How To Maintain Your Anxiety Levels During The Pandemic

It turns out that 95% of your best IRL angst transfers naturally and seamlessly to Zoom!

Image credit: Chris Montgomery

Do you suffer from social anxiety? Do you worry that if our current isolation continues, you’ll become so relaxed and complacent you won’t recognize yourself? If so, then we have good news for you!

It turns out that 95% of your best IRL angst transfers naturally and seamlessly to Zoom! In fact, it’s so easy you need do nothing except be patient. Trust that your current pajama-clad happiness will soon be interrupted. For many, the interrupting factor is a vague sense of guilt: I’m not a front line worker, you might think to yourself, but surely I should do something…something from home…

· Within a day, the idea will arrive, fully formed like that one goddess who split open her father’s skull when she was born: I should host an event! A fun, impromptu “happening” that brings people together, because, Community!

· When this happens, don’t overthink it, don’t belabor. Just pick a day that sounds close, but feels far away: Is today Monday? Thursday is your day. With fun, impromptu abandon, send invitations to friends. Also, spontaneously invite colleagues you’ve never socialized with IRL. They’re stuck at home, too, right? Once you’re done, you can push it from your mind for a day before people respond.

· Two friends-slash-colleagues will respond immediately, pouncing on your invitation like hungry panthers. Yes, they’ll say. Yes! we are excited! Just like IRL, enjoy that stab of anxiety! Realize that the quality of your event will determine the happiness of your friends-slash-colleagues on Thursday evening and also maybe shape all of your future relationships with them into infinity.

· Don’t reply right away. Take a day to move into full anxiety mode. Facilitate this transition by planning the order of presenters, brainstorming introductions and mentally running scenarios of different ways it could all go wrong.

· Two days before your event, draft an email. This the email should be fun. Provide enough detail, but not so much detail people will stop reading and/or suspect you are overly detail-oriented, which is the opposite of fun. Omit a lesser detail for brevity. It’s okay.

· Send your email.

· Imagine a brand new catastrophic scenario. Realize it was NOT okay to omit the detail. By omitting the detail you have invited disaster.

· Draft and send a fun addendum email.

· Worry about being perceived as one of those people who sends too many emails…just like IRL!

· The night before your Zoom event: lie in bed imagining the relief you’ll feel when the event is over. Also, while you lie there, think of final instructions to casually mention in a confirmation email tomorrow.

· The morning of the event: Prepare your casual confirmation email. As you hover your mouse over the “send” button, plan to devote the remainder of the day to non-event-related things like the easygoing host you are!

· Stop! Consider: Should I make a program? Should provide an area for the “optional feedback” for each presenter? Should I create thoughtful prompts?

· Brainstorm prompts. Format a program. Edit your email to explain about the program and the prompts, explaining how they are optional.

· Send the email.

· One hour before your event: Realize you haven’t showered or dressed.

· Also one hour before your event: Decide to meditate for ten minutes to bring down your cortisol levels. Don’t forget to set an alarm!

· Thirty minutes before your event: Wake to the alarm. The meditation-slash-nap has calmed you. Lie in a drowsy, apathetic haze for fifteen minutes.

· Fifteen minutes before your event: Enjoy the jolt of adrenaline! Dress (skip the shower), apply makeup, tidy and light the computer room. Write new opening comments because the nap erased everything you planned from your mind.

· Thirty seconds before your event: Race to the location (on Zoom) to greet people. The one person who has arrived will be the same person who arrives always early IRL. Make distracted conversation with this person while silently wondering: Did my last email have the wrong address? Did everyone change their minds? Was this a terrible idea? Yes, all just like IRL!

· People will arrive late blaming technology instead of traffic. Unlike IRL, you’ll need to explain how to mute and unmute their microphones.

· Let the event happen — this is where your preparation pays off!

· At the end of the event, people’s mouths will move. Remind them to unmute. Hear them say nice things. They are saying they feel grateful for the event! They are happy to have come! Feel grateful to have made them happy! Feel love for your guests and for the whole universe. Think: We are all connected! Community!

· Thirty minutes after your event, pace your apartment, buzzing from endorphins. Eat random things, just like after an IRL event!!

· The day after the event, wake up and remember the event is over. Feel relief. Lie in bed and review the success in your mind!

· Recall a slightly awkward moment. Feel sudden terror: What if it was not slightly awkward? What if it was very awkward? What if it was offensive? Deeply offensive? What if you, unaware, have ruined a friendship / colleague-ship, future work relationship? Just like after an IRL event!!!

· Draft text to possibly-ex-friend or colleague, apologizing for the awkwardness. Wait — consider: If there was no awkwardness, the apology might create awkwardness!

· Text “Great see you last night!”

· Read response: So much fun! You should to do another one!

· Reply, “Thumbs up” emoji, while thinking, Never.

But don’t worry, just like IRL, you will.

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