In so many different ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has completely altered our normal way of living. Case numbers have come in waves, and we’ve seen changing levels of restrictions with those waves. With these fluctuations, the entire world has experienced deep and significant losses. So if you are feeling anxious returning to normal, you are certainly not alone.
Keep reading for more about what we know about post-COVID social anxiety.
What Is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is a common mental health concern defined by feelings of anxiety in social situations. This means anxiety symptoms might arise in dating, spending time with friends, talking on the phone, or meeting new people. However, any social situation could be impacted by social anxiety.
Social anxiety symptoms can include a wide spectrum of physical, mental, and emotional experiences. For example, you may feel like your thoughts are racing, your heart is beating fast, or that you are frozen with fear, or that you start experiencing panic attacks. These feelings can affect your ability to interact with others in social situations and can prevent you from socializing with others entirely.
Humans are social beings by nature, and we tend to enjoy finding community with others. Unfortunately, social anxiety can prevent us from meeting this crucial need. The good news is that social anxiety is common, and you are not alone in your experience. Therapy can be a helpful tool in treating and improving social anxiety.
What does COVID-19 Have to Do With This?
The COVID-19 pandemic changed how people can interact in substantial ways. In addition, public safety measures required us to adapt and socialize in new ways without a physical connection. For instance, weddings were shared on Zoom, and drive-by birthday parties became a norm. Yet, despite these Zoom parties and outdoor meetups, many people felt socially isolated during this time.
Social isolation is one of the most noticeable everyday changes of the pandemic, and many are experiencing some level of post-COVID social anxiety. Socialization was stated as a risk to physical health, and the world experienced loss and grief on an unimaginable scale. For many, it is difficult to return to “normal” social situations after experiencing such life-altering trauma.
This return may be even more challenging for those with existing mental health challenges. The addition of COVID-19 anxiety and trauma to existing mental health diagnoses may play a role in increased social anxiety upon the return to “normal.”
What Do We Know About Post-COVID Social Anxiety?
For starters, we know it is a real phenomenon. If you are experiencing increased anxiety returning to familiar social situations, you are not alone.
The COVID-19 pandemic shifted our social interactions, and some of the uncertainty associated with reintegrating back into society can be challenging. As a result, we, as humans, need to relearn how to engage with those around us.
Furthermore, we also know that social anxiety is common and treatable through appropriate support services, such as therapy.
What Can We Do About Post-COVID Social Anxiety?
Self-awareness and understanding are some of the most powerful tools to combat anxiety. It can be helpful to reflect on what specific social situations are causing feelings of stress or fear. If we can better understand the trigger, we are better equipped to cope with it.
Self-compassion is also important to consider. In some ways, the entire world has experienced collective trauma, with a loss on a scale we cannot fully comprehend. It is understandable to feel anxious in the face of so much change, uncertainty, and grief. Allow yourself to re-enter social situations that feel safe to you at a pace that feels reasonable. Listen to your brain and body and use those cues accordingly.
Concrete plans and strategies can also help alleviate anxiety around the unknowns of social situations. For example, do you feel safe in this setting? What boundaries do you want to have for yourself? How many people will be attending the gathering? It can be helpful to have the full picture to identify appropriate boundaries and coping tools specific to the situation.
Post-COVID social anxiety is real, and you are not alone in your experience of heightened stress. The COVID-19 pandemic presented the world with new and unique challenges and necessitated unprecedented social isolation.
If you feel anxious re-entering the social landscape, remember to listen to yourself and take your time. Reach out to trusted friends, family, or even a therapist if you are considering therapy. Social support can help reduce the stress of transitioning back to a more normal time.
We are here for you during this trying time. At The Resurface Group, we understand the implications of how COVID-19 has impacted social anxiety and social connection. We are here to provide you with the support you and your loved ones need. Contact us today to learn more.