Dealing with Social Anxiety Post-Pandemic
Updated: Jun 9
As vaccines begin to roll out and businesses begin to reopen, we are being thrown into what feels like a whole new world after the pandemic we have all just been through. 2020 was a crazy year in which most of us spent at home, quarantined with only our small bubble of people we happen to live with. This year of quarantine has really taken its toll on many of our social skills. While many people are excited for life to begin to return to normal, some of us may be finding ourselves filled to the brim with social anxiety at the thought of being thrown back into a world full of other people and a strange, new “normal”. There are many reasons one may be experiencing feelings of social anxiety as the world begins to open again from the fact that they have been around only the people they are comfortable with for over a year all the way to possible newfound fears of spreading germs.
What is a Social Anxiety Disorder?
Most of us have experienced moments in which we felt nervous or awkward in social situations. Maybe it was while meeting an important person or giving a speech in front of a room full of people. With a social anxiety disorder, these feelings of nervousness and awkwardness can become overwhelming and can begin to negatively impact one’s quality of life. Social anxiety can lead some people to avoid social interactions to the point of even refusing to leave their homes altogether.
Social anxiety can occur in many different situations. It can occur when one goes on a date, meets new people, is asked to speak in public, making eye contact, going to school or work, and in many other instances. Those who are suffering from social anxiety may find themselves fearing that the people around them are judging them, that they will do something embarrassing, that they will will accidentally say something offensive, or that they will become the center of attention.
Social anxiety can feel very different to different people. It often occurs with physical symptoms that are similar to symptoms experienced when one is feeling stressed, though. The physical symptoms one may experience while dealing with social anxiety can include a rapid heartbeat, muscle tension, dizziness, stomach problems, and shortness of breath.
How to Get Yourself Back Out There
Some of us may wish that we could continue to hide in the comfort of our homes surrounded by the people we are most comfortable with, our pets who love us unconditionally, and the items that helped us get through the pandemic. While staying home and continuing to avoid getting back out there may keep you comfortable for now, it will eventually begin to become more and more of a problem, helping your anxiety to remain as strong as ever rather than facing it head on. As the world slowly opens up safely again, we have some tips and tricks to help you cope with social anxiety and face the world with confidence.
Slowly expose yourself to social situations (in a safe way) at least once a day. You can head to the grocery store, go for a walk, or meet with a friend. Set yourself small, achievable challenges throughout your week like smiling at a stranger, saying “hi” as you pass someone by, or meeting a new friend.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques can help you deal with social anxiety when it is triggered. Some relaxation techniques you can practice are meditation, mindfulness, breathing techniques, or visualization. There are tons of online resources where you can learn how to perform these practices. Many of these techniques use methods of slowing down our body’s natural physical response to feelings of anxiety, which can help our minds begin to relax, as well.
Talk About it
Whatever feelings you may be experiencing as you reintroduce yourself to the world, talking about them with a trusted loved one can help you feel supported, find encouragement, and work through why you may be feeling this way. Seeking the comfort of your significant other, best friend, or mother can help you feel less lonely as you navigate this new “normal”.
When you experience instances of social anxiety, writing out your thoughts, feelings, and emotions may help you find the thought patterns that are triggering your anxiety when you are out. This can help you begin to recognize and possibly change the negative thought patterns that
may be leading you to experience social anxiety.
Be Kind to Yourself
Know that your feelings of anxiety are understandable considering the rough year the whole world has experienced. Don’t push yourself to get out there too hard or too fast. Take your time and be compassionate with yourself as you reintroduce yourself to the world. Communicate with your friends and family how you are feeling and set clear boundaries so that they understand what is going on.
If you cannot seem to shake your social anxiety or you feel as though it is beginning to negatively impact your overall quality of life, reach out to a therapist. They can help you diagnose, understand, and treat your social anxiety disorder. You can also seek group therapy programs specifically for social anxiety in order to place yourself in a social setting and feel better understood.
This pandemic has been tough for us all. Whether you have suffered from social anxiety prior to the pandemic or are experiencing new feelings of anxiety, know that your feelings are completely valid and you are not alone. Many people are experiencing feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, fear, stress, and despair as the world begins to open up again. Don’t be afraid to open up about your anxieties and fears as others around you may be feeling the same way and are ready to support you through your journey. If your social anxiety is beginning to take a toll on the quality of your life or does not seem to be fading away with time, seeking help from a therapist can help you diagnose, understand, and find an effective treatment strategy to help you cope with your anxiety. Things will get easier with time and effort. We can help you get through this. Contact us today to speak with an anxiety specialist.