Let’s face it, these are truly strange times. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted just about everything in society. School, work, family life, socializing with friends—they’ve all looked very different for several months now. It’s likely that your daily routine has changed drastically, thanks to the major safety precautions we’ve all been taking. While it’s all been for the best, if the resulting social isolation has affected you, you’re not the only one. Many of us have never spent this much time alone (or only with a few other family members) in our lives! At this point, some people are beyond ready to get back out into the world and socialize. But that isn’t true of everyone. If you’re feeling a bit hesitant about the idea of rejoining society, that’s normal right now. Here, I’ll talk about what social anxiety is and what you can do to ease yours.
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is a chronic mental health condition that makes interacting with others feel embarrassing or frightening. It’s more than just everyday shyness, which is a common personality trait. People with social anxiety disorder regularly or even constantly worry about making social blunders and being judged or humiliated. They can experience physical symptoms in social situations that make them anxious, like sweaty palms, shaky hands, and/or an unsteady voice. Their discomfort may lead them to avoid social situations or to replay and overthink their interactions later on. As you can imagine, it’s often detrimental to their professional and social lives if left untreated.
People can develop social anxiety disorder for a number of reasons. It might be something they inherit from a parent or grandparent, or it can begin after an especially uncomfortable or embarrassing event. Fortunately, it’s treatable with help from an expert mental health professional and a serious commitment to several important self-care practices.
The social isolation resulting from months of quarantine may have caused you to develop some degree of social anxiety. If you’re experiencing symptoms of social anxiety disorder, it’s important that you share your concerns with a professional. Your general practitioner can refer you to a competent mental health care provider who can help you. Many health professionals are seeing patients via virtual visits, allowing you to receive mental health care without risk of exposure.
However, you don’t need to have an official social anxiety diagnosis to feel some discomfort and nervousness right now. Feeling some trepidation about returning to your normal social life is understandable. Let’s explore some daily habits you can develop to help mitigate those feelings.
What You Can Do Now: Self-Care Tips and More
The good news is that the self-care behaviors experts recommend for people with social anxiety disorder are useful for all of us. Here are some simple changes you can make to help achieve a more relaxed state of mind in social situations.
- Add Regular Exercise to Your Day
- Harness the Power of Yoga
- Practice Mindfulness Meditation
- Say “No Thank You” to a Venti
- Distance Yourself from Facebook, Twitter, and More
Add Regular Exercise to Your Day
Try exercises to reduce anxiety: swimming, running, dancing, whatever feels good to you. Choose something you enjoy so you’ll be inclined to stick to it.
Harness the Power of Yoga
Make time for a gentle yoga practice, with an emphasis on deep breathing techniques, several times a week. The benefits of yoga include reduced levels of stress and anxiety. You don’t have to be a super-flexible expert yogi to make it work for you.
Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Spend just ten minutes a day practicing mindfulness-based stress reduction. It can help to reduce depression and anxiety and help you get a good night’s sleep.
Say “No Thank You” to a Venti
Cut back on your caffeine intake. It’s fine to enjoy a morning cup of coffee or tea, but overdoing it can make you feel jittery, shaky, and nervous. If you love to sip all day, switch to decaf (Note that it still contains a small amount of caffeine).
Distance Yourself from Facebook, Twitter, and More
Take a social media break. Remember that what you see on Facebook is not reality. If looking at your feed makes you feel more nervous about real-world socializing, delete the app for a week.
These self-care behaviors are things you can do at home, on your own. You might think about keeping a journal to record how you’re feeling each day, which will help you see your progress. If you still don’t feel like you’ve resolved your anxiety issues, ask your mental health provider about exposure therapy. It takes you out of your comfort zone to confront your fears, allowing you to move past them. Know that no matter how severe your social anxiety is, you can take concrete steps toward feeling more confident and relaxed.
Depression and Anxiety: What is Normal Right Now?
When you don’t feel well, it’s hard not to ask yourself if something’s seriously wrong with you. I’m here to tell you that your reaction to the pandemic, whatever it may be, is understandable. COVID-19 and social distancing have had a profound effect on many people’s mental and emotional wellness. We weren’t made to sit at home by ourselves for months at a time! Staying positive has not been easy in the face of frightening headlines, distance learning hiccups, canceled celebrations, and lost income. So if you haven’t been coping as well as you usually do, don’t be too hard on yourself.
Take a look at the CDC’s list of tips and resources for addressing your mental health concerns. If you find yourself unable to function normally for several days in a row due to stress, you should call your doctor. You don’t have to suffer for weeks on end, and you don’t have to try to improve your mental state alone. Ask your doctor if he or she has any advice on how to get rid of anxiety at home. Sometimes, simply talking to another person about the things that feel so overwhelming can help you relax a little.
Above all, be kind to yourself, today and every day. Hopefully, the brighter days we’ve all been waiting for are coming soon.