Social Anxiety: Preparing to be with people again
It’s been a year of being in and out of lockdowns. Some of us are looking to be celebrating a second birthday under strict restrictions and it’s suddenly become obvious from this that it’s been a long time since the days where we could comfortably be around people. But there’s a wariness that is sitting deep within our bodies. How can we safely be around people? What if it happens again? And, ultimately, do we even know how to act around people anymore?
Social anxiety is a disorder of being fearful of being in social situations. A lot of people either suffer from this undiagnosed or describe this is how they too feel about being around people. After a year of being in our homes, more and more people feel that there’s an unsettling feeling about going back to being around people again. So how can we help ourselves successfully be reintroduced to a new society?
Identify the anxiety point
What is it that’s making us feel uneasy? Is it being in close proximity to people? Is it having conversations? Is it an overwhelming sense of self-consciousness? By looking directly at the issue we can begin to put together a strategy of how to make the next social interactions successful. If you are worried about the potential threat of contacting viruses in close proximity, remember to wear a mask at all times and head to places with less people to start off with. If having conversations are worrying you, remember baby steps is the key. If you are feeling self-conscious, there are many things you can do to boost confidence and self esteem, but ultimately practice and facing the fear with baby steps is the best way.
Take or text a friend
We might not be able to always meet the people we want to, but a walk in the area that we need to be in with a friend to talk about anything can make the difference. Making the environment feel comfortable begins to take the pressure off the situation that might be causing us discomfort. Similarly, if restrictions don’t allow you to be with that specific person, walking the area yourself whilst calling or texting a supportive person can have the same effect. Desensitise yourself to your surroundings before you introduce other elements that make you feel uncomfortable.
Discuss it with the people your meeting
We live in the 21st century. We’re becoming more accustomed to talking about uncomfortable topics but social anxiety isn’t a topic that anyone will be shocked by. Get in contact with the people you’re meeting with, whether it’s just to introduce yourself so you can gauge personalities or to discuss that you’re feeling a little uneasy about the situation. Use technology to your advantage. Have a barrier between you and who you're meeting to once again begin desensitising yourself and make the actual event a calmer experience.
We all have small things that make us feel like us. A key chain that was given to us by someone special, a perfume that we’ve worn for ages, some grounding oil on the wrist, even a jumper that’s got one too many loose stitches. These items remind us of who we are and ground us. Make yourself comfortable. Take things with you that remind you of who you are.
Take comfort in knowing that you’re not the only one. We’re all having concerns about where the world is going and what it will mean to be in public spaces again. You’re not alone and we can all do this.
Most importantly, practice some breathing techniques before the anxiety creeps in and as and if you feel yourself getting anxious when you go out. A simple 4,2,6 breath will work to calm down the nervous system and make you feel much more comfortable and relaxed. To do this, simply breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 2 seconds and breathe out for 6 seconds. This is a powerful technique and can be used in situations when you need it, before an anxiety attack can take hold. We recommend doing some Breathpod sessions to find a breathwork technique that works best for you.
So to recap, if you are feeling anxious about meeting with people again, just remember you aren't alone and there any many things to do to stop anxiety before it takes hold.