Hot vax summer has officially begun. Many of us are eagerly jumping into barbecues, clubs, and group hangs. Your Facebook event invites are on fire. Your texts are blowing up. Not sure how to handle the sudden change? Read our 3 tips for re-entering the world on your own terms.
There Will Always Be More Parties
After nearly two years under lockdown and the threat of Delta and Lambda variants creeping into our newsfeeds, it’s easy to feel like we need to make the most of this summer. If this season is only a brief respite, we need to have a belated celebration for every lockdown wedding or birth. We need to taste homemade food at all of our relatives’ homes and joyfully dance in all of our favorite clubs that survived a difficult year for venues.
However, quickly committing to every event on offer will burn us out. Time spent with our favorite people in long missed places can turn joyful events into a burden. More holidays and celebrations are ahead of us. While we can make educated guesses, we can’t tell the future of how the world will recover after 2020. Budgeting our time spent can help us enjoy celebrations as they come without making a chore of the time we get to spend together with our loved ones.
Set a boundary with yourself for how many events you’re willing to attend in a week. Set a budget for how much time you need to allocate to:
Any other life maintenance responsibilities
WIth that remaining time, decide how many days a week you can step out to party. Budgeting your time can sound simple, but it also can shed light on whether you’re getting enough self care or giving too much of yourself away to your career or academics. You might be able to identify moments where you could use support.
Fear Vs Anxiety
In February 2020, many of us would have described ourselves as extroverts. As time wore on and we began to live more of our lives through screens, so many of us would still describe ourselves as extroverts being held back by a global pandemic.
Why is it that so many extroverts are struggling with the return of in person gatherings? According to Dr. Erica Sanborn, a Los Angeles-based licensed clinical psychologist, “re-entry anxiety may be due to a fear of getting sick or spreading COVID-19, or because social and other skills associated with pre-pandemic life have atrophied in the past year of isolation.” The American Psychological Association (APA) reported that 49% of Americans feel anxious about returning to in-person interactions post-COVID-19.
According to Dr. Sanborn, “Many people felt depressed and hopeless during COVID-19 because we were helpless or defeated by the realities of lockdown and a deadly virus,” said Sanborn. “Now that we can safely re-enter the world, our anxiety that once served a protective function is making it hard to engage in the very activities that would help lift us out of our depression.”
To conquer this, Sanborn suggests determining whether you’re feeling fear versus anxiety in specific moments of distress. “Fear is a healthy response to real risk — it keeps us safe. But anxiety is created in the mind, and is maintained by anxious thoughts (imagining the worst case scenario, worry) and anxious behaviors (compulsions and avoidance),” explains Sanborn.
When you’re feeling distressed, pause. If possible, move to a quiet space. Take stock of how your body feels. Where are you tense? How is your breathing?
If you are feeling tense, relax your muscles. Take long, focused breaths. When we are triggered, our nervous system responds by making us tensed and ready to respond if we are in a truly dangerous situation. To determine the true nature of the situation, we need to transition our bodies from fight or flight to rest and digest. Once your body feels less tense, take stock of your situation. Are you truly in danger or feeling anxious? Respond as needed.
Start Small, and Start Fast
Some people might relish the idea of diving head first into a mosh pit on the first day covid regulations expire. Many of us need more of a nudge.
SCL Health recommends starting small by going on low stakes adventures with people you already know. They also recommend responding to any social anxiety concerns as quickly as possible to avoid both short and long term impacts to mental health.
Is the Ikea near you way too far away without making a day trip of it? Have a favorite hike that you haven’t laid eyes on in a while? Approach friends and put a date on the calendar to do an enjoyable activity. If you begin to feel dread and anxiety ahead of time, remember to be kind to yourself. Take it easy before and after the event to make sure that you’re appropriately charged up on self care and personal time. Keep in mind that your “social battery” may need more recharging time than you’re used to.
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