How Relaxed Awareness Can Help With Post-Pandemic Anxiety

If you’re nervous about the reemergence of a full social calendar, here are some ways you can gradually adjust


The United States is well on it’s way to have a summer filled with social gatherings, especially since the CDC declared that most fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in many settings. Vaccination protects not only individuals themselves, but also those around them. As a result, cities like Washington, DC and New York City have unveiled full reopening plans starting this month. While the announcement leans on sound empirical evidence of the effectiveness of vaccines in people who are not immunocompromised, it still left many with mixed emotions. Which makes sense. Some people may understandably feel cautious or hesitant to throw away their masks. Also, over the course of the last year, many of us have gradually adjusted to living in a way that didn’t come easily. In order to combat a deadly virus and keep our loved ones safe, we were required to physically distance ourselves from most everyone for more than a year, a cruel irony for a species that is wired for human connection and has an inherent need for social bonds. This period of isolation has been extremely difficult for many of us.

Child development research clearly delineates how deprivation of social contact at an early age is linked to alterations in brain development, which can impede a child’s ability to develop positive attachments to others. For children, early lack of social engagement with primary caretakers can lead to a host of challenges later on in development, including trouble regulating emotions, low self-esteem, behavioral issues, and impaired cognitive development. Unlike adult development, there are sensitive periods in childhood during which children need exposure to language and social contact, or else they may lose out on important aspects of development.

Social isolation is costly to our well-being in adulthood as well, and it has negative effects on overall health and longevity. The pandemic caused us to dramatically adjust our routines and lifestyles to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Remote learning, Zoom meetings, and a lack of social gatherings were hard to stomach initially, but most of us adapted based on our survival instincts. And now that we’ve settled into a new pattern while living under the threat of a deadly virus, moving back towards “normal” will…



Ashley Pallathra and Edward Brodkin

Co-authors of the new book “Missing Each Other: How to Cultivate Meaningful Connections.” Twitter: @ashleypallathra @tedbrodkin