Dealing With Fears of Social Interactions After the Pandemic

fear of quarantine ending

Verywell / Joshua Seong

While some people are happy to be able to resume some activities, others are filled with fear as they think about a return to their pre-pandemic life. If you're a bit anxious about how to adjust to the "new normal" as things continue to open up, you’re not alone. It’s important to take care of yourself and manage your fears in a healthy way.

Name Your Emotions

It’s important to notice when you’re feeling anxious. Simply recognizing your anxious feelings might help you feel a little better.

Research has found that naming your emotions can reduce their intensity. So you might ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now?” Whether you’d describe your emotions as anxiousness, fear, or terror, just labeling them might give you some instant relief.

Identify Your Fears

There are several reasons why people are fearful of returning to their normal social interactions. While vaccination rates are increasing, there is still the fear of getting sick. Others fear a loved one could get sick—or even die.

But physical safety isn’t the only concern people have right now. Some individuals have simply enjoyed a slower, quieter lifestyle and the thought of resuming the busyness of life is anxiety-provoking.

Maybe you’ve enjoyed working from home and being with your family, and the thought of being apart causes you some anxiety. No matter what your fears are, it’s important to identify them. Spend a little time thinking about why you’re afraid.

You might not even know. Perhaps you just feel a “pit in your stomach” when you think about interacting again with others in public. Or maybe, you’re just stressed about all the things you’re going to have to do now that people are returning to the new normal.

Taking a minute to try and figure out exactly what you’re afraid of can help you develop a plan. If you’re fearful of getting sick, you can create a plan that will increase your safety. If you’re just fearful in general, you might create a plan to take care of your emotions.

Reframe Negative Thoughts

When you find yourself engaged in catastrophic thinking—like when you’re imagining everything that could go wrong—catch yourself. The more time you spend dwelling on the potential gloom and doom, the worse you’ll feel.

Reframe your negative thoughts by reminding yourself of the things that might go better than you expect.

For example, think of the good things that can happen—like families will be able to visit their loved ones and business owners will be able to make more money.

You might even come up with something unique to you that can be positive, such as you will be able to go to the movies or you’ll be able to visit someone you haven’t seen in a while.

Focus On What You Can Control

Worrying about all the things you can’t control will fuel your anxiety—and do nothing to prevent problems from occurring. So, it’s important to stay focused on the things you can control.

What You Can't Control
  • When you have to report back to the workplace

  • Vaccination rates in your community

  • How quickly the economy picks up

What You Can Control
  • Which social gatherings you attend

  • How well you take care of yourself

  • The public establishments you enter

You might decide to take things at your own pace. Just because religious services are open to the publi, doesn’t mean you have to attend. Or, just because stores are open, you don’t necessarily have to go.

Of course, there may be times when you feel like you don’t have too many choices. If your boss calls you back into the office, you might put your job at risk if you decline to go into work.

But remember, there are always things you can control. For example, you can control your breathing, what you eat, what time you go to bed, and how much you exercise. Staying focused on those things might help you manage your anxiety a little bit better.

Identify Changes You Want to Make

The pandemic has helped some people recognize changes they want to make moving forward. Some people have decided they don’t want life to ever become so busy and chaotic ever again. After enjoying a little downtime, they recognize they need to rest more often.

Others have recognized the need to socialize more. Once the chance to gather with friends was taken away, they realized that they should take more opportunities to engage in face-to-face social interactions.

No matter what your life was like before and during the pandemic, there’s likely something you can take away from the experience.

Whether you learned a new skill, discovered a new hobby, or developed a new idea, hopefully you’ll decide to create some positive changes in your life moving forward.

Use Healthy Coping Skills

When your anxiety is high, take a minute to figure out how to best cope with your emotions. There are many things you can do to take care of yourself. But what works for you might not work for someone else.

Taking a walk, calling a friend to talk, reading a book, or doing some deep breathing exercises might work for one person. Writing in a journal or listening to a podcast might help someone else manage their anxiety.

It’s important to test out a variety of coping strategies to learn what works for you. Does taking a bath calm your body and your mind? Or, are are you at your best when you burn off some nervous energy by hitting the gym? It’s up to you to decide what works best.

Avoid Unhealthy Coping Strategies

Fear can tempt you to reach for things that aren’t necessarily good for you. Whether that means reaching for a little extra wine to take the edge off or it means texting an ex who isn’t good for you, be on the lookout for coping strategies that aren’t helpful.

Keep in mind that almost any coping strategy could become unhealthy. Playing video games all night long, reading books so you can avoid tackling real-life challenges, or binge-watching your favorite show so you can avoid working are just a few examples.

So while it’s OK to use a coping skill to temporarily distract you from the realities that are causing your stress, be mindful of anything that introduces new problems into your life.

Monitor Your Media Intake

Consuming information about about stressful events can keep you in a heightened state of alert and fuel your anxiety.

While it’s important to stay informed, monitor how much media you’re consuming. Consider checking the news once or twice a day or setting a time limit on your social media apps. Limiting your media intake can give your mind a much needed rest from the news.

A Word From Verywell

If you’re anxious about resuming your normal activities, know that you aren’t alone. And while you might not feel comfortable sharing your fears with everyone, rest assured, there are other people who feel the same.

If your anxiety is making it difficult to function, consider talking to a mental health professional. Speaking with a therapist—online or in person—could help you manage your emotions in a healthy way. 

1 Source
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Torre JB, Lieberman MD. Putting feelings into words: Affect labeling as implicit emotion regulation. Emotion Review. 2018;10(2):116-124. doi:10.1177/1754073917742706 

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.