Navigating Post-pandemic Anxiety in the Midst of Vaccine Season

As I giddily watched the long awaited vaccine burrow into my shoulder, I asked the doctor how long it would take for me to begin functioning “normally” again. Since the rest of my housemates received theirs as well, she told me that my next dose would be given in a month and then two weeks later I would be in the covid clear. A month and two weeks from now I would be able to finally reenter the world; you’d think that what I felt after was sheer bliss. 

 

To my dismay, this sentence of freedom manifested as more of an ultimatum in my mind as my social anxiety began to skyrocket. These “unprecedented times” have lasted for so long that I’ve lost my ability to differentiate between stress and excitement. I just went through one of the biggest transition periods of my life, how am I expected to undergo another one? These feelings of uneasiness bubbled to the surface as I opened the discussion to some of my close friends and realized that I’m not alone. Coronavirus has taken a wrecking ball to the human race’s social skills in this past year; naturally, there will be some residual discomfort. 

 

 Acknowledging the possible stress of reentering a covid-free world in no way discredits the joy felt from regaining the ability to see family, go to the movie theater, or even just enjoy eating a meal out. Of course I’m looking forward to all of these things, but it's important to remember that our social batteries have shrunk in volume. We can’t just expect them to endure hours upon hours of socializing without some protective measures. It’s essential to treat ourselves with kindness as we venture into this upcoming transition. 

 

We will never fully return to “normal” after an adaptation like this, so I have come to the conclusion that the most encouraging mindset is to continue the streak of “unprecedented times.” What can I say, I’ve become accustomed to them. There’s no pressure to jump back to the constant grind of pre-covid life when modern society has been forever changed, so feel free to take it slow and only implement the aspects that are most comforting right now. Of course I’ll go out with friends and watch any movie that the theaters are playing (really, I’ll watch anything), but, at least for now, my schedule will need to accommodate for more down time than pre-covid life did. To some, being able to eventually sit inside a coffee shop and catch up with a friend feels a lot less scary than attending a full 200 person lecture, and that’s okay. There’s no doubt that most people will be overstimulated at times in crowds or loud places because it’s been a year since our bodies have experienced that commotion. And that’s not even mentioning the lack of masks that will soon begin appearing. 

 

I get stressed when I see TV characters without masks on from shows that were canceled in the 90s, so I can’t even begin to fathom how I’ll have maskless conversations with strangers at some point. The thing is, I know that I’ll get there with patience. As for right now, though, continuing to follow covid protocols even after being fully vaccinated is the best way to demonstrate respect for public workers and healthcare professionals. Where’s the harm in prolonging safety measures? 

 

Even though the anxiety that many feel about the eventual end of the pandemic is natural, optimism, bravery, and kindness will be vital in the upcoming months as we hopefully enter a period of growth and prosperity. If nothing else, we sure have learned how to appreciate the little things in life.