according to an april 9, 2021, white house briefing, a quarter of the country’s adults are now fully vaccinated. according to apa’s stress in america polling, around half of people say they feel uneasy about readjusting to in-person interaction postpandemic. ellen hendriksen, phd, a clinical psychologist at boston university’s center for anxiety and related disorders and author of how to be yourself: quiet your inner critic and rise above social anxiety, is an expert at clinical strategies for calming anxiety. there is so much uncertainty right now, from the vaccine roll-out to society reopening to the new normal workplace to the virus and the variants themselves. so many people are emerging from the pandemic feeling exhausted, burned out, anxious, or depressed. the fact that reopening is a moving target makes it difficult to align with other people. plus, social anxiety is driven by avoidance, and we’ve all been avoiding social interactions for the better part of a year.
that normalizes the uncertainty and awkwardness, and it’s quite validating to say, “what are we doing?” or “how does this work?” it can help you feel like you are united with the other person against this larger problem, as opposed to negotiating one against the other. they’ll say, “i did so much work prepandemic to get to the point where i could give a presentation or raise my hand in class.” they’re worried they’ll be back at square one when they are again in large groups. if you have done work on your social anxiety in the past, that architecture is still there. there will be a first time on public transportation, a first time in someone’s house, a first time taking a rideshare. we all need love, support, and community. studies show that the quality of our relationships predict our future health, happiness, and even longevity, so it’s worth it to push ourselves a little to get the interaction we all need, even if we are the most introverted of introverts. it is an honor that we as psychologists get to play a leading role.
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