We are coming up on a year of social isolation. The general assumption is that as more of us get vaccinated, life will become one big celebration. Everyone will be partying and happy and all will be swell again!
For some of us, that may be the case, and if so, hooray!
However, I’m dedicating this post to those who are feeling anxious about things getting back to “normal.” Because for you, this still doesn’t feel normal. For you, this pandemic has been a trauma that has deeply limited your ability and your desire to be around others.
Because for you, the thought of going out with friends and having “fun” when all of this is over seems impossible. For you, there is nothing to talk about. You feel stuck. You feel hopeless. You don’t know how to get out of it.
The existential crisis that forced itself to the front of your mind has yet to be resolved, which makes small talk challenging on a good day, torturous on a bad one.
I want you to know that you are not alone. More people are feeling this way than you realize.
And when it is time to start socializing again, it’s going to take some getting used to. It may bring up feelings of social anxiety and insecurity. However, being around others may actually help you to get out of this funk.
Here are a few ideas that might help you feel more ready to reintegrate yourself back into your social life when the time comes.
Start in small groups with people you trust and feel comfortable with.
If the thought of going to a party or bar with a bunch of people is making your skin crawl, don’t go! Do not jump into the deep end if you don’t remember how to swim. Slowly dip your toes into the water by planning a small, intimate hangout with a few people you miss and would truly like to see. You may be surprised to find that you do in fact know what you’re doing.
Make sure you’re taking good care of yourself leading up to the gathering.
When we don’t feel like we are in a healthy mental state, it can feel exhausting to have conversations with others. And if you’re feeling too emotionally spent to be around people, that’s okay.
However, if there is a small part of you that is yearning for human connection, listen to it. Do what you can to prepare yourself so you are less in your head and more present with others. Doing so will increase the likelihood that you will enjoy yourself. Some ideas include:
- Talking to a trusted loved one
- Eating nutritious meals
- Getting a good night’s rest
- Limiting alcohol intake beforehand
- Reading an uplifting self-help book
Create a grounding mantra
A mantra is like an antidote to anxiety. It is a way for your brain to fight off anxious thoughts, and to create new, healthier beliefs about yourself.
When you create a mantra, try to make it believable. When it’s believable, your subconscious mind is more likely to receive the message. Here are some examples:
- I deserve happiness
- I radiate love
- I am a good person
- I am present
- I am safe
- I am breathing
- I am likable
- I am __________
If you’re worried about what to talk about, think of some topics in advance.
When you don’t have a lot going on, it can make you feel like you have nothing to talk about. Spending a little bit of time brainstorming topics can relieve some of that anxiety. And always remember, listening is the most important part of being a good conversationalist.
Think up some questions (and your own answers) before the gathering. Here are some ideas for conversation starters:
- Have you watched any good shows lately?
- Where is the first place you want to go to once we can travel again?
- What are you doing this weekend?
- Have you read any good books during quarantine?
- Cooked anything good lately?
- How are you, really?
Opening up about what’s really been on your mind is also an option, and can help you feel supported by friends. However, if the timing doesn’t feel right, you don’t feel ready, or simply want to keep things light, that’s okay too.
There is still so much we don’t know about covid, how it’s transmitted, how effective the vaccine will be in protecting against it. But you can still do your research to avoid risk.
Keep up-to-date with the latest CDC information. Know who you’re spending time with, how many people they have been interacting with, and what their vaccination status is. Then you can make an informed decision about whether or not you feel safe socializing, at least from a Covid standpoint.
Seek professional help.
For anyone who has experienced social anxiety or depression in the past, it makes sense that your symptoms will feel heightened after this collective trauma. Talking about your fears and your feelings will help you understand them. They don’t have to get in the way of you living your life.
Remember, none of us have been in this kind of situation before. We are all trying to figure out how to navigate it. You’re not alone.