By Vaila Bhaumick

People often ask “Are you an introvert or an extrovert?”. I consider myself more introverted, but with a smidgen of extroversion. Like the yin-yang symbol, most things in life simply aren’t black or white, rather we all have a small dot of the opposite in us too.

During the pandemic, nothing has been black and white either. The media has been full of mixed messages, and most of us have been experiencing a cocktail of emotions. Now it’s time to face the next step: going back out into the world.

I think it’s perfectly alright to be conflicted about this too. Whether you’re nervous or excited, fearful or confident, it doesn’t hurt to have an action plan.

Agoraphobia Or Claustrophobia?

You may have been noticing or writing about your emotions throughout lockdown. It’s good to observe your feelings, and it makes sense to keep this up as we transition back to going ‘out and about’.

Many people won’t want to go out while others will be excited at the prospect. Being scared is understandable, but be careful that you haven’t developed agoraphobia during lockdown. The condition is an anxiety disorder that can cause panic and a myriad of other symptoms such as feeling unsafe, stopping you from leaving your own house. Some amount of uneasiness is to be expected, but don’t let it take over your life.

Claustrophobia, on the other hand, isn’t a panic disorder, but the symptoms can feel like a panic attack. This condition relates more to feeling trapped in small spaces or in large crowds. Venturing out could feel like a glorious release if you’ve been feeling claustrophobic at home. However, being in a lift with other people, or on public transport could trigger symptoms.

Both of these disorders are fairly extreme, but I can see them becoming very common post-pandemic. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared by finding some relaxation techniques that can help you, should the need arise.

Lost Connections

I truly understand that many people might not be ready for the world to reopen, but we must do it! Why? Well, Johann Hari, author of Lost Connections, has some answers to that question.

Based on Hari’s own struggles with depression, he explores what he believes the causes are—a series of disconnections which we must ‘reconnect’ to achieve better mental health.

According to Hari, our antidepressants come in the form of reconnecting to other people, social prescribing, meaningful work, meaningful values, and sympathetic joy while overcoming ‘addiction to self’. This results in a hopeful and secure future.

It might seem like a lot, but what I want to hone in on is this: we need each other. Even if you’re an introvert like me, contact with other human beings is vital for our health and well-being. This has become crystal clear to me over these last few months. Human touch and support help us heal, and if we are to overcome all the other societal wrongs, it has to be through teamwork.

Three Easy Steps To Getting Back Out There

Ready or not, the cogs are in motion again, and the wheels are starting to turn. Bear these three things in mind if you’re feeling apprehensive:

  • Heed safety precautions: The virus is still around, so be smart and keep up to date with the latest information. Yes, I know it can be conflicting but understand your own boundaries. If official advice says we can gather in small groups, but you don’t feel comfortable doing it in an enclosed space, then don’t.
  • Start to meet people again: I know I just said don’t do it if you’re not comfortable, but we must start getting used to it. So, perhaps meet family or friends outside in the open. Go for a walk or enjoy a summer garden gathering, within distancing guidelines of course.
  • Don’t forget lessons learned: Lockdown gave us a valuable opportunity to reflect on our lives both personally and in a global sense. As we resume our everyday business, I urge you to remember those reflections. Whether it was appreciating your loved ones more, reassessing your work life, or just cherishing the small things in life, don’t stop now. Keep asking yourself:“how can we do better?”

COVID-19 has brought massive disruption to our lives, calling a halt to almost everything we were doing, making us stay at home. Just like we weren’t ready for it, we’re equally unprepared for what comes next. But we need to start emerging from the cocoon, otherwise who is going to pick up the pieces?

A quote springs to mind, the author of which is debatable, but commonly attributed to Jewish scholar Hillel: “If not now, then when? If not us, then who?”.