The Anxiety of New “Social” Obligation

We have been given the gift of time. Or have we? More time means more time thinking, analysing, dwelling and generally working ourselves into a frenzy. Anxiety and depression rates are at an all time high.

Like every human, I have bouts of feeling depressed or anxious but I have never classified myself as having anxiety. I am also an inherently sociable person. I pride myself on having a full social calendar and have a people-facing job. So why is it that social obligation (more than social isolation) is causing me anxiety during quarantine?

Anxiety and Depression 

People are feeling the effects of Covid-19 and there are definitely many reasons to feel anxious. The world is currently facing a global mental health crisis like never before; job insecurity, feelings of isolation and concern for the state of the universe. It is no secret that prolonged loneliness is detrimental for both mental health and physical health. Looking at all this, it is unsurprising that prescriptions for anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication have increased.

New Social Pressures

For the good and the bad, wide-scale efforts have been made to make a time of isolation more sociable. People have come up with creative ways to keep in contact with friends and family as well as joining “group activities”. Exercise classes, movie nights, quizzes and other social activities from our pre-coronavirus lives have been replicated in the digital world. Now you can find yourself “double-booking” a virtual pub quiz and a virtual yoga class. When you find yourself rescheduling plans that don’t involve leaving the house, you know that these social obligations have become your new reality.

The New FOMO

Does the anxiety come from the feelings of isolation and separation? Or failing to keep up with the new “social” life? FOMO (fear of missing out) of parties and beach holidays has been replaced by FOMO of group calls, quizzes and bingo. If you cannot be present at a group call, you no longer have a valid excuse. Missing “events” leads to questioning and incredulousness from friends. Time has become a relative concept. Work is no longer 9-5 and you cannot simply disconnect when leaving the office. People are facing a time when there is no off-switch for work or socialising. The sanctity of home has been infiltrated.

The New “Having it All”

Another anxiety-inducing current phenomenon is the perception of ‘productivity’. For the compulsively productive (guilty) this new time can be seen as a challenge. People feel that finally they have an opportunity to start the projects they have been putting off for years. However, with that comes an insurmountable pressure of having to achieve. It is no longer enough to maintain your existing social life, work life and exercise from the comfort of your lounge. No, you also need to be writing the next bestseller, becoming a professional chef or getting your core strong enough to do a handstand.