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Phase 2 Is Imminent. Introverts, Here’s How To Deal With Seeing People Again

So Phase 1 is ending this week, and you are 100 percent NOT READY.

As much as you agree that it’s time for our economy to reopen, you feel apprehensive about seeing people again. You loved indulging in weeks full of guilt-free alone time. You relish not having to sit through inane conversations with colleagues and acquaintances. And you especially appreciated the freedom of being unburdened from vom-worthy social obligations, like networking events, Sunday lunch with your in-laws, and “catch-up” sessions with old classmates who ended up being insurance agents.

And sure, you miss your friends, but you’ll also miss having unadulterated time away from them. Whether you’re an introvert thriving in quarantine, or a social butterfly who’s tasted the goodness of WFH, you’re dreading the onslaught of “let’s hang out” texts, or worse, “see you in the office” emails you’re going to get once we enter Phase 2 on June 19. 

At the risk of all my friends and colleagues seeing this – I feel you. To say that I’m still coming to terms with the imminent end of my nationally mandated hibernation would be an understatement. I AM IN MOURNING. But we all need to deal with it at some point, so while I’m not a therapist, here’s what’s been helping me adjust to the thought of going back out – and perhaps it will help you too.

Remember that as a nation, we’re going to ease back into the “new normal”

Like our government leaders keep saying, reopening doesn’t mean that life will resume immediately. No one will go from 0 hangouts to clubbing within a week. Safe distancing will be a thing for a while. Plus, groups will be limited to five people sitting 1 metre apart, and that we’ll likely still have to wear masks, which is a boon for introverts who’d rather not be recognised in public by random acquaintances.

Act your way into the feeling

Anyone who’s ever signed up for a gym membership would know that it’s easier to act your way into feeling than the feel your way into action. You won’t always feel like getting up at 6 AM to do circuits, but the minute you start doing it, you’ll be so glad that you did. Once those “let’s hang out!!!” texts start coming in, you’ll want to ease your way into actually accepting some of them – the sooner the better. Because if the past three months haven’t helped you feel like socialising, then delaying any meet-ups for another week or two – when you can feel “ready” – won’t help much either. Start mentally preparing yourself now so that when the time comes, it won’t be so hard to spring into action.

Write down what you’re looking forward to  

I know, it may seem like a stretch, but listing out the things that you’re anticipating or are grateful for will help you condition your brain to think positive. My list includes being able to eat real-life brunches instead of ordering them over Deliveroo – somehow, avocado toast tastes better when it’s served on a ceramic plate, and when you’re enjoying it with a friend, than when you’re eating it from a dabao container with a plastic fork.

Maybe your list could include seeing your boyfriend/girlfriend without risking a fine of $10,000. Maybe it includes going for spontaneous happy hours with the colleagues that you actually like – or well, the ones you could like after a couple of beers. Or how about going to yoga with your friends instead of vainly following HIIT workouts on YouTube? Heck, it can be as simple as wearing your favourite outfit. There’s got to be something you’re looking forward to, however mundane it may be.

Seek mental help if you need it

If you’re experiencing debilitating depression or anxiety, or are otherwise concerned about preserving your mental health ahead of Phase 2, you don’t need to deal with it alone. Here are some helplines you can call. There’s no need to feel ashamed – a car that’s been in the garage for a few months often needs at tune-up before going back on the road. What more your thought life?

And if all else fails….

Set a “new normal” for yourself. While the past you might have burnt herself out prior to COVID, the new you can be more discerning about who to hang out with, how often, and when. You don’t need to reconnect with everybody. If some relationships fell by the wayside during the circuit breaker, then let them be. And while you might not be able to avoid the office, you can break the habit of saying “yes” to things that you don’t actually want to do, like going for tea breaks with a gossipy clique of coworkers or entertaining the people who interrupt at work to complain about their projects. It’s not often we get a do-over in life, so take the chance to do it now. You could even buy yourself a new outfit (or get a haircut) to commemorate the occasion. Maybe being out in the world will be better than you remember.

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