Overcoming social anxiety

how to socialise after the pandemic?

Since the beginning of 2020, our global community has become increasingly accustomed to being on lockdown. Although the regulations of these lockdowns have varied around the world, these periods have left us feeling socially isolated.

People, as a result, are naturally nervous about socializing again, particularly in large groups or with strangers. Social anxiety might even be a result of this. Hopefully, these tips will make it easier for you to lift restrictions and resume socializing after being on lockdown for almost two years. It is important to pay attention to our mental health after all.

What is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is a long-term and overwhelming fear of social situations. Even in situations that wouldn’t normally be fear-inducing, someone with social anxiety might worry about being laughed at or harshly judged. They have trouble talking to people, meeting new people, and attending social gatherings. They may understand that their fears are irrational or unreasonable, but feel powerless to overcome them.

Social anxiety is more than just shyness.

Some of the most common scenarios include meeting new people, starting conversations, and eating in front of people. Some of these things might sound nerve-racking, while some might not, but they can all feel traumatic for someone with social anxiety. It affects everyday activities, self-confidence, relationships and work or school life.

Symptoms of social anxiety

When having to perform in front of or be around others, people with social anxiety disorder tend to:

  • Blush, sweat, tremble, feel a rapid heart rate, or feel their “mind going blank”
  • Feel nauseous or sick to their stomach
  • Show a rigid body posture, make little eye contact, or speak with an overly soft voice
  • Find it scary and difficult to be with other people, especially those they don’t already know and have a hard time talking to them even though they wish they could
  • Be very self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed and awkward
  • Be very afraid that other people will judge them
  • Stay away from places where there are other people

Is it normal to have some social anxiety after lockdown?

If you were already living with social anxiety before the pandemic began, you might have welcomed the opportunity to hide away in a cocoon of privacy where you didn’t have any pressure to talk to strangers, attend social gatherings, or make small talk at the water cooler.

As social distancing restrictions loosen, it’s normal to feel some nervousness or anxiety. Especially if you’ve been relatively isolated or been living in a small bubble during the pandemic. But you are now starting to socialize in larger groups or with people you haven’t seen for a while.

What are the main concerns people have about socialising again?

Physical contact

After almost two years of social distancing, mask-wearing, and no physical contact, a lot of people are scared about the idea of being in close proximity to other people. This may include feeling anxiety about people trying to hug you or shake your hand without you feeling comfortable. Hence, you might want to be clear about your boundaries and make sure you communicate well with the people around you.

How to reduce stress during social interactions and social events?

While avoiding the situations that are causing you anxiety works in the short term, doing so actually maintains your anxiety over the long term.  It’s okay if not all of these tips resonate with you, but you can try anything that you feel might help you relax more during social interactions.

  • Make a point of leaving the house every day, even if it is only to go for a walk.
  • Be the one in your household who goes out to get groceries.
  • Make a trip to the pharmacy, just to get out of the house instead of using a delivery service.
  • Before you actually need to go back to work full time, drive to your place of work and walk around for a bit until you start to feel more comfortable.
  • If you are in school or have a child who was in school, go to the school and walk around for a bit to feel more comfortable before the first day back.
  • Make a plan for how many social events you can tolerate in one day and then stick to that plan.
  • Try to socialize in other ways if you still can’t leave the house, such as by talking on the phone, writing letters, using video calls, or sending emails to your loved ones or friends.
overcoming social anxiety

Regardless of what you need to do, keep it gradual as you work to become immersed again into society. Start with the easier things and work your way up to the harder things. Be empathetic to yourself if you feel anxious. But don’t let that stop you from taking the steps to avoid the things that you need to do the most.

Nevertheless, not everyone has had the same reaction to lockdown. And equally, everyone will be experiencing different emotions as we leave. We all deserve to enjoy seeing friends and family after some time apart.

To learn more about our mental health programmes, visit us at RHA Academy.