It’s your first time attending a gathering during the pandemic. Although you received your second dose of the vaccination a month ago, you’re still a little hesitant to be surrounded by a group that’s beyond your small circle. As you enter the space, a bothersome feeling begins to grow in your mind. Coping with social anxiety in a post-pandemic state is an undeniably tough hill to overcome, and the return to an in-person environment at your school, job or social setting isn’t going to be easy. 

As we spent more time within the walls of our living spaces and became familiar with lockdown procedures, we developed a new “normal” of spending more time indoors usually in small, quiet settings. The loss of loved ones, a viral spread of an ever-growing disease and isolation left us with an uncertain feeling that began to develop. Although many are looking forward to seeing long-lost coworkers and friends that were only seen via FaceTime, there’s experts proving that not everyone is prepared to be within social settings. In an article by the Cleveland Clinic, clinical psychologist Dawn Potter assured readers it is normal to be anxious about the inescapable return of our previous “normal.”

Potter wrote, “They may stress about questions like, “Am I supposed to hug this person? Should I shake their hand or do an elbow bump? How close should I stand?” 

Although party flyers and after-work hangouts begin to occur, understand that it isn’t a priority to attend everything to make up for lost time. Easing yourself outside of the house is an experience that you don’t have to rush. Try introducing yourself to a concise workout routine at your local gym or visiting a coffee shop to lessen the social anxiety you’d face around more people. Booking your social calendar with events to overwork your time spent in isolation doesn’t have to happen within a weekend, and frankly, your wallet will thank you.

Anxiety can also be ridden within the environment that you escaped in quarantine, such as women of color that are not excited about returning to a work zone that was filled with micro-aggressions. Zoom meetings and confinement comforted us to the point where we felt safe and flexible within our work days. Mental health professionals became increasingly busy as the pandemic began due to anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, so it’s okay to still have your therapist on speed dial to chat about the incoming return to social settings. 

Readjusting to your previous environments can be a process that you’re going to have to casually increase based on your level of comfortability. It might be emotionally and physically exhausting to catch up during a chat or consistently be in a space that isn’t similar to your own. Physical touch as far as a handshake or warm hug inevitably won’t be the same. Just know that you’re not alone and always have an option to decline social settings, and others are definitely experiencing the same awkward social cues as we return to a “post-pandemic” lifestyle.

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