There is a lot of talk at the moment with buzzwords such as reopening anxiety to emerging anxiety, but they all boil down to one thing, social anxiety. You may have suffered with it before the pandemic, but since it has probably increased in severity.
We all have different coping mechanisms, and some of us are just experiencing social anxiety for the first time and wonder what we can do to manage this fear. Because that is what it is, a fear.
The fact is covid is real, and we catch it off of other people, which makes for a bit of a dilemma when we want to be social, because how social do you get? Are you planning a trip to the shops, a festival or a holiday? And is social anxiety playing a part in stopping you from making these plans.
I, for one, developed social anxiety during the pandemic, and it manifested itself in fear of going to the local shops as I couldn’t see much in the way of following guidelines; to me, everyone was doing it wrong. They would walk up the wrong aisles, keep touching products, coughing, even though wearing a mask, they got that part right at least. But there was a myriad of things that made me live in fear.
I did catch Covid, not from the shop, but from a family member who caught it from the gym. So, in theory, I should be at ease; I’ve even had two doses of the vaccine, but the fear remained, and it has taken me a few months to get over it. And I’ll show you how I did it.
Removing Social Anxiety
Some of us who experience social anxiety for the first time might think, of course, it is normal during a pandemic, and this is true, but when it affects you so severely you put your life on hold, then you need to do something about it.
Are you cancelling on invites out through fear? The fear could be other people, the situation or the fear of getting unwell. Work out what it is that is scaring you from leaving the house and being social.
Mine was the fear of other peoples lack of awareness; they were doing their own thing and not following rules. I am a bit of a stickler for rules, which threw me into a social anxiety nightmare. I didn’t go food shopping for five months; I had everything delivered. Which meant I never left the house, admittedly I was fine with this, but there came the point where I had to take action.
With all great intentions, I would start to get ready to go up the shop and then fear would strike, and I would cancel the journey with myself. Do you find you are cancelling at the last moment? Either an agreement with yourself or with others.
The thing is, the fear is the worst right at the point where you go to leave, and you are teaching your brain that this is normal, the threshold is the door, there is no turning back. When there is no threshold, in reality, the door is just a door and on the other side is the same things there has always been. You can always turn back, but the brain will convince you otherwise. Tripping your brain into negative behaviour will only increase social anxiety even more.
This is where the saying comes in of “face your fear and do it anyway”, you have to push past your brain’s negativity. I call my brain frog because it is always looking and watching and ready to catch a negative thought with its tongue and store it up later. Don’t let your frog take away joy. The more you avoid your fear, the greater the fear will become.
Plan of Attack
We need to draw up a plan of attack; maybe you’ve been invited to attend some events, such as dinner with family members and a work meal with associates. Draw up the list with the most important at the top and the least at the bottom, for example.
- Dinner at brothers
- Awayday with the family.
- Clothes Shopping with a friend
- Dinner with associates.
Now you can see which is the most important to you, the item at the top is the one you really want to do, and the one at the bottom is an obligation rather than the stuff that experiences are made of.
You now have to face your fear and attend dinner with your brothers. Yes, you will feel anxious, but it will come in waves; all anxiety is wave bound. But once you start to surf those waves, you are becoming more in control of the frog. The waves of anxiety will lessen as the meal draws on; it is nearly impossible to feel anxious while eating good food and laughing with family members.
If you are struggling to get out the front door, read my article on anxiety coping strategies.
Once you have achieved the first activity, you will know what to expect for the second one, only this time, the waves will be less ferocious, enabling you to have a smoother journey.
When it came time for me to walk up to the shop and back, I was filled with nausea before I opened my front door, but I refused to listen to frog, and as I gulped back air, I opened the door. The street looked the same; no one walked past, so I stepped out and began to walk. As I walked, the anxiety subdued, and as I approached the shop, the wave grew; now I could turn back, but I had come this far, and I wasn’t going to let frog dictate to me what I could and could not do. So I masked up and hand sanitised and went for it.
Yes, there were people still not following the rules; some had masks, some didn’t. But it was not as scary as what the frog had made it out to be. In fact, the frog had been lying to me; it was just a supermarket with people milling about minding their own business. The waves subsided, and I began to feel joy at overcoming my social anxiety; I had done it. You can too.
I hope this article will help you in some way with dealing with social anxiety. Facing our fears can be one of the biggest obstacles, and by doing so, we open up to a more positive way of living. I wrote an article on regrets and how I don’t want to be lying on my deathbed regretting the things I haven’t done; well, fear will do that to a person, and I want you to live for the joys of every day.
Peace and Blessings