Level 2 and the return to work, school, socialising and the outdoors will be a fresh of air for many - but could trigger a range of anxieties for others, experts say.

For the past seven weeks, "normal" has meant staying home as much as possible, and limiting travel and outdoor pursuits.

Massey University senior lecturer and clinical psychologist Dr Ian de Terte said it would have affected different people in different ways.

"Some like staying home more than others so would not have found it so bad, while others who spend a lot of time outdoors and are very social it would have been much more tough."

Advertisement

READ MORE:
'Anything can happen': How to cope with coronavirus anxiety
Covid 19 coronavirus: Can't sleep and feeling anxious? You're not alone
Covid 19 coronavirus: Psychotherapist Kyle MacDonald answers your questions
Covid 19 coronavirus: Mental health of Kiwis under pressure over future uncertainty

So as the country moves to level 2 from 11.59pm today, and many of those freedoms are restored, everybody will be affected, but some more than others.

"There is no right way to respond. People who are a bit more worried about the virus might want to stay home a bit longer and keep their bubble and that is OK.

"But I think over time people will start to realise that it is safe outside."

People who felt anxious could take a staged approach to re-entering the outside world.

"Start with things you feel comfortable doing, if that's going for a walk or doing the shopping, and then slowly increase that to more things."

He expected to see an increase in mental health impacts, and implored people to seek support if necessary, be it professionally, or through family, whānau and friends.

At level 2 people needed to continue social distancing, staying two metres away from others, but as this was relaxed De Terte said there could be long-term impacts for physical touch.

Advertisement

"I think it might take a long time for people to feel comfortable with things like hugging, hongi, shaking hands. It will come back, but it will take a long time to develop that trust."

Subscribe to Premium

Victoria University of Wellington clinical psychologist Dr Dougal Sutherland said despite the "obvious downsides", levels 3 and 4 and the "bubbles" may have brought a sense of protection and security for people who suffer from anxiety.

Triggers that have lain dormant for weeks, such as the fear of social evaluation by others, could arise again along with stresses and anxiety with the social and economic impacts of Covid-19.

"For those who have lost their jobs or significant levels of income, breaking out of our bubbles may bring with it feelings of loss, shame and guilt as we come face-to-face with these harsh realities and have to front up to others," Sutherland said.

"In these times the message of being kind to one another, and being kind to ourselves – which can often be more difficult than being kind to others – should not be lost."

For those with a history of anxiety and depression it was important to be on the lookout for the return of these signs, remember how they've coped before, and seek help early, he said.

Auckland child psychiatrist and paediatrician Dr Hiran Thabrew said the transition will also affect children in different ways.

People should first celebrate the achievements of the lockdown, and model these behaviours for their children.

Next was to acknowledge the country was not returning to the "old normal", and the new reality would take time to adjust to.

"Children feel safe and thrive in a predictable environment. So, as you may have done when we entered lockdown, think about what the new family routines will be," Thabrew said.

"Some will be thrilled to hang out with their friends, others will be dreading going back to regular classes at school; some will be dying to get back to sports, others will be anxious about catching Covid-19 after weeks of staying away from people and relentlessly washing their hands.

"Let your children - and fellow adults - know that it is OK to feel whichever way they feel, but that it is also important to manage these feelings in order to do the things you decide to do as a family over the coming weeks."

Those with conditions like anxiety and autism spectrum disorder could also take longer to settle into schooling routines.

"If this sounds like your child, think about what you can do to help them settle into the new routine, rather than expecting them to manage the transition unsupported."

This could include more one on one time, and of course play - both for fun and releasing stress.

To address any concerns people should contact their GP or help from a counsellor on free call or text 1737.