.
Research following last year's initial lockdown showed it was the points of change in the ongoing pandemic response that caused spikes in anxiety and distress.
Although many people will continue to work from home under the traffic light system's red light level, which begins in Auckland on Friday, the return of long-shuttered close-contact venues such as restaurants, bars and gyms opens the door to a wider circle of people into our lives - and all while the virus is still circulating, but also when most eligible adults are vaccinated.
"It's a funny mix, isn't it?", MacDonald says, warning the next couple of weeks could be "a bit rough".
"Because on the one hand, I think there's quite a lot of enthusiasm for this, but I also think there's a huge amount of anxiety.
"It's the changes people find difficult. Once we're kind of in it, it's not necessarily pleasant - I think most people found this lockdown pretty miserable - but it's not so anxiety-provoking because we know what we're doing. Each day's kind of the same."
As creatures of habit we're wired to adapt to new routines, and Auckland's lockdown has lasted long enough for that to occur, so our locked-down life now feels like normal life, MacDonald says.
We will again adapt, but - for those able to work at home at least - if people didn't need to return to their workplace before Christmas, maybe they shouldn't.
"Prior to the pandemic, we didn't have to switch and change how we lived our life so much. We might've spent months or years in roughly the same pattern.
"I think, with Christmas coming up, it might be best for employers not to expect everyone to rush back, then rush back out to holiday, and then come back again. That's a lot of changing in a short period."
That's part of understanding that everyone's going to be in a slightly different place with the return to life among those outside our bubble, whether the reason is work or pleasure.
"Being gentle with each other, and being accepting, that we're all going to be in a slightly different place with this," says MacDonald
"Especially as this time we're coming out [of lockdown] in a situation where there's still something to be anxious about, in that the virus is still circulating in the community."
'It's going to take a bit of time to push that bubble out again'
The best way to deal with post-lockdown anxiety is to acknowledge there is something to be afraid of, while at the same time doing what you can to stay safe - following health guidelines and putting our own boundaries in place, whether they relate to mixing with unvaccinated people, sharing hugs or mask use, MacDonald says.
"You get to make those decisions and you get to be responsible for the health and welfare of yourself and the people around you."
Tackling social anxiety is like weight training - you conquer both by holding yourself at the edge of what you can cope with, and gradually increasing.
"Start thinking about what are the areas of your life coming up that are going to feel anxiety-provoking, and make a bit of a plan about how you're going to push yourself out.
"For some people that might be just going to a shop, not going in, and going home. Then the next step would be to go into the shop, so we're gradually working through that process.
"For the rest of us, who may not be diagnosabley socially anxious, the same kind of rules apply. It's going to take a bit of time to push that bubble out again."
While post-lockdown anxiety is to be expected, if it begins to interfere with normal day-to-day life, such as going to work, and feels insurmountable, you may need to talk to your GP, MacDonald says.
The 24-hour 1737 free call or text service to trained counsellors is another option.
"Because we should expect anxiety, but when it gets to the point where we can't do what needs to be done, that's a red flag that we need some help."
Uh oh, HOGO
One thing we don't need help with is cranking up those social skills again.
It might feel like they've atrophied in the long weeks of lockdown, but they won't have disappeared, Henderson, a University of Auckland associate professor in psychology, says.
We start learning how to interact with others from the moment we exit the womb, and those foundation life skills continue to develop at pace till about the age of 6 or 8, depending on a child's early life experiences.
But our resulting social skillset is something that's always developing and evolving through our interactions with the people in our social world, and we don't lose that - although widespread mask mandates might mean we need to be a bit more expressive with our voices in the near future, Henderson says.
"As we get older sometimes we lose our cognitive functioning. But our social skills tend to preserve throughout the lifespan.
"So I do think generally people will be okay. The first couple of interactions might be a little bit nerve-racking for us all, but we should be okay."
As an extrovert, she's excited to see friends again in person, Henderson says.
"I'm looking forward to seeing people and to the conversations around the table. Last time [in 2020], with friends afterwards, it was just like old times - just without the hugging."
But not everyone's an extrovert.
Some will take any offer going to opt out of the in-person social connections Henderson and her friends are so craving - and which the expert in child development and social interaction describes as "so important to our everyday lives".
In the UK, which marked its own "freedom day" in the middle of the Northern Hemisphere summer, post-lockdown social lethargy has become so widespread it's sparked its own acronym - HOGO (the Hassle of Going Out).
Helped along by ongoing virus transmission and the romanticisation of domesticity on social media, Brits are, simply, staying at home.
"Remember all that talk of "freedom day" back in the summer?", The Telegraph's Christina Hopkinson wrote this week.
"The idea was that we would unshackle ourselves from the chains of lockdown to party like it was 2019, go to every theatre opening and never again turn down an invitation.
"The reality has been very different."
One restaurant group recorded 1000 no-shows across its 12 restaurants last week, while one in seven ticket holders to pre-paid music and sporting events isn't showing up, the Telegraph reported.
A UK hospo trade body representing restaurants, visitor attractions and concert venues also reported people cancelling plans to go out, or not showing up at the last minute.
This inertia, Hopkinson wrote, is being dubbed HOGO - the Hassle Of Going Out - and is quickly replacing the Fear Of Missing Out "in this strange purgatory of not-quite-Covid times".
"We've spent so long at home over the past two years that we're become almost institutionalised by it, unable to venture away from our Netflix and takeaways, unsure of how to embrace life outside the bubble."
'We're going to get that magic back'
No chance of that for Aucklander Nash and, she hopes, you.
After that brief flurry of nerves, she's raring to get back into a life less solitary.
A lockdown-sparked scrunched up schedule of festivals, concerts and parties await, with her summer diary now open to events ranging from Synthony to Splore to Six60.
"If this lockdown has taught us anything, it's just to live in each moment. Just jump in and do it, and you'll probably have a great time.
"And if you think there's a moment where you just want to blob on the couch, remember you just had four months of it - you've already watched all of Netflix, so just get out of the house, even if it's just for a very short time."
There are too many hugs to be caught up on, too many songs to be sung and, especially, too many laughs to be had.
"The thing I've really missed is that there's been very little joy in our lives", Nash says.
"I'm looking forward to just being together, and laughing. Having those incidental things, the silliness you can't get over a video call. All the whimsy, [where] our personalities can be alive again.
"I think in philosophy it's [known as] 'the moments in between'. So we're going to get that magic back - those moments in between."