Need an antidote to this new sense of social anxiety?

Written by Hannah Cole

Photography Ophelia Mikkelson

Got fret sweats re: IRL socialising post-lockdown? Get a stick and burn it. You may feel better for it.

We have (at last) started crawling out of our cosy, germ-free dens; venturing with trepidation into the outside world. The Groundhog Day of repeated routine and little differentiation has been replaced with a conversation I hear resoundingly: we’ve become anxious — and a little nonchalant — about the return of IRL socialising. 

For many of us, the time at home forced us to become comfortable in our nests. Where previously weeknights would be spent out and about, we’ve found a sense of solace in the kitchen, on our couch, cuddled up with a pooch or our TV family. A few months at home has us converted to a collective of homebodies.

While I encourage us all to get out of our comfort zones and gradually expand the social circle once again, there is something special to be said about finding joy in our homes. (I also acknowledge that this is most definitely not the experience felt by all, but a subset of those who have not had to deal with the worries of job security, income and other important issues). If this is your situation, though, let us make the most of it. If we are safe and free from loneliness, why not give in a little to this new sense of introversion?

It’s time, then, that our homes become the cosy hearth they should be. It is our shelter from the outside world, where we recoup, recover, and put ourselves together, filled with all those things that spark some joy. So, along with a deep clean and fresh sheets, I recommend the addition of incense sticks — a sure-fire way to pamper the room and your soul.

Steeped in ancient tradition, incense has long been used as a protective force of sorts: warding off evil, purifying spaces for meditation and focus. They are oddly, and unexpectedly, relevant today — hippie or otherwise. With or without a pandemic on our doorstep, there is much to be said for unwinding and creating ritual, freeing our minds’ of daily anxieties (and the pressure to socially interact). Hold onto some of the precious slowness of the first half of 2020. 

Burning incense in the morning as you sip your first coffee and prepare for the day is a magical — dare I say, spiritual — way to wake up and get going. Or, on arrival home, peel off your outer layers, slip on your house shoes, and light a stick to start the process of unwinding. 

Each scent comes with its own purpose: frankincense is thought to be rife with qualities that combat stress and anxiety, as is lavender. Relax with sandalwood, or throw it back to decades past and stock up on patchouli — then peace out. 

Let your sense of smell take you someplace else. International travel is looking unlikely until 2021 at the earliest, so an olfactory vacation may be our best substitute for now. Close your eyes and envision the glistening shores of the Mediterranean; lose yourself in the fresh, forest-y scents of Japan. 

Along with the mental and emotional benefits, an uptick in incense makes room for more cute incense stands and holders. It’s a rabbit hole worth getting lost in as your home transforms into a shrine to the things that make you feel good, precious, and refreshed. Line the cabinets, dining table and shelves with these trinkets — both practical and beautiful.

Light up and settle in. If we’re going to be avoiding life on the outside, we may as well do it in ultimate style and comfort. We will get there eventually and, if not, your home may become the paradise your loved ones seek. Socialisation without having to leave the confines of your cosy walls? Priceless. 


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