Many of us have been playing an extended game of peek-a-boo with the outside world for the past week or so. While businesses begin to open up in the wake of the initial surge of COVID-19, and neighbors and peers seem to relax, feelings of stress and anxiety are on the rise for others.
Are we happy that toilet paper is once again stocked on the shelves? Of course. Is it thrilling to see grocery store lines shorten drastically as the original hysteria tapers? Truly.
The fear of a very real public health risk is 100% justified—COVID-19 has not suddenly ceased to exist. The idea of stacking our little black books with social obligations can feel like a whole new level of angst.
First of all, anyone who feels this way is so far from alone. These last three months have flown by, but they’ve also felt like a year. It’s the definition of social hibernation, no matter how plugged in we managed to be on social media and news outlets.
In fact, we’ve relied on our devices far too much for sound bites, information, and comfort. There are so many studies out there indicating that social media can heighten or exacerbate feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. If anxiety is something you’re feeling about reacclimatizing with the outside world, try dialing back your screen time. Set a timer for social media, and set up your screen-time alerts to let you know how much time you’re clocking on your device so that you can set personal goals for yourself to lower it.
Remember to be easy on yourself. You are certainly not expected to jump back into business as usual. There is nothing “usual” or casual about the state of the world right now, and if you need baby steps to get out the door, take those tiny steps at your own pace. Let any FOMO take a backseat—you’re not missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime bar hop, even if your favorite party-girl friend paints it that way.
Start small. Have a friend over or go to a friend’s place. Sit outside and bring your own drinks and food. Don’t forget your mask too! Avoid crowded areas for a while—skip bars and restaurants, especially if you’re worried about a second pandemic wave. There is no practical need to push yourself into social situations that make you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
Stick with a routine that makes you feel productive, balancing both work and self-care. Take time to stretch and move. Lovingly prepare nourishing food for yourself, and also allow yourself some fun guilty pleasure takeout.
Don’t allow yourself to feel pressure from colleagues and friends to have an active social life outside the comforts of your home before you’re confident about it. Your health—both physical and mental—is your number one priority and concern, and no one else gets to dictate that for you. Stick to your small, personal goals that allow you to re-enter safely. No cold plunge necessary. The world will still be there when you’re ready.