There are big crowds at concerts and sporting events. Everyone is posting new vacation photos. Dinner parties and play dates are back in full swing. But where are you? Are you in your house trying to figure out how to cope with your social anxiety after the pandemic?
If you’re feeling too anxious to get back out there, you’re not alone. Plenty of folks are in no hurry to get back to “normal” — especially those who are struggling with social anxiety.
Sure, anyone can feel shy or nervous at times. But social anxiety is much deeper and more serious than that. And it may be getting working as a roadblock for your post-pandemic enjoyment. What can you do?
Social Anxiety 101
Someone with a social anxiety disorder experiences extreme fear of situations that make them feel watched or judged. Also, unfamiliar scenarios can feel daunting, too. Just thinking about such situations is enough to provoke severe discomfort. Any or all of the following can inspire dread:
- Unexpected social interactions like meeting someone new, engaging in small talk, being called on in class, or unscheduled phone calls
- Feeling like you’re the center of attention, e.g. talking in a meeting, being on stage, entering a party, etc.
- Getting teased or criticized
- Public interactions from eating to using restrooms
- To round out the cycle, people with social anxiety also become anxious when others find out they have social anxiety.
Social Anxiety and the Pandemic
You may have been dealing with social anxiety before March 2020. If so, it’s likely that the lockdowns have caused it to escalate. Or perhaps it was the pandemic and quarantine that are causing your social anxiety. Either way, you’re happy that things are improving. But you’re petrified to get back out into the world of inevitable social interactions.
You got used to working from home. It feels safe to socialize virtually. You haven’t had to make small talk in more than a year. How now can you cope with and manage your social anxiety?
5 Steps to Cope with Social Anxiety After the Pandemic
1. Start Slow (but not TOO slow)
It’s probably not advised that you try to get back up to speed too quickly. But, be careful. Anxiety is an excellent liar and will do its best to keep you stuck. For starters: Get out of the house every single day. Take a walk, shop at the grocery store, or skip the food delivery to go pick it up. Use these outings as an opportunity to practice casual conversations.
2. Take Practice Runs
Before you go back to work or school full-time, do the commute a few times. Whether you’re driving or taking public transportation, readjust to the routine before doing it for real.
3.Create a Schedule and Stick to It
Don’t leave things to chance, at least not in the beginning. Decide on a weekly basis how many re-entry attempts you will try. Perhaps you’ve been dying to get back to the gym. Start by visiting the facilities and getting familiar again with the surroundings. After you join, start out attending once or twice a week until the routine feels normal again.
4. Stay Present
Don’t allow your mind to wander into catastrophic future scenarios. Wherever you are, be mindful of your surroundings and your feelings. You don’t have to make any big decisions, e.g. “I’ll never do this again!”
5. Don’t See Your Actions as “Right” or “Wrong”
You’re out of practice. If you hadn’t played a sport for a year, you’d expect a little rustiness. Cut yourself some slack and you get back into social shape.
Finally, in a time like this, it can help immensely to speak with a therapist. Please read more about anxiety treatment and reach out today to set up a free and confidential consultation.