Are you ready to be stepping back into social interactions? A year ago, the whole world seemed to be shut down. Schools were closed, restaurants were closed. Everyone was in panic mode as COVID-19 forced its way into our lives. It was a scary, unknown, and traumatic time for many of us. We cried, we worried, we felt lonely and scared. There was a lot of prayer, and we grieved missed opportunities. We held the loved ones in our homes a little tighter.
Where Are We a Year Later?
A whole year later, COVID-19 is still here, but we have made big strides as many are getting vaccinated. Doctors are finding more and more successful ways to treat COVID-19. Many people are feeling a little more comfortable with face to face interactions, but that comfort level varies from person to person.
For some people, stepping back into social interactions with others feels scary and overwhelming. It’s almost as if some of us need to “retrain” ourselves for these social encounters.
You may find that you have tried attending a small gathering, such as dinner at a friend’s house, or your regular church service and have felt anxious and overwhelmed about being in a group of people. Many of us probably began to worry about everything from the person sniffling from allergies, to touching the same surface someone else touched.
Maybe the noise level of being around people feels too loud after many months of peace and quiet in your home. Whatever fears and anxieties you may be experiencing, you are certainly not alone. After months of being isolated and alone, it is going to take some getting used to for many of us.
How do we start stepping back in to social interactions?
So, how do we ease back into society after a whole year of social distancing and for many, social isolation?
Start with Baby Steps
If you find that you are anxious about being around people after social distancing, then the worst thing you can do is to show up somewhere with a large group of people. Start small.
Meet with a friend outside. Or, if this is something you have already been doing, go to dinner with one person at a time when a restaurant is not crowded. Perhaps, you may decide to attend your monthly club meeting, but it may be good to stand in the back of the room. This way you can make a quick exit to avoid the after-meeting mingling.
If you are struggling with social anxiety, make sure that you give yourself space to take small steps and ease your way back into being social.
Maybe you are feeling anxious because your friends are all ready to carry on as normal, and you are not. That is ok. It is wise to go ahead and think through or even write down your boundaries, so that when invitations or situations arise, you already know how you will respond. For example, maybe you are still not comfortable eating inside of restaurants.
If an invitation comes along, you will more easily be able to decline if you have already set this boundary for yourself. Making these decisions ahead of time will help you to feel more in control when these situations arise.
Be Prepared to Feel Drained
For some, getting back into society may feel exhausting and draining to us. A certain amount of mental and emotional energy is spent being around people. After a whole year of limited social interactions, it may feel exhausting for you to be around people at first. This is a normal feeling.
The more you venture out into society, when you are ready, the more your brain and body will remember your “pre-COVID” ways and your body will adjust back.
Reach Out for Help
If social anxiety is becoming too much, or, if COVID related anxiety or depression has really taken its toll on you, please reach out to us for help. This is a hard and emotional time for many of us, and the therapists at Waters Edge Counseling are here to help. We want you to be living a life of freedom and success. Give us a call at 912-319-5552 or use our easy online scheduling tool. We are here for you!