Coming out of Lock Down With Social Anxiety

I expect you like most people during this pandemic have been spending a lot of time in your home practicing social distancing measures and some people even quarantine. Many of us have utilized modern technology to eliminate the feeling of isolation and loneliness. Our family is the only person we have actually seen over the last couple of months. Just the thought that my husband is the only person I’ve had a face to face conversation with in the last three months freaks me out. But it is the truth. And even though I am ever so excited to talk to a friend in person – I am worried I have lost the capability to make conversation with anyone other than my husband.

Over the last couple of months the world has been so quiet that initially it was almost frightening to see streets so empty, schools deserted and stores closed. I imagined this is what it would have felt like to be in the Walking Dead TV show or in the Blackbird movie. What was at first daunting, was later met with please – empty streets allowed you to walk freely (wearing a mask of course), noises from the outside world died down. Animals were leaving freely among us, goats walking in Wales, ducks taking over fountains and rivers. A stillness was gifted to us that most of us never had in our lifetimes. And after a while, this silence and desertedness became the new normal. It is therefore logical to expect yourself to struggle getting back into the pace of the old world. My first expectation was to hang out with friends every day when things got back to normal but now, I really think as much as we needed to ease into this time, we need to ease out.

Many of us for the first time might feel social anxiety. A feeling of doubting yourself and not being confident on how to be around people anymore. We might feel suddenly overwhelmed by social cues or nonverbal communication. Conversation is like a dance, we have steps we follow and hints we look out for. As we haven’t been exposed to these for a long time, some of us might have become more sensitive towards signals we might get from other people or forget how the steps go.

Especially with the fears of a pandemic hanging over our heads, it might be harder for you to relax in a public setting or even around friends you have known for a long time. You may find yourself not enjoying their presence at the beginning or not knowing how to. Perhaps you also remember things differently, better than they actually were. Its always the things we can’t have that seem better looking back. We never remember the rainy days of last year’s summer, but only the days were sunshine lived up to our expectations giving us memorable experiences. You might expect to meet them to laugh the whole time, and feel leaving disappointed crawling back into your own space to find enjoyment.

And I am here to say it is ok. It’s ok if you go out there and feel overwhelmed and intimidated by the amount of people and noises. It’s ok if you see a friend and notice “hey, this is nice but really not that great. I miss the company of my Reality TV”. It’s ok if you go to the office and crave for home after the second day. In a way we can choose to see this pandemic as a pause button to stop and re-balance our lives. You will not become a social outcast and you will not be isolated because you have turned down your life a notch.

I urge you to slowly get back into real life. Only go into the office when you can and ask to work from home the other days- if you are able to. Start slowly with meeting friends, start with once a week. Perhaps meet at their place first instead of going full out being thrown into the craziness of the world. Be proactive in taking it slow and check in with yourself. You will find you are not only happier, but also healthier. It’s ok to come out of this lock down still wanting to spend some time alone. In the end you are the only person who you will actually spend your entire life with. And life’s too short not to be spent in good company.

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