I have found it to be such a strange experience to engage in what I now deem 3-D interactions with my friends and family after a year of 2-D, electronic communication. It feels like my eyes are playing tricks on me and I have urges to reach out and touch the faces of my loved ones to see if they are really in front of me (which I do not recommend without their consent). The experience reminds me of one of those old school magic eye posters where you try to cross your eyes to reveal the hidden image.
You may also find additional thought streams pulling your attention during social interactions about:
- how you look
- your body language and mannerisms
- urges to multitask as you may have done (sneakily) on video calls
- wondering if they are judging you
This additional mental chatter takes energy and may leave you feeling more exhausted after social interactions post-lockdown. You may find that additional stress to be a negative experience and therefore you will have urges to shut down and/or cancel plans. I strongly advice against avoidance because that will only fuel the anxiety and cause your social avoidance urges to get stronger.
There is hope and there are answers for how to cope and what to do with the emotional drain and social anxiety that you experience after lengthy COVID19 lockdowns! Below you will find my three suggestions to forge a way through the mes
- Call it out.
You are not alone in your experience (hence the blog) and the faster we name it as a whole, the faster we can tame it! Text your friends before or after the experience or call it out during the event and label what you noticed. “it is so weird seeing you in person, do you feel like it is a mind-trippy 3-D game to have a real human in front of you!?
2. Own it.
Even if they say “no”, that they did not have that experience, it will be helpful to you and to them, for you to take ownership of your experience and use self-validation. “I did and I guess it makes sense since we’ve been so isolate!
3. Create a coping plan.
Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling which is why we want to avoid it. Prior to the experience I encourage you to use self-encouragement statements (“this will be worth it”, “even if I feel anxious, I can handle it”) and engage in relaxing actions so that you enter the experience with the calmest body posture and brain chemistry possible. During the experience, I encourage you to engage in self-validation (“this makes sense”), slow-deep breathing, and sensory soothing actions (apply hand lotion, use essential oils, drink cold water, use a fidget) to help you in the moment. After the experience, I encourage you to decompress with calming choices (a warm bath, a funny movie, sketching or journaling).
You are not crazy, and you are not alone in your experience of social fatigue and social anxiety. You also were not crazy in 2020 when you struggled with complete isolation. We finally seemed to adjust to the isolation and now we need to readjust. Be patient with yourself!