After more than a year of shelter in place, masks, no crowds, no hugging, and no family gatherings, things are opening up thanks to all the precautions we’ve taken over the past year, and three effective vaccines now in play.
But people may be feeling a little anxiety, perhaps even a little fear, about going back into crowds and interacting with people in-person. How do we deal with this idea of in-person social interaction after a year or more without doing it?
The Mental Health Center of Denver, on their website mhcd.org, offers some tips on how to handle post-pandemic anxiety. The key is to ease back into social situations and remember that many others may be experiencing and feeling the same things you are. In other words, like the pandemic, in a post-pandemic world, we’re all in this together.
In an article titled “Post-Pandemic Anxiety: How to Handle Re-entering Society,” on mhcd.org, health writer Courtney Hanrahan outlines a few tips for re-entry.
Anxiety – what is it?
Anxiety is a general feeling of dis-ease or worrying about the future. As people begin to enter the “new normal” of a post-pandemic life, some might feel like they are entering a foreign space. When the pandemic began, we went from our familiar lives to a foreign situation of isolation. It has been more than a year since the pandemic began, so now, social interaction might feel like the less-familiar, foreign environment, increasing our anxiety.
But, we have muscle memory.
And the good thing is, the duration of our time of ‘togetherness’ before the pandemic is longer than the duration of the pandemic itself. So, although entering a post-pandemic world might feel foreign at first, we can ease ourselves into it by taking small, baby steps.
How do I cope with being around other people?
Repetition and easing back into things may solve some discomfort. What wouldn’t help is avoidance.
For example, if your employer is returning to in-person operations, take it slow and start by simply visiting the office.
Just go and see how it feels. Try it on. Dipping a toe in and realizing the water isn’t that cold can help trigger that muscle memory. It helps you remember you’ve been there before and it’s safe.
How do I handle the unknown?
A lot of anxiety comes from the unknown, which has been the hallmark of this pandemic. We can find comfort and decrease anxiety by going back to what we do know.
Think about what you have done throughout the pandemic to keep yourself safe and focus on what is in your control. For example, you can wear a mask, wash your hands, meet people outdoors and get vaccinated. Utilize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and COVID-19 updates from the state of California to stay informed.
In addition, add some structure and predictability into your day.
Scheduling lunch, a walk or an event you can look forward to creates predictability, which can decrease anxiety
We’re in this together.
Anxiety skyrockets when you are the only one feeling that way. Discussing our anxiety around a post-pandemic world openly with friends, family and coworkers can help.
No one is alone in this anxiety of the unknown. It’s a very normal thing to feel. We might not know what it’s going to look like moving forward. But we can have faith that we’re in this together.