I want to get together, but I'm still nervous...

Tips for Managing Post-Covid Social Anxiety.

The past year and half has been one of connecting with friends, family and co-workers mainly from the four walls of our home via our phones or computers. During the throes of the pandemic, we’ve dreamed of birthday parties for our kids that didn’t involve driveways, dinner gatherings with friends, going out for date night at the movies, and big hugs from family members who live far from us. Many of us felt a nostalgia for what was and the opportunities to socialize without viewing people as a vector of disease.

But now as the world starts to reopen and we’re able to slowly come out of hibernation, some of us feel anxiety stepping back into the world. Opportunities to travel and gather with friends and family in person, are becoming a reality, but while many are ready to “get back to normal”, some of us are hesitant to let the social floodgates totally open.

Coping with post-pandemic social anxiety

Anxiety and stress are normal emotions that everyone experiences. Anxiety and fear are our natural response to potential threats. Each of us view engaging with people and possible exposure to Covid at different levels of risk. Each person has their own unique situations, health concerns, as well as work and family obligations that they should consider. Here are a few tips for coping with post-pandemic social anxiety.

Hey! Let’s talk.

Talking about our concerns with our partners, family, and friends can help us cope with our anxiety. By communicating with the people that we see most often, we can let them know how we’re feeling about reconnecting with people in person and our worries about certain social environments. Also, it’s important that our immediate family or close social circle are aware of our concerns to minimize possible misunderstandings or conflicts. When we’re on the same page as our loved ones or they at least know how post-pandemic social anxiety is affecting us, they can better support us and help us navigate the world opening up.

Just start little by little

For those of us who have sheltered in place for over a year, even simple outings can seem daunting and overstimulating. While some people are planning vacations abroad and large family reunions, others of us are worried about going to the grocery store where people aren’t wearing masks. Often with gradual exposure to these situations, we can slowly begin to feel more comfortable. Some ideas to start slowly engaging with the outside world again are:

  1. Go for a walk outside everyday if possible

  2. Go to the grocery store in person rather than ordering for delivery

  3. Start to connect with friends and family outdoors

  4. Talk to your work about what to expect if you’ve been working from home

  5. Talk to you doctor if you have a medical condition and are concerned about your risk

  6. Begin engaging in social activities while still taking precautions such as wearing masks.

Have Plan A and maybe Plan B

Anxiety is notorious for making our minds spin and over analyze situations. However, having a plan and making intentional decisions can help us cope with these new (even if they previously were common!) circumstances. For example, if you’re going to a party, you could talk to the host to have an idea of how many people will be there; is it an indoor or outdoor event; do you know most of the people attending? Being able to have a plan to manage the diverse circumstances of a social gathering, can help us feel more at ease and hopefully enjoy reconnecting with people and the event. Also before participating in a social event, it may be helpful to think about the different parts of activity that might make us anxious, evaluate what we can do to mitigate possible risks, and plan to make accommodations if and when we’re able.

Have self-compassion

Each of us have managed and coped with the pandemic in diverse ways depending our our personal situations. If reintegrating back into social situations seems overwhelming, give yourself the time and space to ease back into it. Showing yourself kindness and patience, since this is not a one-size-fits-all type of situation, allows us to recognize the emotions and fears that we've been coping with since the pandemic first started.

With the hope that the pandemic continues to subside and we can begin to reconnect in person with our friends and loved ones, the anxiety and stress that comes along with this new territory is normal. Anxiety and social anxiety at times needs additional support from a professional if it begins to interfere with your quality of life. Contact Kristin to learn more about anxiety therapy and mindfulness practices to help you cope with your social anxiety.

***The ideas, concepts, and opinions expressed in all Living Openhearted posts are intended to be used for educational purposes only. The author and publisher are not rendering medical advice of any kind, nor are intended to replace medical advice, nor to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any disease, condition, illness, or injury. Authors and publisher claim no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or damage as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material.

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