Healthy Mind

I’m a Psychotherapist, and Here Are My 3 Best Tips for Dealing With Social Anxiety Post-Quarantine

Minaa B.

Photo: Getty Images/Hinterhaus Productions
As we work on transitioning back to normalcy, with recommendations around masking and social distancing loosening, a lot of folks are excited to gather again, whether for weekend brunch, birthday gatherings, or any other fun social events. This excitement may be especially pronounced due to the season's association with the very essence of fun. But while this shift to increased socializing is exactly what some have been craving, for others, its more so a point of dread. If you're experiencing social anxiety post-quarantine, though, rest assured that it makes total sense.

Amid the pandemic, there has been a spike in people reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression, which has risen by 11 percent since 2019, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. According to research published in the journal Nature, this uptick in distress stems—at least in part—from the experience of a sustained lack of social interactions due to living in isolation while constantly navigating fears related to COVID-19 and its side effects.

And now, many folks have adjusted to this life in isolation, so the thought of emerging from its cocoon of safety and can be uncomfortable. It is quite valid, for instance, for people to be worried about the possibility of having to go back to an office if they prefer the flexibility of the remote working situation they've adopted during the pandemic. The same is true of worries related to seeing more crowds of people in spaces that have been desolate or minimally frequented since the start of the pandemic. Ultimately, if you are feeling social anxiety about post-quarantine life, you're not alone, but you're also not without recourse. There are tips and tools available to help you manage your fears and emerge from isolation comfortably.

Below, get 3 tips to help you cope with social anxiety post-quarantine

1. Think about your boundaries

During the pandemic, a lot of people found themselves using language they weren’t used to saying, such as “no” or “I”m not hanging out during the pandemic,” and that's great. Practicing boundaries is essential for your well-being. Knowing your limits is needed in order to keep you safe and protected. So just because the world around us is starting the process of transitioning back to certain pre-pandemic ways of being doesn’t mean you have to go back to your old habits.

Think about what boundaries you want to implement within these three dimensions: time, physical, and emotional. Then share them with your co-workers, friends, and families.

You still get to decide what you want to expose yourself to and what you don’t. I suggest you think about what boundaries you want to implement within these three dimensions: time, physical, and emotional. Then start sharing them with your co-workers, friends, and families.

2. Self-regulate through self-soothing

If you're someone who has been working remotely during the pandemic, it's possible that you may find yourself in a position where you are being called back into the office, even if you're not ready to go there. There may not be a way to get out of that reality, but there are ways you can work through your difficult emotions around this by practicing self-soothing techniques to regulate your feelings.

When we are emotionally dysregulated, our executive functioning skills are compromised, which can lead to poor choices and an inability to effectively problem-solve. To help combat this, when you feel emotionally overwhelmed and anxious, try to engage in practices that bring you back to your center, such as the 54321 method, meditation, deep breathing, and engaging with sensory items like a stress ball.

3. Stay connected

Because anxiety is rooted in fear and worry, sometimes these types of thoughts can lead to even more isolation and disconnection from others. Since pandemic life has been a time when it's been especially difficult to cultivate connection, it’s imperative that we do the work of staying together and gathering in community instead of drifting apart.

Given that you don’t have to share a physical space with someone in order to be connected to them, I encourage you to utilize the people in your circle and find ways to connect either virtually or in person within the boundaries of whatever makes you feel most comfortable. Other sources of community support can look like using apps, like Quilt or Yoni Circle, to make friends or joining online groups, like cooking classes or book clubs to stay connected.

The pandemic has been hard for every single person, so show yourself grace and compassion as you step into this new season, as you ease into social situations.

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