Social anxiety, or social phobia, is circled around an intense fear of being negatively judged or evaluated. People with social anxiety can feel like all eyes are on them when out in public. Their anxiety can tell them people see them as stupid or boring. They may feel a need to practice what to say to others beforehand or they may stay up late at night replaying conversations and shaming themselves for “mistakes.” They can feel intensely distressed when around a small or large group of people.
For over a year, we have been socially distancing to help decrease the spread of COVID-19. People who had social anxiety before COVID may be experiencing a resurgence now that social gatherings are becoming common again. There are also others who have developed a new level of social anxiety coming out of quarantine. There may be feelings of uncertainty on how to talk with people face-to-face again – not knowing what to say or do – or how to handle physical contact again now that things are safer. Or maybe it’s a new fear of sickness and germs that has come to light because of the pandemic. Dr. Dawn Potter, a clinical psychologist, discusses this at length in her interview with the Cleveland Clinic (link at end of article). She states, “One, don’t discount yourself. Number two though, if you really can’t think of anything that you want to share then you can shift the conversation to, ‘Now that things are opening up again these are the things I’m still wanting to start doing again. I want to start playing tennis again or I want to start traveling to such and such place that I used to always go or I’m so excited to get back into this group that I used to be a part of and do these new things or my book club.’ Talking about the future and I think that everybody wants to feel more hope. So I think that’s a great place to start.” We, as humans, are social beings. We are not built to be alone, which is a big reason social distancing has been so trying. But for some, that does not make social interactions any easier. You may need help and that is okay.
Start by being kind to yourself. Forgive yourself if you feel like you made a social faux pas. We’re human and we will say or do the wrong thing from time to time. If you are ready or wanting to go to gatherings again, try building yourself up on the way there by listening to your favorite music. After the event, treat yourself with your favorite meal or something nice, regardless of how the event went. Be proud of yourself for going. You are trying and that’s what matters. “However, if you are still concerned then know what you’re okay with and stick to it but be brave and remember that humans are social creatures. Human beings have been through other pandemics. Human beings have been through a lot of different things and we are wired to connect socially and to adjust to different social settings. Big social changes are hard so the shift that we did make with this pandemic was hard and so a little bit of nervousness, a little bit of difficulty bouncing back is normal. However, your skills are probably going to return much faster than you think they are,” states Dr. Potter.
You can also try exercising and eating healthy foods or starting a daily gratitude journal to help with the anxiety.
Dr. Potter states, “Many people during this time may have found new strengths that they didn’t know they had or built new coping skills that they were never forced to use before that will carry them through. So people could come out of this stronger. Some people will come out of this continuing to be depressed, continuing to be anxious and if that’s the case then seeking medical care, seeking mental health care is the best thing to do because treatment is out there and most people can recover from many, many things.”
If you find yourself struggling getting back to normal or finding previous anxieties resurface, let us help. Our practitioners utilize methods like cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness strategies that can aid in your journey through new or long-lasting anxiety. We want to see you get to your best self because you deserve to be happy.
At the Strength in the Motion wellness community, we believe in a mind-body-soul approach towards finding and sustaining balance. We feel honored to be on your path in some way and are here to support you in living to your greatest potential. Click here to find out more information about who we are and how we may be a support to you. We are offering telehealth and in-person sessions during this time and free consultations as always. We are here to support you.