Recently I met up with a friend for cocktails at one of our locals. We hugged, filled each other in on what we’d been up to, had a few laughs then headed home again. Normally this would have been the most normal thing in the world, but for both of us it was our first proper social outing in over 4 months thanks to lockdown.
Whilst I was excited to dress up a little, catch up with a friend and eat a meal I hadn’t prepared myself, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t experience some social anxiety beforehand.
This isn’t the first time I’ve ‘re-entered’ society. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019 and spent most of that year in treatment. During that time I was hospitalised when my white cell count dropped too low and I got an infection (not an unusual occurrence for cancer patients). I had to isolate as much as I could to prevent infection and when I did go out I had to avoid hugging people (which was really weird pre-COVID). It felt incredibly unsettling to ‘re-enter’ society once I was well enough, despite how much I’d missed social connections. Lights seemed too bright, sounds seemed extra loud and being around crowds of people just felt 'intense'.
My immunity was still compromised in 2020 so when ‘corona’ reared its head, I had to self-isolate again. Then, of course, I experienced lockdown like most of Australia in 2020 and then another 4 months of lockdown in 2021.
But ‘re-entry’ has been slightly less overwhelming this time around as I found some re-entry rituals that worked for me after my cancer treatment that I still rely on now when I need them.
I am sharing this here as I mentioned re-entry anxiety in Nourish & Nest’s Instagram stories and I was blown away by the response. It was by far the most messages we have ever received in response to a social media post. So many people shared that they thought they were the only ones to be feeling anxious about the re-entering 'normal' life.
Let me say, all feelings are valid. If you're completely excited to be back amongst it, you're not alone. If you're feeling socially awkward or are experiencing re-entry anxiety, you're also not alone. Be kind to yourself.
In case it is of help, here are the re-entry rituals and tips that I have found helpful.
Soft shoe liners
Buy lambswool liners for your shoes. The texture is pure comfort and no-one needs to know. Turns your 'going out shoes' into ugg boots. Yes, it's a bit of a 'Nanna' move but don't knock it til you've tried it.
I always have one of our natural perfumes in my bag. Calm usually. Apart from finding the aroma comforting and relaxing, stopping to re-apply it every hour or so is a good reminder to pause and breathe deeply and take a mindful moment.
Wear clothes that you can wrap yourself up in that feel like a hug. I have a thick fluffy 'teddy bear' jacket that I wear in Winter and a soft bamboo wrap that I take with me in the warmer months.
Take a hot cuppa with you in a keep cup. Warm drinks are very calming.
- Try elevating your energy before heading out by having a dance to some feel-good tunes.
- Be honest with people, chances are that some of them are feeling anxious/awkward too.
- Don't feel compelled to say yes to everything, choose to go to social events that genuinely light you up.