Table of Contents
Pandemic-related Mental Health
Do you remember how you felt on March 29, 2022?
It seems a lifetime ago now, and you may not even remember the significance of the day. However, it was the day mandatory mask wearing in outdoor settings was dropped. In addition, gathering sizes were doubled to accommodate the constantly changing pandemic rules.
As I was looking forward to going completely mask-free, I welcomed the news of being able to spend time outdoors without a mask. However, I wasn’t sure if I liked the idea of doubled group sizes – between social anxiety and introversion, it didn’t sound like something I appreciated.
Perhaps this is something you can relate to.
After all, a World Health Organization report found that anxiety and depression increased by 25% in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. My social anxiety was exacerbated by the increase in crowds, a stark contrast to the personal space I had grown accustomed to, and greatly valued.
When the 150-person limit was lifted on mass gatherings at church, I felt overwhelmed by the crowds. Also, I had to get used to more people dining out in larger groups, which often meant finding a seat was more difficult!
Don’t get me wrong – I recognize these signs as an improvement in the outlook of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was also an indicator of decreased severity in most reported cases, and an opportunity for the return to normalcy for many. Indeed, all of these were reasons to cheer about. Even so, it didn’t change my reality, where crowds felt like a threat to my comfort zone and a trigger for my social anxiety.
Almost a year later, I’ve gotten used to the pace of life and the crowds, though partially due to forced exposure and a return to pre-pandemic crowd levels. I treasure the significance of this normalcy, but my socially anxious, introverted self undoubtedly misses the “good old days” of having more personal space in public places.
Unexpected Adventures: Giving and Growing in Copywriting Skills
The past year has also seen me do things I never thought I would do, just a year ago.
For one, I have been volunteering at a local mental health non-profit since June 2022. I’ll admit that I’m usually cynical when it comes to volunteering – why are people so desperate for a sense of fulfilment? Why would anyone offer a skill for free when they could take up paid work, whether that be full-time or freelance?
But between an organization whose cause resonated with me, and my desire to build up my copywriting skills without the obligations of paid work, I took up the opportunity in the end, and have found myself better for it.
Also, I enrolled in a part-time copywriting course in October, which I will complete by mid-January 2023.
Since completing my teaching diploma in 2013, this is my first professional development course – naturally, attending the first session filled me with dread.
I hate having to make friends all over again.
What if the lecturer treats us like children? – this was, admittedly, a fear I developed from the experience of completing my teaching diploma.
I wish I could say all was smooth sailing when the course began. As the course progressed, we were increasingly loaded with what felt like an endless stream of class writing exercises. At one point, I remembered thinking to myself – clearly the course coordinator lied when she told me, “Minor assignments take an hour or two, major ones, maybe three?” The time required seemed to be double what I had anticipated!
Nevertheless, I find myself all the better for it – even as my wallet still cries a bit because I couldn’t use my SkillsFuture credits for course subsidies. Taking this course without the financial security of a full-time salary wasn’t an easy choice. Despite this, I also knew that without any prior formal copywriting training, this was a worthy investment in a skill set that would only grow over time.
Although both experiences initially increased my social anxiety, I have benefited from the friendships and communities I have found through them over time. Even though it sounds cheesy, I have indeed been blessed by, with, and through the people I have met in both social circles.
As we wrap up the old year and move on to the new, it’s difficult not to fall into the trap of “new year, new me” – especially since January is often associated with brand-new beginnings.
I’m not sure how I can embrace that, since some “old” aspects of 2022 will undoubtedly persist in 2023 – the same fears of the unknown, the impending GST increase finally becoming a reality, which means the cost of my therapy sessions will increase as a private paying client.
My experiences have also taught me the value of taking risks – I acknowledge that, in inserting myself into two completely new opportunities and environments, I might have disliked or regretted either or both.
Nonetheless, it is precisely because I’ve taken new risks that I’ve come away with new skills and opportunities, both of which may open new pathways in time to come.
At the risk of sounding cliché, I’m reminded of a quote by French author and Nobel Prize winner André Gide – Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.
While I don’t typically consider myself a courageous person, nor do I like to step out of my comfort zone – the essence of the above quote aptly captures the value of my experiences in 2022.
Keeping this in mind, I’m taking 2023 as it comes – with trepidation at the unknown, but also with an open mind, knowing that the risk of embarking on new experiences can bring about precious and much-treasured opportunities!
A Word from A Space Between
Whether you’re looking to improve your mental health in the coming year, or filled with apprehension of the uncertainties of what 2023 may bring, A Space Between offers a client-matching service to help you find a therapist best suited to your needs.
Reach out to them at [email protected]!
Socially anxious introvert who likes writing, crocheting, and true crime podcasts. I cold brew tea and coffee to avoid inflated cafe prices.