Dealing With Fears of Social Interactions During 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 quarantine ending. If you're a bit anxious about how to adjust to the "new normal" during the pandemic, 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 the intensity of them. So you might ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now?” Whether you’d describe your emotions as anxiousness, fear, or terror, just labeling your feelings might give you some instant relief.

Identify Your Fears

There are several reasons why people are fearful of quarantine ending. Some fear 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 family too. 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 once it’s considered safe to do so.

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 when quarantine ends—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

  • How COVID spreads when your community opens

  • How quickly the economy picks up

What You Can Control
  • How often you wash your hands

  • 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 public, 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.

Or, you may be around family members who are dealing with the public. Whether your partner is a first responder or your kids are attending school, you might not be able to distance yourself from people who are in the community.

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 the pandemic, there’s likely something you can take away from your time in quarantine.

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 about something other than the pandemic, 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. Do you know to do something that calms your body and your mind—like take a hot bath? 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 of the pandemic, be mindful of anything that introduces new problems into your life.

Monitor Your Media Intake

Consuming information about the pandemic can keep you in a heightened state of alert. Whether it’s a report on the latest death toll or it’s a story about the economic crisis, the news can 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 set 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 quarantine ending, 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. 

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