Feeling mixed emotions after mask restrictions lift across Alberta

The first weekend of July is also the first weekend in over a year with nearly no COVID-19 health restrictions in Alberta, some are embracing the change while others find it stressful.

The government lifted public health restrictions on July 1, meaning that, apart from some places like public transit, people aren’t required to wear masks under provincial law.

The change meant that some businesses have gone from dead to busy.

“We have a lot of work to do all of a sudden,” said Byron Martin, with The Grindstone. “It was very fast, which is a bit overwhelming, exciting and kind of emotional."

The comedy theatre operated at nearly pre-pandemic levels, something a lot of businesses are happy to be able to do now.

“It was surreal,” said Martin. “We're so honoured and very excited to be able to get actors back and performers back to work.”

Masks aren’t entirely gone though, businesses can still require customers and employees to wear masks.

"We're going to do at least the next couple of weeks just to see how things go, then we might consider making it an optional thing,” said Nathan Brass, the general manager of Blowers and Grafton.

“We want to be cautious, be smart and try to keep our staff as safe as possible."

The excitement and anxiety that people might be feeling over the lifting restrictions are common feelings, according to one psychologist.

“Our brains are having a really hard time cooling down, we haven’t had a respite, we’ve had continual change… so our emotions are anxious,” said Tara Boothby, a registered psychologist.

“It is super important to know that it is really okay to feel however we're feeling.”

She added that people should find “a way to feel at peace” with the decision whether to wear a mask or not.

“That’s going to help us manage whatever emotions we’re facing,” said Boothby.

“If you are choosing to not wear a mask, what I would suggest is to smile at people… I don't know the research on it, but I do think it’s beneficial when we do get to see those glimpses of smiling faces."

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Ryan Harding