Entering the World again & Managing the Anxiety that Comes with it
Canada is slowly opening up again, and with this change you may be experiencing some anxiety as you consider how to navigate the social world once more. For many of us the only in person social contact we have had for the past 4 months is with a handful of people, and the concept of ordering or being served food while in the presence of friends feels positively ancient.
Having limited social contact for an extended period of time can reduce your tolerance of the novel stimuli that come with socializing (like loud laughter, dogs barking, cutlery clinking) and make these situations feel overwhelming. Below are some tips to help you navigate this anxiety..
1. Know your boundaries. Who and where? Reflect on what you are comfortable with before scheduling social plans. Are there certain friends you are comfortable to invite into your bubble, and others you would prefer to see with a mask on? Are you comfortable visiting patios, or would you prefer socializing in quiet parks? Take time to think it through.
2. Start small. If you have been inside for most of the day, most days in the past 4 months, spending a day outdoors shopping, or seeing a friend for multiple hours may be too big of a change to start. Consider planning one social event once or twice a week, with a small number of people.
3. Practice coping in advance of socializing. Use strategies that work for you to ground yourself for a few minutes before you head out to meet your company. Some examples could be belly breathing, exercise, or checking your thoughts. If you are unsure what strategies would work for you consider speaking to your therapist to learn new strategies, or brainstorm.
4. Take coping strategies with you. Reflect on what strategies you could use in the moment as anxiety arises. This might mean keeping some notes on your phone to remind yourself to breathe, or bringing and object with you that helps you to ground and focus on the present moment.
5. Lastly, and above all, be gentle with yourself during this time of change and adaptation! You are not alone in this experience! Reach out to your therapist, or other social supports if you think you could use some extra support.