Second guessing ourselves into yet another new normal! What is social anxiety, why is it happening, and what do we do about it?
Everything we once knew to be true about socializing nearly reversed itself in 2020. Holding the door for a stranger behind us? Let’s not. Being inclusive and inviting the new neighbor to our party? Party foul. Shaking hands to introduce ourselves? Hard no. And so we adjusted, through awkward pauses and uncomfortable laughing we shuddered off the cringiness and accepted being socially awkward as the politically correct thing to do.
While the pandemic is still hot and heavy across the world and country, vaccinations are being distributed and restrictions are being lifted. For some, this news is the rush they’ve been waiting on for over a year now. Meanwhile, introverts swept across the globe are silently panicking as their go-to excuse of “social distancing,” fades out of the text predictions on their iphone.
It is likely that after being forced to make intense and sudden lifestyle changes over the past year, and now approaching a period of re-adapting yet again, many of us will suffer consequences. One of these consequences will likely be something called social anxiety.
Social anxiety is defined as a chronic mental health condition in which social interactions cause irrational anxiety. According to Mayo Clinic social anxiety can cause everyday social interactions to result in irrational anxiety, fear, self-consciousness, and embarrassment. In serious cases it can lead to panic attacks and can be quite debilitating. With that being said, social anxiety can look different for everyone. While for some it is the avoidance of gatherings due to fear of socializing, for others it can be anxiety about missing out on social events, feeling left out, or as some like to call it, “having FOMO” otherwise known as “fear of missing out.”
In a so-called post pandemic life, social anxiety might be triggered by the following reasons:
The discomfort of others being in close quarters
Being unaware of the proper way to greet someone
Not knowing what to talk about other than what hobbies or mental illnesses you picked up during quarantine (ha ha… no but seriously).
Feeling left out by friends you lost touch with during the pandemic and / or experiencing loneliness.
Unsure how to flirt. Is light touching acceptable? “How soon is too soon to mention I’m vaccinated?”
Feeling generally socially awkward or finding it difficult to connect with others
Forgetting how to dance. “Is this normal or was this a tiktok trend?”
Having sudden urges to leave social situations due to not feeling welcome, safe, or comfortable.
Feeling self-conscious about your current job status, appearance, or how you spent the last year.
While some of these points might seem silly, social anxiety is very real and can even be quite traumatic. You can learn more about the signs and symptoms of social anxiety and how to get help here. It is also important to note that experiencing any of these things does not mean you have a diagnosable mental illness. With that being said, if you are worried about anything listed above try some of these tips!
Coping with social anxiety:
Remind yourself that you can leave any social situation at any time. It is okay to feel uncomfortable, and if you want to leave, allow yourself to do so.
Take baby steps when it comes to returning to social life. Start by going on short walks with friends or around busy neighborhoods. Work up to social events, and don’t push yourself to do too much too soon.
Keep in mind that nearly everyone feels awkward, on edge, and is returning to normal after a traumatic year. You are not alone.
If you feel like you run out of things to talk about with someone, excuse yourself to use the bathroom, get a drink, or make a quick phone call. Sometimes we all just need a break.
If you are feeling insecure about where you are in your life, know that it’s okay to keep responses short when questioned. You can say, “I’ve just been taking things one day at a time and figuring out what I want to do next!”
If you feel left out of a social event, consider taking a solo day to explore a populated area, reach out to an old friend, or even try Bumble Bff! It’s like a dating app but for friends.
Acknowledge your feelings, and validate that post-pandemic life is a huge adjustment.
Consider seeking out therapy for some support! Platforms like Betterhelp and psychologytoday.com can be super useful tools for finding someone that works for you!
If you or your organization is interested in learning more about mental health, check out our educational courses at www.mhgn.org and book a consultation today.