In the early summer months of 2021, you may have found yourself wishing things could just go back to normal. However, after more than a year of social isolation brought on by pandemic restrictions, you might now feel much less comfortable in social situations you once defined as normal. Whether it’s returning to the office, meeting a group of friends for lunch, or visiting relatives, social interactions may feel nerve-racking or downright exhausting. If you have newfound social anxiety, or you’re finding that your previous social anxiety is now much more intense as pandemic restrictions loosen, you’re not alone. Continue reading to identify some strategies that will help you cope with the stress of socializing and rebuild healthy interactions in your daily life.
Reset Your Expectations
For most of us, social interactions have been limited to digital interfaces—we’ve all probably spent more time on Zoom calls than we ever imagined we would. So, transitioning back to in-person settings can be overwhelming. With that in mind, it’s helpful to reset your expectations for your social interactions. If you try to dive head-first back into your pre-pandemic lifestyle, you may find yourself stressed both physically and mentally.
Don’t expect to shift your routine back to “normal” all at once.
As pandemic restrictions are lifting, your friends and family may be excitedly making plans to socialize. While you may also be excited to see faces you’ve been missing for many months, you might simultaneously be overwhelmed by invitations to regular social outings. Take it slow and avoid rushing to repopulate your schedule with these gatherings, especially those involving large groups. As you begin to normalize social activity once again, it’ll be much easier to ease back to a full schedule.
In addition, work with your employer to create a gradual return to the office, if possible. Many workplaces are welcoming employees back to the office, but there may be some flexibility to maintain a hybrid schedule. For example, you may be able to come in for half days at the office and finish out your work at home. Alternatively, you might shoot for visiting the office just 1-2 days per week.
Remember that everyone is feeling a little awkward.
It can be reassuring to remember that social anxiety is incredibly common right now. Because humans are so adaptable, we’ve gotten used to isolation. So, it’s less likely that you’ll face harsh judgment for any awkward behaviors as everyone readjusts together.
Maintain a commitment to your personal time.
One positive movement that emerged from the pandemic is a bigger focus on self-care. We’ve been encouraged to spend more time considering our own mental health needs and identifying healthy ways to spend time alone. Don’t let this fall to the wayside just because you’re back to regular socializing. Keep some time carved out for yourself each week so you can continue to enjoy those self-care activities you’ve adopted during the pandemic.
Incorporate Mindfulness Activities into Your Routine
One of the trademarks of anxiety is intrusive, negative thought patterns. Mindfulness is an effective strategy to combat these negative thoughts, and it can be practiced in many ways. Meditation is one practice that can allow you to focus on the present and identify triggers for negative thought patterns. Incorporating positive affirmations into your routine can further reduce your stress and rebuild your confidence.
Don’t Hesitate to Seek Help
If you are consistently feeling stressed, nervous, or anxious in social settings (or even at the prospect of socializing), you shouldn’t hesitate to seek help. While depression and anxiety are normal reactions to the lifting of lockdown restrictions, these aren’t conditions you must live with forever. Cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of talk therapy can be effective for rebuilding your social confidence and combating the onset of depression and anxiety disorders. Plus, many mental health providers are still operating via telehealth software, so you can maintain the comfort of distance as you focus on improving your mental health.
MeMD can help you get the care you need from a qualified therapist without leaving the comfort of home. Book an appointment today to connect with a therapist in as little as 24 hours.