'I've always been an outgoing person. But after lockdown, socialising feels exhausting.'

I’ve always been a life-of-the-party type - you know, loves a sesh, loves a storytelling moment, always down for boozy brunch. 

I’m the organiser of my group and pre-COVID, I was always planning the weekends away and the house parties and buying the gig tickets.

But this month, I’ve struggled big time with the return to socialising. 

I’m in Sydney, so we exited a three-month long lockdown on Monday, October 11. We went from hard limitations like exercising with one other person, to five person picnics, to 20 people allowed in your home in just under two weeks. It’s been fantastic - but it’s also been A LOT.

Watch: The characters who would own the pandemic. Post continues after video.

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I thought I’d be champing at the bit to run free again - to sink beers at the pub with my friends, lie around on couches watching Love Island together, and have big get-togethers with my family. 

Instead, I’m finding even the smallest of gatherings are leaving me depleted.

Not just depleted - anxious. I’ve managed anxiety all my life, but it’s never been social anxiety - the kind where you might be terrified of social situations or find it difficult to make small talk and be around lots of people. But over the weekend, I literally had to be a no-show to my second Sunday event because I just couldn’t walk into another crowded bar and yell over the noise again. I couldn’t handle the breathy heat of another enclosed space and all the hugging and squishing in at a packed table. 

I used to love that stuff, and now it makes me feel stressed to the point of feeling sick. So I sat in my car, doing deep breathing to quell heart palpitations, before just giving up and apologising to my friends.

I don’t think I’m developing social anxiety, but I do think I’m experiencing a short-term version of it due to months of being told to fear the world, followed by the rapid re-opening that’s occurred in Sydney. 

I’m not necessarily opposed to how fast we’ve reopened - I trust the health authorities, at least, and while I’m a little skeptical about whether our state government is following health advice to a T, we did need to open up at some point and we’ve done so at a high vaccination level. 

But the complete 180 from isolation to being thrust back into a life that for the most part mirrors what we had before COVID has been overwhelming.


The pressure to see EVERYONE and do EVERYTHING is so intense. There’s family to visit. Friend groups to meet up with. New restaurants and bars to head to. 

Where once our Saturdays and Sundays consisted of long walks with our bubble buddy, partner or family (the highlight being a trip to Coles to pick up fancy cheeses), we now spend our weekends flitting from house to house, pub to pub, park to house to pub back to a house.

It’s not even a pressure that comes at us from external forces - we are pressuring ourselves. The FOMO is at an all-time high, so we battle between wanting to do it all, and wanting to retreat back to our safe little home with our comforting Netflix and satisfying 8pm bedtime.

I’m socially anxious, but I’m also just generally anxious. Yes, being double-vaxxed puts me in the best position possible to both avoid COVID, and avoid severe illness should I catch COVID. But when you’ve been hiding from a virus for so long it’s hard to just accept that, hey, now we’ve just gotta let it circulate in the community. 

It’s hard to reckon with the fact that we’ll all probably catch COVID at some point, and it’s even harder to reckon with the idea of a loved one who is vulnerable catching it. 

Our world went from feeling safe to feeling dangerous, and it makes sense that it’s going to take some adjustment as we get used to that.

On that note, listen to The Undone, a Mamamia podcast where Lucy and Emily discuss dating stories and talking about the biggest issue in their world, because... nothing is simple in your 20s. post continues after podcast.

I love that I’m seeing my friends and family again, but I am starting to think I should take it easy. Am I my own worst enemy, and do I need to put myself under my own personal post-lockdown set of rules? Maybe it’s a maximum of two social events per week, building up to three by mid-November. Maybe it’s limiting pub visits to weeknights so I don’t get stressed out by crowds. I’m still working on it, but clearly the 180 hasn’t been great for my mental health - and that’s okay.

I think, at the end of the day, that’s the most important factor. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and be experiencing social anxiety for the first time. It’s okay if you need to emerge from this weird hibernation slowly. It doesn’t matter if that girl on your Instagram seems to have bought the entire new season of Alice McCall and is making her way through those best new restaurants lists in record time. 

She has her way of experiencing this new world, and so do you. Neither way is wrong, so take the pressure off and navigate this return to socialising on your own terms.

Melissa is a freelance writer. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter.

Feature Image: Instagram @melissamason_.

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