social anxiety, social distancing, COVID-19, SAD

How To Deal With Social Anxiety After Social Distancing

Last year was incredibly weird for many of us. If you’re struggling with social anxiety after months of avoiding human contact, you are not alone. Many of us are still feeling like we are finding our footing with the ever-changing variables surrounding the pandemic. If you feel nervous being in a larger group or find yourself avoiding mingling with others after social distancing for so long, then this information is for you. We are here to help you at NYC Therapeutic Wellness.

Tired of getting anxious at every social event? Contact our friendly and knowledgeable team.

Is It Common To Have Social Anxiety After Isolation?

The short answer is yes, you are not alone in this. You may have forgotten how to behave around others or find that conversations don’t come easily and are exhausting. Many of us are navigating back out into society as more is opening up and as we feel more comfortable to do so. Mingling with others likely feels much different than it did pre-pandemic. Not only are your social muscles feeling out of practice, but there are added stressors about how social patterns have shifted. You may have thoughts like, “Do I wear a mask?” “What will others think if I am not wearing a mask?” Or, you might wonder, “Do we shake hands or is it ok to give a hug?” “Maybe elbow bumping is the way to go, but it seems so silly to elbow bump from one adult to another.”

Why Am I Experiencing Social Anxiety Now?

During the pandemic, instead of regularly going out and facing fears of social anxiety, people were told to stay in. This mitigated the natural course of exposure therapy, a psychological treatment developed to help people confront their fears, and created a behavior to reinforce social anxiety. We were unable to make going out of the house in a care-free fashion part of our life.

Aside from the reinforcement behaviors aiding the social anxiety, you may also be feeling overstimulated when you are out of the house. Your brain and nervous system may be overwhelmed as it adjusts from a quiet environment that is familiar to an environment with external stimulation of people, noises, and the pressure to return to a “normal” life. 

These are factors you may be able to work through and overcome in a relatively short amount of time. But if you were experiencing these feelings before the pandemic or now are experiencing them for a prolonged period of time, your anxiety may be something more than a feeling you are working through.

What Is Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)?

Social anxiety disorder is a chronic mental health condition that can last for years or be a lifelong battle. It is the feeling of being very self-conscious in everyday social situations or afraid of being judged by others. Social anxiety is more than just having a shy disposition. It often interferes and may prevent you from doing things in your day-to-day life you would otherwise. The National Institute of Mental Health defines social anxiety disorder as a mental health condition that persists for at least six months and triggers avoidances revolving around social situations.

What Causes Social Anxiety Disorder

While shyness should not be confused with SAD, a person diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder is often someone who was extremely shy as a child. Shyness is not the only factor that may lead to social anxiety disorder, researchers have also found it to be a genetic trait as it tends to run in families, although it is unclear as to why some members are affected and not others. A variety of factors go in to the potential cause of SAD such as brain chemistry and past experiences in life.

What are the Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder

There are various symptoms of social anxiety disorder, which vary from person to person. You may feel anxiety and fear in all social situations or only experience it in certain situations such as when meeting new people, talking to a clerk at a store, doing an interview, or being put on the spot to answer a question in class. You may also anxiety doing everyday functions in front of others, such as using a public restroom or eating in front of others.

The anxiety a person experiences in all of these situations boils down to the same root: fear of feeling humiliated and of being judged or rejected. While not all situations are the same, the symptoms that may be experienced are:

  • Avoidance of situations
  • Afraid of judgment
  • Feeling embarrassed or awkward in front of others
  • Wishing they could talk to people, but feeling it too difficult to do so
  • Little eye contact
  • Nausea
  • Blush, sweat, and increased heart rate
  • Mind blanking out and loss of words

How to Re-Establish Life Outside Social Distancing

We are at a time when there is so much divide and opinion on how to navigate the pandemic. We are bound to upset family, friends, and strangers at some point in the decisions we are making as there is no unified plan everyone is in agreeance to. While keeping their feelings in mind, is a pivotal time to create personal boundaries and build resilience to others’ judgments.

Practices To Cope with Social Anxiety.

Pushing yourself out the door and into uncomfortable situations gives you the practice and exposure needed to cope with social anxiety. Below are some steps you can take on your own.

Set Realistic Expectations

Heading out into public with realistic expectations that it is impossible to follow rules that please everyone is a good start. It is alright to not please everyone, in fact, it is impossible to do so. Focus on the rules that make sense to you.

Find Your Inner Confidence

Fight the need to seek reassurance from others. This is a cyclical process in social anxiety that does not benefit healing. Reassurance reinforces the belief that if we do everything right we will feel approval and therefore avoid criticism. Find confidence in yourself by going back to the realistic expectation that you cannot please everyone and it is okay to make mistakes.

Forgive and Love Yourself

Emotions of negativity are signs that you have done something wrong. They are natural and bound to happen to everyone. When this happens, you can forgive yourself whether or not the other person does and move forward. You are the creator of your own happiness and forgiving and loving yourself goes a long way in creating that happiness.

Needing Guidance

At NYC Therapeutic Wellness we understand everyone is on their own journey. Whether you have minor feelings of social anxiety or are having more severe symptoms that are keeping you from enjoying your day-to-day life, we are here to help. Our team of professionals has experience helping people of all backgrounds and needs. You’re not the only one having a hard time readjusting to normal life. We understand this pandemic has been a strange time. We want to see each and every person take that first step toward living their best lives.

Not sure if we are a right fit? Contact us for a free 10-minute phone call today!