As the UK starts to get back into motion, people are beginning to crawl out of their hiding holes. Switching track suit bottoms for party dresses and cups of tea for pints of beer.
Understandably, after a year of avoiding social interactions some of us are struggling to get back into it. What do I talk about? How do I function in a social setting? Social Anxiety is a very common disorder amongst people prone to anxious thoughts. Things like ‘FOMO’ and social media can be a stimulant to this, so it is understandable that a year of social restrictions may have some effect. Symptoms of social anxiety include worrying about speaking to people, dreading social events, avoiding eye contact and low self-esteem.
For those of us with social anxiety, lockdown has been both a blessing and a curse. In a strange sense, it feels as if we are being rewarded for doing what we do best: keeping ourselves to ourselves and staying away from others. But there are downsides to this, too. The prospect of having to socialise with others again after the best part of a year spent isolating is absolutely terrifying for those with social anxiety.
The most Human beings are social creatures, we thrive off of the chemicals released when we spend time with others. Something as simple as a hug has the power to change our entire state of being. Personally, I felt both the pros and cons of the most recent lock-down. I didn’t see anyone outside of my household for three months in hopes of helping reduce the spread of the virus. During this time I tackled feelings of loneliness, isolation and boredom. However, I found it gave me a new opportunity to adjust my focus onto myself rather than the expectations of those in my social circle. It is normal for us to be swept away into social situations, trying to fit in and be part of a tribe. This comes from our innate human instinct to be part of a group in order to protect our lives. This is unnecessary in today’s world as we aren’t going to be attacked by a Lion, most of the time. Never the less, this fear of abandonment or not being part of a community still stands.
So, what can you do to help ease anxiety as we start to make our way back into the world again? Here are some of my best tips and tricks to tackle these worries.
Talk to someone you trust. Sharing your concerns and worries can help alleviate them, so find someone you can trust and who you feel comfortable talking to. There’s a good chance that they are feeling a similar way, which will help you to feel supported and like your worries aren’t unwarranted.
Pre-plan situations. You know yourself best, so consider the situations where you’re feeling the most anxious and think about how you can ease the nervousness you feel about them. For example, if the thought of taking public transport and being surrounded by crowds fills you with dread, is there a different way you can travel that will make the situation easier for you?
Stay informed. Misinformation only fuels anxiety and makes social situations seem even more terrifying, so remember that education is key. Make sure you’re armed with the facts from reputable, reliable sources so that you can be confidence what is safe and what isn’t.
Show yourself compassion. The easing of lockdown and returning to normality is another big adjustment, after over a year of strict guidelines, so be patient with yourself. There’s an expectation that once social activities are available, everyone should be returning to pre-pandemic life immediately. But that’s not necessarily the case for everyone, especially those with anxiety. So, don’t feel pressured to get involved if you’re not ready – take it at your own pace and be honest with those around you if you need more time to adjust.
Focus on the positive. Anxiety can shroud the positive aspects of situations, making it feel like there’s nothing enjoyable to look forward to. But remember that this is the anxiety talking and not the reality. You may find it helpful to list out the things you’re looking forward to, so you can refer to it when you’re feeling anxious.
As the world slowly returns to ‘norm’ we have a new found appreciation for the relationships dearest to us. There is an energy in the air – prioritising community, acts of kindness and love. I hope that we can build a new world as we put it back together. One that encourages us to look out for one another, minority groups and the natural world.