The COVID-19 pandemic changed so much about the way we live our lives, but after such a long time living with restrictions in place, returning to the way things were beforehand might seem daunting.
As things begin to open back up you may be experiencing mixed feelings about returning to the way things were before. If you are feeling worried or anxious this is completely understandable. Change can be difficult and going back to a fast paced lifestyle may feel overwhelming. Take things slowly and at your own pace. Remind yourself that everyone is different and you do not have to be ready to do something just because those around you are.
Six tips for dealing with social anxiety after COVID-19 restrictions
It’s okay to take things slow and go at your own pace. Here are some ways to ease yourself back in:
1. Prioritise what you enjoyed before the pandemic
If you are feeling overwhelmed about going back into society, it can be helpful to ask yourself what it was about life pre-COVID that you enjoyed. Did you enjoy going to college, going to work or training with the team you played for? Did you enjoy meeting friends and family, going to the cinema and museums, or going dancing on a night out? Whatever it was that brought you happiness, think about that and make a list of your favourite activities.
When you have your list made you might realise that although you enjoyed certain things, you do not feel ready to do them straight away once you’re allowed to. For example, you might feel comfortable going to the gym on your own but do not feel ready to start training again in a large group. Remember, you are allowed to take things at your own pace and prioritise what makes you feel good, and in doing so, you help to support your overall well being and adjustment.
2. Let people know what you are comfortable with
Talking to your friends or family before they start making plans and letting them know how you are feeling and what you are ready for can help to create plans on your terms. Everyone has been in the same situation for the past while, and the reality is that many people will be feeling the same way you do.
Letting those closest to you know what you are happy to do and what you would rather avoid can help to create plans that work for everyone. If you only feel comfortable meeting up with someone alone or in smaller groups let your friends know that and give them options to spend time together that will make you comfortable.
3. Spend time with smaller groups to ease yourself back into things
Looking forward to seeing friends or family but not sure you are ready to see them all at once? Feeling this way is absolutely fine and you do not have to put yourself in social situations that you are not comfortable with. Reach out to those you are ready to see and do so in a way that works for you.
If someone asks you to do something you feel you are not ready for, it can help to offer an alternative suggestion that would work for you both. Remember, you are not the only person who will be feeling this way and you do not need to explain yourself if you feel someone will not understand. Everyone is different and what is important is that you prioritise your safety and wellbeing, and the safety of others.
4. It’s okay to say no
Saying “no” can sometimes be hard, as you might feel under pressure to make a friend or family member happy by doing what they want. But saying “no” isn’t selfish or rude and thinking about it as a way of prioritising your health and happiness can make it easier to say it.
If someone asks you to do something it can at times feel easier to agree to it and then cancel nearer to the time, but doing this can often lead to increased anxiety as the even gets closer. Saying “no” in the first place means that you are not giving someone false expectations and can help to decrease any guilt you might feel about not being able to turn up.
If someone feels hurt by you turning down their invite explaining to them how you are feeling can help show them that your refusal is not a reflection on them, but how you are feeling at that time. If you explain the situation to someone and they get angry or upset this is not your fault and they should not put pressure on you to do something you are not ready for. Those who care about you should understand where you are coming from and it can be difficult if they don’t, but this doesn’t mean you have to change your mind to make them happy.
5. Talk to your employer about working from home
If you are working and you’re in a job that can be done from home, you might be feeling anxious about the idea of returning to the office. Before the pandemic began many of us spent time commuting to work and this could be time consuming and often stressful. If you have found you have enjoyed the option of working from home and would rather not go back to the office full-time, by speaking to your employer you may be able to find a new arrangement that works for both you and your job.
If you are feeling worried or anxious about going back to the office, speaking to your employer about this might help them see things from your point of view. Some of your colleagues might be feeling the same way as you and would also like to spread their time across working in the office and at home. Talking to your employer is the only way you will be able to know if this option is possible and going to them ahead of time with a plan may help to show them how the situation could be beneficial to your work and wellbeing.
6. Talk to someone about your worries
If you are feeling anxious or worried about life after lockdown, speaking to someone about it can help. You can reach out to friends or family members, or you might consider going for counselling. If you’re not sure where to start with getting help, you can talk to your GP about your mental health and ask for advice. Talking to someone about how you feel can help you to process what you are going through and find ways to help manage your worries and emotions.
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