As vaccinations increase and the COVID-19 pandemic’s social-distancing requirements loosen, many people will start to see more of each other in person, which can make some individuals feel nervous or anxious about socializing again. The good news is that this is entirely normal — moving back to a pre-pandemic lifestyle can be nerve-racking. And for individuals who already deal with anxiety disorders, the transition could cause such symptoms to resurge and even intensify.
If you’re experiencing post-pandemic social anxiety, you may have pressing questions about how to cope, move forward, and even enjoy the things that used to make you happy. Getting back to a sense of social normalcy isn’t always as simple as throwing yourself into situations you used to be comfortable in — and that’s okay!
We’ve included a list of tips below to help you navigate and reduce socially anxious feelings so you can get back to enjoying the parts of life you most cherish.
See Your Closest Friends
One of the best ways to stay comfortable in stressful times is to spend time with your closest family members and friends. You can be part of a small-but-devoted group of people who meet only in environments everyone (including you) feel safe and comfortable in. Make sure to include only people who won’t add to or incentivize your anxious feelings so you don’t have to pretend to feel certain ways you don’t. Once the setting for meeting these trusted friends and family members feels comfortable enough, you might move to meeting in other, more public contexts too, and with more friends as you open back up your social life.
Take Trips Outside The House
Another great way to push back against post-pandemic social anxiety is similar, but more general than seeing your closest friends: spend time outside your home environment and be around people. It will probably feel odd or even unnerving, but the more frequently you feel comfortable joining others in a coffee shop, library, or other previously-normal public environment, the more comfortable you may start to feel. You could even try working remotely with a laptop in such environments if your profession allows, and you could try to visit local stores and events downtown if you’re nearby and/or haven’t joined the fun in a while.
Focus On Things You Can Control
While the pandemic has been challenging for a wide variety of reasons, one of the biggest has to do with very few things being in anyone’s control. Such a lack of influence in your day-to-day activities can cause extreme fluctuations and degrees of anxiety, including social anxiety about moving past the more health-defensive circumstances many have had to adopt in their lives.
To bolster your ability to control and process anxious feelings, one of the best mentalities is to pay attention to what you can influence directly, like when you go places, who you hang out with, and the duration you decide to spend doing activities or visiting places. This helps improve your sense of agency and expectations about what you’re able to influence instead of what’s beyond your control.
Don’t Ignore Or Bottle Up Your Feelings
It’s critical not to ignore your own feelings of social anxiety related to the pandemic. Many people are also experiencing higher degrees of social anxiety than they once did, and for good reason: there’s more risk associated with the pandemic. It’s not healthy to force yourself to be in contexts you don’t feel prepared to deal with — and not feeling prepared is itself completely okay! If you’re experiencing social anxiety about anything concerning social risks influenced by the pandemic, give yourself time to process your emotions. You can also contact an accredited therapist toward helping you feel that your experiences and concerns are true and matter. With the right compassion for yourself, you will likely find the good days that add up to rebuilding your sense of normalcy while pushing back against anxiety related to the pandemic.
If you’re experiencing post-pandemic anxiety symptoms, be sure to contact your doctor for a visit to determine what treatment or coping mechanisms are best. At Lehigh Center for Clinical Research, we’re dedicated to researching and developing the best ways to treat and mitigate social anxiety of all kinds. If you’re interested in taking part in one of our social anxiety-based clinical studies, click here to learn more and enroll.