How To Deal With Lockdown-Induced Social Anxiety
September 12th, 2021 at 1:28 pm
Finally! More people are becoming fully vaccinated, restrictions are starting to ease. But why do we feel more anxious than excited? This is what we’ve been waiting for. Are these butterflies in our stomach a combination of both?
First off, feeling nervous is totally normal. We’ve spent almost two years in lockdown, so our social skills haven’t been put to as much use. Even if you’re extroverted, it’s natural to feel uneasy about the idea of face-to-face interactions after being able to hide behind screens and appear in flattering lighting.
Secondly, we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. Our economy and borders may have reopened, but daily COVID-19 cases have remained in the double digits. The fear continues with fully vaccinated people still being able to become infected and spread the virus to others (but it does reduce your risk of infection and the severity if you do get infected, so please get vaccinated!).
Over the lockdown period, these social worries and health concerns could have developed into social anxiety. Social anxiety is more than feeling nervous or uncomfortable, and may cause you to avoid all social contact. It can also lead to additional problems, such as substance abuse and depression.
What Is Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder where an individual forms an overwhelming fear of social situations. This disorder is more than being shy or introverted. A lot of people struggle with social anxiety, making it hard for them to fit in at social gatherings, talk to new people, and participate in ongoing conversations. These persistent and intense social fears can cause increased feelings of unhappiness and loneliness.
What Are The Signs
Social anxiety can appear as emotional and physical responses, such as:
- Worrying about how people may perceive you in a social situation.
- The fear of being embarrassed.
- Feeling stressed over possibilities in upcoming events.
- Being scared of accidentally offending someone.
- Agreeing with everyone and suppressing personal opinions.
- Avoiding being the center of attention.
The physical symptoms to look out for are:
- Avoiding eye contact, social gatherings or interactions.
- Constantly cancelling plans.
- Shaky voice while communicating.
- Muscle tension and sweating in environments you’re unlikely to sweat.
- Sudden dizziness / lightheadedness, rapid heart rate or upset stomach in social situations.
How To Deal
Slowly ease yourself back into things.
- Even if your friends and family have been rushing to make plans, you can still take your time with filling up your social calendar. Don’t overwhelm yourself with back-to-back events, see how you feel after each gathering before planning the next one.
Plan ahead and prepare.
- Allow yourself to rest and take it easy before going out. If you’re afraid about not having anything to talk about, research a few topics beforehand and prepare yourself with easy conversation starters to avoid feeling awkward around others.
Learn relaxing breathing techniques.
- You can manage anxiety symptoms by learning how to control your breathing. Look for a relaxing technique that you’re comfortable with to help slow down your breathing. The basic technique is called 4-2-6 breathing: breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 2 seconds and exhale for 6 seconds.
Follow the guidelines / standard operating procedures (SOP)
- Fully vaccinated people still need to be appropriately cautious and keep following the standard operating procedures, such as social distancing and wearing masks. Ease your fear and anxiety about COVID-19 by avoiding crowds and meeting up with your friends and family in well-ventilated places.
Set boundaries and share how you feel.
- Open up to your family and friends about how you’re feeling. Know your limits when it comes to socialising and share your boundaries with them. Make sure to maintain your boundaries and respect others’ boundaries too.
Seek professional help if needed.
- During this time, it is normal to experience anxiety to some extent. But, if your anxiety gets worse and starts to interfere with your day-to-day life, please seek professional help. Therapy and / or medication can help you cope.
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