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Conquering the anxiety associated with re-entering society

Oct 22, 2021

Friday the 22nd of October 2021 will be a memorable day for many Victorians as they enjoy ‘Freedom Friday’ and exit a 77-day lockdown and a total of 263 days at home since March last year. While many freedoms have been re-introduced, with more to follow in the coming weeks, the changes are not cause for celebration for everyone.

Many people in Victoria and around the country where similar relaxations have recently occurred have gotten use to life at home and will be understandably apprehensive when re-entering social situations, despite them being the norm for many of us just a couple of years ago. Some people may be extremely excited to get back to doing all the things we previously took for granted, and good luck to them, but it’s rather common to feel anxious about things opening up again, even if you’re also looking forward to it at the same time.

First of all, it’s important to understand that no matter the cause for any anxiousness, your reasons are valid. It could be due to increased COVID-19 cases in the community, being immunocompromised, following the rules still in place or even just feeling very apprehensive about being back in social situations after so long, particularly if you suffer from social anxiety already. Those who do would be, of course, out of practice.

There’s a lot of advice on helping you deal with readjusting to normal life, or ‘COVID-normal’ again out there, below is a selection of tips that may help you navigate the return to socialising.

Don’t rush
Just because restrictions ease, doesn’t mean you have to do anything different on the first day or weekend. Some people might want to book out their schedule and that’s fine, but if the very thought of that exhausts you, then perhaps do something low key like visit a friend at their home (if you’re eligible to) and just have a cup of tea. You don’t need several dinners, drinks and a slew of visitors to your home all of a sudden. You have every right to dip your toe into this new found freedom instead of jumping into the deep end.

Some friends and family might be expecting you to be out and about and accept every and any invitation to do something that you may receive. If you don’t feel like doing so, that’s okay. If you explain to your loved ones that you’re feeling apprehensive about exiting lockdown or don’t want to put too much on your plate suddenly after months of next to nothing, they’ll likely understand. Then they can adjust how they communicate with you and won’t judge you for not getting up to much over a weekend, as well as not overburdening you with invites and requests.

Focus on the fun
You may have lots of options for activities now, and it’s understandable that you might not feel like doing some or all of them. If you have a myriad of options, although an enviable position for some, for others it can be an overwhelming proposition entirely. If you’re not sure what to do or what invites to accept, think about what you really enjoy doing and which friends and family make you feel the best when you’re around them. If you are happiest out on the links, your one activity over a weekend might be golf with friends or on your own, while for others it may be catching up on gossip over a rom-com at their place and enjoying seeing each other in person for the first time in a long time. Find what fills your cup up the most and stick to those activities. Remember quality over quantity.

Look out for your energy levels
Many of us are used to working from home and not doing a lot else on weekends or weeknights and for many months in the past year and a half or so, and we’ve adjusted accordingly. A week full of plans could see us easily burn out and not have the ability to function effectively at work. Even if you’re someone that usually thrives on a packed social calendar, you might find yourself struggling with tiredness and decreased energy levels after lockdown because you’re not ‘socially fit’ like you may have been years ago. Don’t overload your schedule and keep nights free just for yourself or to spend with those you live with doing things that fulfil you. It’s also important to not suddenly abandon good habits you may have developed during lockdown now that socialising is an option. If you started reading more or regularly going for a run, make sure to still prioritise those types of activities and set aside time for them. It’s important to still focus on yourself and listen to what your body and importantly your mind needs as we all adjust to our new found freedoms.

For more tips and advice on managing social anxiety as we all adapt to COVID-normal life, check out Beyond Blue’s blog.

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