Social anxiety is nothing new. However, the COVID-19 pandemic made so many people across the country (and the world) increasingly aware of their existing anxieties. It also triggered new social anxiety symptoms in others.
For such a long time, many of us were told to “shelter in place.” Even as restrictions started to lift, people were told to stay six feet apart, not gather together with friends or family members, and wear masks in public.
All of it was necessary to keep everyone as safe as possible. However, we’re just now really seeing the long-term mental health effects the pandemic caused, and social anxiety is one of them.
So, how can you overcome social anxiety as we try to enter a post-pandemic world? How can you combat the major spike in this type of anxiety that has occurred over the last two years?
Don’t Let Others Judge Your Timeline
Some people are beyond ready to get back out into the world, go to large gatherings and events, and spend as much time with others as possible. They’ve been “cooped up” for two years and they’re ready to experience a sense of normalcy again.
That isn’t the case for everyone.
Maybe you’re still hesitant to spend time in large groups. Maybe you’re still fearful about the virus itself. Or maybe you’re worried that you might say or do the “wrong thing” in a social setting, and that fear is holding you back.
Whatever the case, it’s important to move at your own pace. Don’t let others tell you that you should get out more or spend more time with people. This pandemic was unlike anything most of us have ever experienced. It’s okay if it takes time to get back to your own sense of normalcy.
When you’re ready to get out and spend more time with people, it’s okay to start in your comfort zone, with the goal of moving outside of it little by little.
Consider meeting up with a few friends or family members. You might even want to invite them to your home so you feel like you have some sense of control. Or go to a favorite restaurant or park to find comfort in familiarity.
Over time, you’ll start to feel more comfortable with larger groups and bigger spaces. But, don’t be afraid to take “baby steps” to get there.
Have a Plan in Place
You can’t and shouldn’t avoid all social settings. You might have to attend a meeting for work or a family gathering. While you don’t have to accept every invitation you’re given, you should try to attend things that don’t make you feel completely overwhelmed.
You can help yourself now and in the future by having a strategy or plan in place before you attend an event.
Your plan might include things like who you want to talk to, things you’re comfortable talking about, boundaries you want to set, and how long you want to stay. For your own sense of comfort, consider including an “escape plan,” too. You should have a way to leave your event quietly if things start to feel overwhelming.
The pandemic caused a huge spike in social anxiety, and so many people are still dealing with the aftermath. If you’re one of them, focus on taking small steps toward socializing and ask yourself, “What is one way I could take a baby step outside my comfort zone this week?”
However, if the fear of being social and getting “back out there” is starting to become too much, consider reaching out for help! Social anxiety can be managed with the right treatment. Feel free to contact me for more information or to set up an appointment, and soon you’ll be able to take charge of your social life again.
Click here for more information on Anxiety Therapy.