It’s what we’ve been waiting to hear since March of 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic is starting to turn the corner. With wide availability of the vaccine across the country, certain social distancing and mask restrictions have loosened up for vaccinated individuals, allowing family, friends and coworkers to safely interact with each other in-person after over a year.
For some, getting back to social interaction will be seamless. For others, anxiety may linger. It’s important to note that this feeling is natural. The precautions taken during this pandemic were unlike anything we’ve experienced in our lifetime, and highly enforced habits aren’t easy to shake. That’s why we’re here to provide some tips for overcoming these social hurdles when reentering the “normal” world.
Slowly but surely
No one removes the training wheels immediately when you’re learning to ride a bike. This could be put similarly for going back into the social world. If you’re particularly anxious about gatherings, take it slow.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that fully-vaccinated people have little risk for infection outdoors, so small events like cookouts, happy hours or bonfires with friends who have gotten their shots is an easy and safe way to dip your feet back in the water.
Control what you can
We live in a time of constantly differing views, and we can expect that to continue even as COVID-19 becomes more manageable. Some people will choose to continue wearing masks to prevent themselves from other illnesses, while others may never want to put one on again.
What’s important to remember is that the only things you can control are you and your decisions. As things reopen, don’t feel pressured to do anything that you feel isn’t right for yourself. Giving yourself this power can be a productive method to getting past certain anxiety points.
Be kind to yourself
During the heat of quarantine, you probably heard a thing or two about the importance of self-care. In case you forgot, taking care of your physical and mental health is one of the best ways to help us adjust to our changing world. As you deal with the nerves of sending your child back to school in-person or heading back into the office, take the time to assure that you’re in the right headspace. Maintain constant communication with your thoughts through journaling or meditation. On a tight schedule? A quick session of breathing exercises also can help.
While being your own biggest ally is important to facing anxieties, it’s equally as important to seek professional help if you need it. Talk therapy is widely available through many different services, so we encourage you to explore your options if needed. Check with your health plan to see what resources may be available to you through your health insurance.
Jeff Greshak, MSW, LMSW, ACSW is the director of the Behavioral Health Department at Priority Health. He has more than 30 years of experience in clinical and administrative behavioral health services.