How to handle the world reopening
Have you got a slight lump in your throat about the world going back to normal? Well, you’re not alone!
According to recent studies about the general public reaction, 46% of people admitted they are anxious about socialising, 30% said they wouldn't go to a busy shopping centre and 23% said they would feel uncomfortable using public transport. When it comes to FOMO, less than 18% of participants said it was a concern.
After over a year of Zoom drinks, endless takeaways and an overall lack of socialising, many would think people are eager to go back to normality, but the stats clearly show otherwise. According to Carle Marie Manly, P.h.D, clinical psychologist and author of ‘Joy From Fear’, there is a clear explanation for the general state of anxiety: ‘For many people, adjusting to pandemic life took a significant toll mentally and physically. And, just as the new routines become familiar and accepted, new changes are on the horizon.’ Aimee Daramus, Psy. D, clinical psychologist, explains it further: ‘Now is time we really face our losses. A job you’ll never go back to. People who’ve passed away, and you knew that, but you’ll be in the world without them’.
If you feel uncomfortable even in the slightest about the world gradually going back to normal, there are some baby steps you can take to make the transition smoother.
1. It’s on your own terms!
Whilst we’re on a road map to going back to normal, remind yourself that the transition is very gradual. We’re still a little way away from being in crowds with lots of strangers, and there are still plenty of regulations in place to keep everyone safe, and you are in full control of the boundaries you establish. ‘Turning down an invitation to a large gathering once they’re allowed is more than acceptable. Will you ever be able to go to a big party? Of course, but you don’t know when and that’s ok!’ says clinical psychologist Linda Blair. You’re also completely entitled to maintaining a low-key social life. If lockdown has helped you discover a more introvert version or yourself, you’re allowed to embrace it. ‘Often, we’re shown this extrovert ideal and we’re supposed to aim for that, when actually, that’s not for everyone’, says Blair.
2. Find your socialising sweet spot
When it comes to reintegrating social interactions into your life, something important to remember is that for a solid year, everyone has pretty much been in the same boat. As much as we’d all love to be on our A-game when it comes to getting back to reality, remind yourself that all your acquaintances have been stuck between four walls for the majority of the time over the last 12 months. That being said, Tim Dowling has narrowed down some proactive steps you can take to make yourself more comfortable on your first outing, advising to explore that mutual shared reality which, essentially, makes people feel closer together.
3. Give yourself time
With elbow bumps having turned into greetings and people finding it difficult to ease back into hugs, there is no doubt that it’ll take some time before people feel comfortable going in for a cheek kiss when meeting someone. US National Social Anxiety Center has advised to ‘keep in mind that every single one of us is now socially awkward to a certain extent’. Whilst you’re bound to eventually ease back into it, people certainly adjust differently going back to normality after being isolated from society for such a long period of time. ‘Socialising always has the potential to make us feel apprehensive, now there’s the added uncertainty about how to handle some interactions safely too. We don’t want to offend anyone, or overstep safety boundaries still in effect’, Dr. Nadia Svirydzenka tells Cosmopolitan. ‘Reconnect gradually, start with those you really trust and slowly scale up’, she further advises.
4. Learn to trust the world again
‘Social connections are vital to our sense of wellbeing and mental health’, Dr. Svirydzenka expands. ‘Human contact, touch and hugs… they bring us joy, and they help us make meaning of our lives and everyday experiences’. Whilst it can be tricky to learn to let the world back in, it’s important to remember that everyone around you is trying their best to re-learn how to trust society again. ‘Aim to learn and try again’ is Dr. Sviryzenka’s final piece of advice.
Our take on it? We decided to prop ourselves in Camden with a bucket full of roses and a simple message: ‘a flower for anyone who needs one today’. We watched the bucket emptying, and the streets filling up with smiles. Moral of the story? There is a whole lotta of love waiting outside your door. Go explore 🌎