Breaking Out of Our Covid Bubbles
Breaking Out of Our Covid Bubbles | Alex Vrabec 6/22/2021
I know it’s not just me, but the social anxiety caused by the pandemic is real. Even though I’m lucky enough to be fully vaccinated, I still can’t help but feel a little uneasy walking around without a mask at times. Having spent the last year prepared, masked, inside my “bubble,” all while washing my hands down to the bone… it’s hard to get back out of those habits. As I’ve shifted back into leaving my house, hanging out with people that I’m not related to, and getting into group activities... I’ve realized a few things.
1.Determine everyone's comfort levels at the beginning of the conversation.
Starting off the conversation with phrases like “is it cool if I take off my mask” or “can I hug you,” is a great way to start. As a person who hates being physically touched in most cases, I’d prefer it this way anyways. We all need to realize that everyone is coming from a different place, we’ve all had vastly different experiences, and might not be comfortable with certain activities. This is totally okay. So take a moment to recognize the needs of others before making assumptions
2. Always have a mask handy, just in case.
Not everyone feels comfortable with what feels like a quick transition back to normal. There are also people that may be immunocompromised and feel incredibly vulnerable. Let’s help them out and throw on a mask, whether we’re vaccinated or not. It’s better that our coworkers feel cared for. Honestly, I prefer a mask at times anyways… no need for lipstick and I can sneeze without having to cover my face. Win, win.
3. Small talk is a learned skill which needs practicing.
Seriously, if you find yourself stumbling over your words after the word “hey,” know you’re not alone. Getting back into the flow of casual elevator conversation is incredibly awkward when you haven’t practiced in a while. I hear myself asking how someone’s pandemic has been and immediately regret it. Take my advice, don’t. Start with the weather. The sunshine or in Juneau’s case, lack thereof, is always an easy place to start.
4. When in doubt, use kindness and compassion.
We have all spent the last fifteen months festering in our own feelings, first of all let’s acknowledge that fact. Now we need to realize that we’re out and surrounded by people we can’t unload our emotional baggage on. What we can do is just be kind and compassionate with each other. When a triggering topic is brought up, take a breath, acknowledge it, then move on. There are far more things that bring us together than what separates us. Let’s focus on the good in order to best move forward and get things done.