For months, the end of New South Wales’s lockdown has been teasingly out of reach. But as many welcome the easing of restrictions under the state government’s roadmap, for others the return to normal is a cause for anxiety.
Alannah Webb, who lives with her family in Sydney’s west, describes feeling dread the moment reopening dates were revealed.
“When … people started calling it freedom day, I felt the pressure of needing to be social, to reclaim that time lost in lockdown,” the 19-year-old says.
Thrust into lockdown just after starting a new retail job and entering her mid-year university break, Webb says “endless weeks of nothing” have made her “habits of sociability deteriorate”.
Webb fears it will be a struggle to get back into the rhythm of being social. “Even just catching up with friends, I don’t know where the conversation is going to go,” she says. “What have you been doing in lockdown? Nothing?”
Webb still needs to complete university online once the state reopens, and she is nervous about unlearning the routine of lockdown. “It took us weeks to get into the habit of lockdown, and we have just started to get used to it. And the longer lockdown went on, the worse the anxiety of leaving it got.
“Any shift to a routine is stressful,” she says. “But the scale of this is so much bigger than most people experience. You’re relearning how to exist in a work environment, be comfortable among a crowd on public transport, and just talk to people again.”
Linda Marigliano says she can ‘already feel a social anxiety creeping in’. Photograph: Jess Gleeson/Linda Marigliano
The ABC’s Linda Marigliano, who films weekly podcasts from her home in Sydney’s Darling Point, says living alone in lockdown has helped her “prioritise myself for the first time”.
She feels the “collective excitement” of getting to sit in a restaurant and dance in a nightclub again, but Marigliano also says: “There’s 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, thinking about non-essential plans that could …….