As vaccination numbers increase and COVID-19 cases decrease, there’s no doubt that the pandemic is winding down. In every sense, it’s great news: there’s less of a chance of you or your loved ones getting sick, our kids are able to look forward to going back to school, and our milestones are able to be celebrated again. However, lockdown restrictions being lifted can be a huge point of anxiety for many people. Do you still feel nervous at the idea of crowds? Does going to

a party again ignite social anxiety that you’ve never experienced before? If so, you’re not alone. The good news is that anxiety, while it may seem insurmountable at the moment, can be chipped away at by taking a measured, steady course of action to slowly re-train your thoughts.

Take Baby Steps

The last thing you want to do after not leaving your house for the better part of the year is to throw yourself into a big crowd. Practice what doctors call “exposure therapy” instead to ease yourself back into the idea of being around a lot of people. That is to say, maybe start by going to the grocery store outside of peak hours. Schedule walks with one friend instead of going to a party with a lot of people. Start by getting your mind around the idea of being around many different people. This practice could take a while, so have patience and trust within yourself! 

Don’t Do This Alone

Anxiety, especially social anxiety, can feel incredibly isolating. You might feel as though no one understands what you’re going through internally, but that’s where you’re mistaken. By reaching out to even one person, you can reduce your feeling of loneliness exponentially. Having a buddy throughout the process of re-introduction into society can help you both ease into this new society more seamlessly. 

Start Soon and Keep Practicing

Summer is approaching and with it is life as we knew it pre-2020. That means the sooner you start to reacclimate yourself to this new world, the more natural it’s going to feel. The longer you wait to start going out, the harder it’s going to be, especially as you start to notice more and more people getting comfortable in public again. By starting early and practicing often, you’re setting yourself up to be a fully functioning member of society sooner, which is the goal!

Make Bigger Goals Every Time You Achieve One

Were you able to go to a grocery store? Great, now try the mall. You went to a small backyard barbecue? Good for you, now try eating in a restaurant. Repeat this pattern over and over until each goal sounds a little less scary and little more attainable every time. By slowly increasing your tolerance over time, you’re more likely to stick with your overall goal to living an anxiety-free, post-COVID lifestyle.

Ask for Help

As always, if these feelings of anxiety are consuming you and you can’t find a way out, help is always available. Speaking to a licensed counselor about your anxiety can be a great option to move the process along more seamlessly. For some people, re-entry will be easy. But for others, intervention might be necessary. Both options are normal, so never be afraid to reach out.