Social Anxiety About Going Back to Restaurants? Here Are Some Tips.

With the Covid-19 vaccine already rolling out to almost half the U.S. population, there is a lot of hope that soon the world will feel more normal. As it gets a little bit warmer during these next few months, people may feel more inclined to partake in outdoor dining with a few friends. However, with this pending return to normal, a lot of people are starting to develop some social anxiety at just the thought of having to sit at a restaurant surrounded by other people. Going back to “normal” seems so foreign, and the idea alone is enough to send some people into a panic mode. In the article, “Help, I’ve Gone Feral! After a Year Away from Restaurants, I Need a Refresher Course,” author Emily Heil talks about her own self-doubt at the thought of eating at a restaurant again. She is afraid all of her mannerisms have gone out the window: how to dress, how to act, what utensil to use for which course, etc. Throughout the pandemic, it has been common for people to eat while scrolling on their phone, in their loungewear while sometimes eating a food with their fingers that probably should be eaten with a fork. Emily Heil recognizes that anxiety is starting to arise among people, so she provides some helpful tips as we slowly are able to ease into eating at restaurants. 

First, Emily Heil says it is “okay to feel weird.” This is something important to remember because everyone has been in the pandemic for a year; you are not going to be the only person feeling awkward or out of place when you first venture back to a restaurant. In addition, she also recommends that we “do not sweat the small stuff” as we may think we have lost our restaurant manners, but in reality, they will naturally come back to us. Something else she recommends is to “be patient.” Eating at a restaurant is not going to be normal right away as most restaurants are used to mainly doing takeout or seating customers at a very limited capacity. When we can get back to full capacity, it is going to take some time for everything to get back into a normal rhythm. Finally, she recommends “not to drink away the anxiety.” It is certainly socially acceptable to have a few drinks, but there is no need to attempt to erase the social anxiety by over-consuming alcohol. Remember, the new normal will likely look different, but that is to be expected after a pandemic.

Whether you are nervous about dining out or simply being out in the world again, it is important to remember that others are going to have many of the exact same feelings. It might feel weird to be surrounded by other people whether you are at a restaurant, at a mall or at the beach, but if we all give each other grace, patience and kindness then it is going to make our return to normal that much more comfortable and exciting. Regardless of the emotions you might be experiencing about this pending return to “normal,” remember that there are a lot of resources to help you understand and process how you are feeling.

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Want to learn more? Check out “Help, I’ve Gone Feral! After a Year Away from Restaurants, I Need a Refresher Course” by Emily Heil.

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Published by Katie Greer

Katie is a senior at Trinity College in Hartford, CT where she is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Writing, Rhetoric and Media Studies. She is a part of the swim team at Trinity, and enjoys spending time with friends and family, reading, baking and traveling.