Social Anxiety: Entering Society as the World Reopens

Are you afraid of receiving judgment from the people around you?
Do you feel like crawling under a rock whenever the opportunity comes to socialize with people?

This is no cause for alarm, as 15 million Americans this past year have experienced some type of a social anxiety disorder.

Social anxiety can take many forms, but basically, someone suffering from social anxiety experiences fear, self-consciousness and embarrassment at the thought of having to interact with others. To varying degrees, they may be afraid of being judged, or feeling humiliated or embarrassed in public, or even fear of saying the wrong thing and possibly offending someone, in a social setting.

A disorder like this can be challenging if you think your co-workers, classmates, or relatives are talking badly about you. This can even lead to friendship troubles if you assume the worst in your friends. People with social anxiety disorder during the COVID-19 pandemic may have felt short-term relief having been forced to social distance and isolate. However, as the world reopens, those with social anxiety disorder may find themselves in worse shape because hibernating can actually make social anxiety worse. The longer the person stays isolated, the harder it may be to re-enter society.

If social anxiety is making it hard for you to walk out the door, here are some tips to help you adjust:

Take it Slow

With the world opening up, you can see it as an invitation back into the world. On the other hand, it does not mean that you need to expose yourself to so many people at once if you are worried. You can start off by spending time with people who are closest to you. A best friend or a relative you connect with the most are people you can be honest and smile with.

The idea is to give yourself a little taste sample of being around people before you go into larger crowds.

Once your anxiety calms down, you can start to go to larger social situations like gatherings or parties. If you are still not ready to see people in person, you can make it a goal to talk to one person a day through video chat or phone calls. If you feel comfortable speaking to one person, you can engage in a group call or video chat. After a while, you will feel more relaxed setting up a meetup with a friend face-to-face. This is not a race to get back to normal.

Accept Your Fears

While other people around you are not afraid to venture out into the world, it does not mean that what you are feeling is wrong. It has been over a century since the last time the world has been through a pandemic. No one in today’s world, including experts, knows what the right thing to do is. You have a right to be afraid.
There are many factors that decide when it is safe to go back to civilization.
It could be based on your age, the number of cases in your area, and your own anxiety. Be open to people who are closest to you about your fears.
It is normal to feel embarrassed by your feelings, but it is also important to own up to them. There is no shame in fear after being alone for so long in quarantine. For all you know, one of your friends may feel the same way as you and are happy someone is on the same page as them.

Take Care of Yourself

Before you go out into the world, it is important to make self-care a priority. This means that you are staying physically active in exercising, developing self-reflective tools like journaling, and talking to friends and family about your worries. By taking better care of your mental health, you will be better prepared for the unknown that awaits you. If you feel like anxiety and panic are still interfering with seeing people, it is time to seek help from a mental health professional and give anxiety therapy a try. They will help lead you towards a path where you can be at ease around people without worrying about your health being at risk.

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