What was life even like before the pandemic? In many ways, we have grown accustomed to social and physical distancing, hand sanitizing, and Zooming or video chatting. As the pandemic is nearing its end, more and more restrictions will be lifted. CNN Health recently published an article, by journalists Kristen Rogers and Ada Wood, discussing what situations might be anxiety inducing that may have gone unnoticed before the pandemic.
Eye contact might be scary
Rogers and Wood point out that many of us may have been socially isolated during the pandemic. It is possible that the only people we have interacted with are the people we live with, cashiers, delivery people, and the people we video call. Interacting with people face to face might seem anxiety provoking and awkward as we regain our comfort with it. Making eye contact with those we’re interacting with might seem like a small step. However, making the effort could be a useful challenge that helps to connect to others.
Crowds might be scary
As Rogers and Wood commented, watching movies in which large groups of people crowd together now give us a peculiar feeling. Standing in a crowd at a store or sitting in a crowded move theater may not have caused a second thought before the pandemic. However, now crowds, or rather the lack of physical distancing, can now trigger thoughts of danger and the need to escape. The authors interviewed psychologists who suggested using shopping bags or other items to create physical buffer creating space between you and others in a crowd. We are also free to kindly inform people that “I just need a little more space.” One psychologist suggested that when we find ourselves beginning to feel socially anxious in a crowd, we can focus on our breath and think, “I am going to be out of this in a little bit” as we slowly work our way through the crowd.
Shaking hands and hugging might be scary
Rogers and Wood noted that in the early days of the pandemic many of us debated whether or not to continue shaking hands or hugging others. The authors reported that Dr Anthony Fauci has recommended that we indefinitely break with the age old tradition of greeting others with a handshake. It may be quite a while before many of us feel comfortable shaking hands. A psychologist interviewed by the authors suggested simply using direct communication and telling people that you’re not yet comfortable shaking hands or hugging. People are more than likely to understand given the past year.
Growing pains will be a natural part of adapting to “normal” life as the pandemic ends. If you are interested in learning how cognitive behavior therapy helps address post-pandemic social anxiety then schedule a free phone consultation.
Dr. Jason von Stietz specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Sport/Performance Psychology in Torrance, CA. He provides online therapy (telehealth) by way of the Torrance office and is available for a free initial phone consultation. Dr. von Stietz works with individuals from Long Beach, the greater Los Angeles area, and the South Bay including Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, El Segundo and all over California.