Social Anxiety and the End of Lockdown

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More and more people are continuing to get vaccinated for COVID-19. As a result, the country is opening up once again. You can now eat inside at a restaurant, visit a mall, or spend time at your favorite amusement park. However, with society opening up once again comes social anxiety for some.

Social anxiety is a fear of social situations and includes worrying about meeting strangers, how to act around friends and a general feeling of self-consciousness. It can make everyday life extremely challenging and can even manifest physically through sweating, palpitations, or panic attacks. 

The thought of being around people when we are not entirely COVID-free or changing a routine we have become accustomed to can come with crippling anxiety. Because you have been social distancing for over a year, the thought of interacting with people again can be scary. Being in isolation can cause you to forget how to socialize with others. However, social anxiety doesn’t have to rule your life. Let’s look at some helpful tips to keep calm as lockdown ends. 

Ease Back Into Everyday Life

If you are struggling with social anxiety as lockdown ends, it can be beneficial to enter back into a social life slowly. Taking things slowly can help you ease into situations that have become uncomfortable. Jumping straight back into things now that you are struggling with social anxiety is not a leap you should take all at once. 

You can start by connecting with those in your closest inner circle. These may be people from 12-Step meetings, your sponsor, or your family. Your circle of people you are closest to can be a comfortable space. You most likely feel more like yourself with these people and can be more honest with them. 

From there, when you’re ready, you can begin reaching out to people you enjoy being with but maybe nervous around and need warming up to. Eventually, you can expand your circle to include people and places that make you anxious. 

Visualize Social Situations 

You can help prepare yourself for social events by role-playing specific worries or concerns with someone you trust, on paper, or in your head. If you have an upcoming coffee meet-up planned with a friend, try to mentally plan your meetup and how you’d like it to go. Visualize your friend when you see them and what you will say. It may be awkward at first, but you will soon adapt.

It can also be helpful to challenge internal negative thought patterns with a reversal thought, either before or during anxiety-inducing situations. For example, if you are going to a meeting where you may meet new people, you might think, “These people won’t like me. I’m so awkward.” Challenge this thought. Instead, you can tell yourself, “These people have been stuck inside for months just like me. We can trade stories, and I can make new friends.” 

Allow Yourself to Be Scared

Even if it seems like no one around you has anxiety about getting back into the world, it is okay to have your own reaction and anxieties about the situation. No one has ever been through anything like this in the modern world, so no one knows how to do it “right.” It’s normal to have uncertainties and doubts. 

Socialize at your comfort level. You’re not obligated to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. If you only want to socialize while social distancing, plan a phone call or video chat with your closest friends. If you aren’t ready to make new friends at a meeting, stick by the side of people you know. 

Take Care of Yourself

Prioritizing your physical health, learning breathing exercises, developing self-reflective practices like therapy and journaling, and talking to friends and family about your worries are all helpful tools to help cope with social anxiety. While we don’t have a playbook for what a post-COVID world looks like, we can rely on coming back to ourselves and the present moment. We can make sure we have reliable spaces in our lives so we can navigate the spaces that feel out of our control.

People who work proactively on their mental health are better equipped to handle the unknowns of returning to life after lockdown. Taking care of yourself is like doing emotional pushups. When things get hard in the world, we have these core tools we can come back to that make us feel grounded. 

Seek Professional Help

If you’ve tried all you can to assimilate back into some form of socializing, but anxiety and panic interfere with your ability to do so, it may be time to reach out to a mental health professional.

As more people are getting vaccinated for COVID-19, the country is opening up once again. With more and more things becoming available, you may feel social anxiety. The thought of being awkward or weird after isolating for over a year can be frightening. Luckily, social anxiety doesn’t have to run your life. You can work towards socializing once again in a post-COVID world. Try easing into things and visualizing social situations and how you would like them to go. Remember to allow yourself to feel scared and take care of yourself. If social anxiety begins running your life, it may be time to reach out for professional help. If you are struggling to live in a post-COVID society, Jaywalker Lodge is here to help. Our alumni are ready to help you while you recover from addiction and learn to socialize once again. We can walk alongside you as you assimilate back into a normal lifestyle. Call (866) 529-9255 today.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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