5 Tips to Deal with Anxiety About Post-Pandemic Socializing
This summer feels significantly different than last year. This time last year we were hunkered down in our homes, trying our best to be safe by socially distancing, wearing masks, sanitizing everything we touched, and hoping not to get COVID. We canceled our vacations, our celebrations, and ‘Zoom’ became the buzzword.
This summer feels like we have come to the other end of the dark tunnel of fear and anxiety, seeing the light in the form of shared laughter and hugs.
There is an increased sense of safety due to vaccines. The CDC has lifted most of the restrictions. We are even talking about a regular, in-person academic year and going back to workplaces in person!
Still, some of us are not feeling comfortable traveling and participating in a large gathering. Some do not want to resume going to the office in person. And that's okay. It is normal to have some anxiety surrounding the effectiveness of the vaccines and new emerging variants of COVID.
The challenge is harder for people who suffer from social anxiety disorders. The pandemic was a blessing for them. They were happy working from home and socializing on Zoom. Now, when everything is opening back up, their anxiety is crawling back in. Attending a get-together or an event in person is more difficult because their social skills are rusty due to minimal or no socialization for 18 months. In addition, there is still the lingering fear of contacting COVID-19 or its variants.
What is the accepted protocol now? Can we shake hands or should we elbow-bump and air high-five instead? How far should we stand from each other? What if a friend has recently been on a vacation and wants to meet? You might not feel comfortable meeting her yet. It is alright if you are not ready. It is okay if you do not want to attend a wedding or a graduation party due to a large crowd.
Here are a few tips for managing social situations:
Choose your social gathering - You might not feel comfortable socializing with all of your family and friends. You might trust some people more than others. Start meeting people individually or in a very small crowd. Check back with yourself to see how that feels and then move forward.
Be honest - Speak up your mind. Express your opinion. Others may not agree with you but you are entitled to your opinion.
Check your comfort level - Gather information about the number of people attending the event, their vaccination status, and the rules of engagement. If you do not feel comfortable then deny the invitation and make arrangements to meet the host separately.
Make informed decisions that work for you - The CDC is allowing vaccinated people to not wear a mask in public, except for a few places like hospitals. But if you are more comfortable wearing a mask, then go ahead and wear it.
Practice your social skills - Practice casual, small talk with your partner or someone you trust. Review the strategies that work for you before the pandemic. It’s okay to just observe and build your confidence when you first engage socially.
The important thing is feeling safe and comfortable in the social environment. Allow yourself some time to reenter the social scene and get used to it.