After getting used to staying at home, keeping social distance, and mask-wearing, relating to others after quarantine is another big adjustment. One question that often comes up is how-can-I-feel-less-nervous-socializing-after-quarantine? There are many factors that come into play including fear of the unknown, anxiety, confusion, feeling overwhelmed, and socially being out of practice.
According to a recent pandemic-report by the American Psychological Association, nearly half of Americans (49%) said they feel uneasy about adjusting to in-person interaction once the pandemic ends and 46% of adults do not feel comfortable going back to living life like they did before the pandemic.
I know for me, the first time I no longer wore a mask in places/ situations that previously required a mask I felt weird and even a bit uncomfortable. There was confusion at times. Do I still wear a mask at ____? Do I ask others if they are vaccinated? Do I require others to wear a mask? What if someone tries to make physical contact with me? How do I respond? There is an element of awkwardness in so many of these situations.
I anticipate that there will likely be awkward moments as we continue to relate to others after quarantine. At CARE Counseling, I recently moved back into my office space after over a year of providing exclusively telehealth. This week, I will begin to offer in-person sessions, following our clinic’s protocol. While some clients are excited to come in-person, others do not feel ready or prefer telehealth. Also, while some clinicians are ready for in-person therapy, others are choosing to do 100% telehealth. It is so important to respect where each person is at individually, as we get to choose. There is no obligation to do anything that does not feel comfortable.
You are encouraged to prepare such as asking questions ahead of time that could help you feel more comfortable with social interactions. Despite preparation, there are bound to be awkward moments. A light-hearted approach can be helpful with normalizing these experiences. Whatever emotions that may be coming up for you, these feelings are valid. Others are feelings the same or similar emotions. Isolation has been hard and mental health has been impacted by some many. Taking care of your physical and mental health will better prepare you to cope with the stressors of relating to others. Practicing tips for coping and strategies to-help-manage anxiety associated with social-anxiety can be helpful.
As we are navigating the stressors of relating to others after quarantine, please remember to be kind to yourself and others. Not everyone is at the same place and things that may seem like a little deal for one person may be a significant source of distress for another. If you are struggling with adjustment difficulties, anxiety, panic, intrusive thoughts, or fears related to socializing, therapy is a great place to address these concerns in a safe and supportive environment.
As we begin to relate to others after quarantine, here are some things to keep in mind:
• Small steps are OK
• Prepare yourself in advance
• Normalize the awkward
• Your feelings are valid
• You are not alone
• Take care of yourself
• Practice skills
• Be kind to yourself and others
• Consider professional help
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