By Sorcha Dunne | @sorchateresadunne
If you have been experiencing increased levels of stress, fear, worry, sadness, or even numbness around attending events since the easing of covid restrictions, you’re not alone.
After spending more time at home than ever over the past two years, it is perfectly normal to feel some anxiety. Don’t worry though you can take steps to help reduce any discomfort you have around re-entering the social scene and make your time at events more enjoyable. Here are some steps you can try out for a gradual re-introduction to events in a post-COVID world.
A common strategy for dealing with anxiety is finding acceptance for it; rather than trying to control and eliminate it. However, this does not mean letting it control you – instead, it means acknowledging its presence and aiming to carry on with your day as if it was not there. Ironically, many people find that it is, in fact, the acceptance of their anxiety that has led to the decrease of its intensity over time.
While anxiety is traditionally considered a “negative” emotion, and there is no doubt that it is unpleasant, it serves a vital role in our protection as it mobilises us to cope with potential danger. With all the uncertainty that came about during the pandemic, feeling fearful about the pace of changes is your mind’s way of making sure you stay alert. This is why you should introduce yourself to anxiety-inducing situations gradually. You could do this by listing the events you would like to start attending again, rank their level of stress or anxiety for you, and start with the lowest activity on the list. In that way, you can gradually build your confidence back up.
Have a Game Plan
While uncertainty can be hard to manage, planning ahead of time can help us feel more comfortable and confident in what we’re doing. For example, let’s say you’re attending a dinner party at a friend’s house; put your outfit together a couple of days before, list a few topics you could start a discussion about, and find out the time you must be there and for how long. It is also good to think of your first few social outings as experiments. Then, after the event, you can revisit the initial worries you had and analyse them. For example, did the feared outcome happen, and if it did, was it as bad as expected? If so, is there anything you can do next time to better prepare for it happening again?
Take Time for Yourself
While attending the events we used to love again is exciting, it can be a lot to take in when all at once, so it’s crucial to find regular time for yourself. Try to shift your focus to the present if you get caught up in worrying about the future and the past. Relaxation, mindfulness or getting outside in nature are excellent ways to help you focus on the present. It can also be helpful to explore your feelings through journaling. Journaling also allows you to track your mood over time and remind yourself of your progress!
It’s easy to feel isolated or lonely when we’re struggling. However, the chances are that someone we know feels the same way! Discussing how you are feeling with someone you trust can be helpful, whether it’s a family member, friend, GP or therapist.