What is reopening anxiety?

‘Reopening anxiety’ is anxiety experienced as a result of protective restrictions being lifted after the pandemic. Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash

During the coronavirus pandemic, many social activities have been closed down.  Hardest hit were the leisure, hospitality and retail sectors.  Laws and guidelines prevented people from getting too close to one another.  Many workplaces and meeting places were shut.

As the virus comes under better control, places are reopening to the general public.  Shopping centres, pubs, clubs and workplaces are coming back into use.

‘Reopening anxiety’ is a term given to describe the anxiety experienced by many people as these activities return to our normal lives.


In general, humans like routine, and we get used to certain ways of life.  If we lead a quiet life for a while, it takes time to get used to noise, crowds, hustle and bustle again.

In addition, the government has encouraged an atmosphere of protection.  Grants and loans have been given to businesses and individuals.  Organisations have been asked to exercise increased understanding where people are in difficulty.

Now, there is pressure to ‘get back to normal’.  But some people and businesses find that their lives have been changed significantly.  For instance, businesses which may have already been suffering, have been almost wiped out by the pandemic.

The mind is like a muscle – it atrophies when underused.  If the social, pushy part of our mind has been relaxed for too long, it is going to be extremely hard to bring it back quickly.  Furthermore, some of us may have changed our habits during lockdowns.  We may have got used to a slower pace of life, and we may have liked it.

Reopening reminds us how frenetic our lives were before they slowed down a little.  And we don’t like it.


If we want to synchronise with the reopening of businesses, we have a little thinking to do.  In particular, we can:

  1. In our private lives, we can keep the quiet habits we have learned.  If we have developed new home-based routines, such as quiet walks, yoga, meditation or reading, we can try to integrate them into our ‘reopened’ lives.
  2. In our business lives, we  change our jobs and practices for a new world.  In future, we may well have other emergencies requiring restrictions.  We can shift jobs to more protected sectors, and seek roles which allow for easier home working.  We can also seek out companies, customers and suppliers that share the values we wish to take forward.
  3. In our social lives, we can be assertive about our need for quiet, respectful practices.  Especially if we are introverted by nature, we can clearly signpost to others that we are not available at certain times, to preserve our equilibrium and peace.  We can also encourage less invasive, more respectful communication practices.

As businesses and the leisure sector reopen, we can vote with our feet, encouraging healthy social practices that do not impose upon the individual, and making alliances with businesses which are sympathetic and environmentally friendly.

The pandemic has shown us how vulnerable we all are, and how dependent on helpful, respectful, interaction.  We can use our experience of ‘reopening anxiety’ to empathise with others who may have similar social and generalised anxiety all the time, and to help make it a world that we can all participate in comfortably.