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Accepting and adjusting to the isolation of COVID-19 quarantine has been a trial for almost everyone in the world. Even so, readjusting to social interaction when things begin to reopen will be welcome but also scary.
Accept What COVID Has Changed
Remind yourself, as you ease back into post-COVID socializing, that there is no pressure to act as if COVID never happened. In fact, acting in that way is unhelpful because the COVID-19 pandemic did happen. No amount of denial, wishing away, or attempting to “return to normal” can undo the experiences and challenges that the past year has brought about.
Attempting to act as if everything is “just like before” will only lead you to increased anxiety because you are not the same person you were before the COVID-19 outbreak, and you are not living in the same world. As one article detailed, “there is no going back to exactly how it was. Such a change is neither inherently positive nor negative .”
The person you are now may have some bruises and struggled a great deal in the last year, but you are here on what is hopefully the other side of tragedy – resiliently persevering and learning how to move forward. Accept that reopening society or returning to school or work will not mean there are no COVID guidelines, masks removed, and everything exactly the same as it was before the quarantine.
For example, recognize that even as things reopen, some changes will continue, such as mask-wearing. This will be something to continue adjusting to, as “masks and physical distance make it difficult to read facial expressions and body language .”
You are learning an entirely new way of socialization. Practice having realistic expectations about the ways in which you and society have changed so that you can introduce the stronger and braver version of yourself to a new version of our world.
Recognize Your Limitations
Like learning to ride a bike again, it is possible to readjust to social interaction. However, much like riding a bike, one should not necessarily jump right in where they left off.
The social abilities, skills, and comfort level that you had pre-COVID existed based on an entirely different lifestyle and set of experiences. Socializing post-COVID will likely involve a great deal more fear, discomfort, and anxiety.
You have not spent time with people face-to-face outside of your COVID work and home bubble in a year. Therefore, it will take some time for you to get into the swing of engaging, listening, and conversing in-person again.
These may not have felt like skills before because you had done them for so long you forgot that you once had to learn them to begin with. Recognize that you will need to sharpen these skills once again and give yourself grace in that process.
Ease Yourself Into It
The fears of socializing are not purely related to the ability to converse with another. Socializing in 2020 also became tied to a very real fear of what other people may bring into your space.
Do not expect yourself to jump right into a concert or shopping mall with no anxiety or fear. Instead, begin with increasing your exposure to trusted people in a trusted environment.
Once you adjust to this level of interaction with different people and places, you may go with the same group to a socially distanced restaurant, hike, or activity. Allow yourself to move into this new beginning at your own pace.
Coping After COVID
Even as different countries and areas begin reopening, others remain in quarantine. Maybe you are excited to jump back into society, or maybe, you are planning to remain isolated until things across the globe appear more stable.
Regardless, practicing your coping skills for social anxiety now can help them to work more effectively later. Even if you are feeling calm, work on your grounding, mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and cognitive reframing skills so that you know what works for you and they feel instinctive when the time comes.
There is still so much unknown so, please, be compassionate and gentle with yourself as you explore this potential transition back to socialization.
Resources Fischler, S. (2020). How will Covid-19 influence social anxiety? National Social Anxiety Center. Retrieved from https://nationalsocialanxietycenter.com/2020/08/03/how-will-covid-19-influence-social-anxiety/.
About the Author:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published March 23, 2021, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on March 23, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC