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How Can I Cope with Post-Covid Social Anxiety? Part 1

As more people receive the Covid-19 vaccine and begin to feel safer reconnecting with friends and family, I’ve found many clients remain apprehensive about reaching out or scheduling plans. While much of this is likely related to the mindset, we’ve developed over the past year of what it means to keep ourselves and others safe, a new hurdle seems to have developed. Regardless of having struggled with a mental health disorder in the past or not, many people have found they’ve developed some form of social anxiety in the past year. Even the biggest extroverts, the people that have been itching to get back out there, are suddenly overcome with anxiety at the thought of actually interacting with other people in person. It may seem silly or difficult to understand, but after 12+ months of barely speaking to anyone, the thought of socializing has become incredibly daunting and overwhelming for many individuals. “Social anxiety is different from generalized anxiety because it’s specific to interacting with others.” Take a moment and picture conversing with people at a restaurant, making small talk, meeting and engaging with strangers, having the attention of others, or being assessed/judged by others. If this thought makes you uncomfortable to the point it may impact your functioning in social situations, it’s likely you’re dealing with social anxiety. If these thoughts don’t lead to any anxious thoughts or feelings, this blog post is not for you!

So, now that we’ve determined what social anxiety is, why it may be happening and whether or not it’s something you may be dealing with, it’s important to discuss how to handle it. Below are helpful ideas and steps to manage our anxiety as we ease back into “normal” life.

Hang Out with Your Anxiety

When we begin to feel anxious it’s understandable to want to run away from the feeling. However, the more we do this the more control we give our anxiety. Getting familiar with our anxious feelings, what they’re triggered by and the situations that make us feel worried allows us to have more control over these feelings. It’s also important to observe and lean into what makes us feel safe in various situations. Maybe outdoor gatherings feel more comfortable than indoor or spending time one-on-one feels better than a group. By learning the details of our anxiety, we give ourselves the power to modify situations to best account for our triggers and stressors. This way, we can still be social without the fear of our social anxiety taking over.

Slow Down

Many clients have reported that once they were two weeks out from their second vaccine, they felt completely overwhelmed with the number of potential plans. It’s important to realize that despite it being so long since we’ve been able to see other’s it’s unrealistic to be able to see everyone, we missed this past year asap. Start by seeing people closest to you, whether they’re friends or family, as they’re likely the people you feel most comfortable with. If you can, try and make the first interactions short and low-pressure. This may mean meeting for coffee or going over to a friend’s house to watch a tv show. The more successful social outings you have the more motivated you’ll be to continue reaching out to people. It’s important to set ourselves up for success.

The road back to normalcy is likely to be a long one both for physical and mental safety. Taking care of and being kind to ourselves during this time is incredibly important. What we’ve experienced this past year can be felt as a collective trauma. Taking time for reflection and checking in with ourselves is crucial. I encourage you to start with these steps and stay tuned for more in part 2!

If you’ve found yourself struggling to manage your anxiety or reacclimate to socializing as we approach a post-covid world, it may be useful to try counseling. Contact Symmetry Counseling today at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our dedicated therapists in Chicago!

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