If you struggled with feeling uncomfortable, unsafe, or unsure in social situations before the pandemic, chances are the last few years have not been easy on you. As more places begin to lower restrictions and we move into yet another new normal in the post-pandemic world, those individuals who struggle with social anxiety may find themselves having a tough time re-engaging. In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the reasons why people may be experiencing higher levels of social anxiety and steps they can take to combat the increased level of social anxiety.
What Exactly Is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety or social anxiety disorder is a common condition where people dread or experience heightened feelings of stress, worry, and fear before and during social situations. This anxiety associated with socializing may cause people to avoid situations where they’ll be interacting with others. While social anxiety most often impacts an individual’s personal life and relationships, it can also negatively impact their ability to perform well professionally.
How Is the Post-Pandemic World Increasing Social Anxieties?
During the pandemic, the real risk of illness when engaging with others caused those who had preexisting social anxiety to experience increased levels of worry and stress. Additionally, people who had never struggled with social anxiety also found themselves experiencing higher levels of fear and worry in social situations. For many, wearing face masks, social distancing, and limiting the number of people in a given place helped them to alleviate some of this increased, pandemic-related social anxiety. As the restrictions are beginning to lift, it’s no surprise that people are starting to experience higher levels of social anxiety again. The good news is, we have some options that can help you combat feelings of social anxiety in the post-pandemic world.
How Can People Combat Social Anxiety?
If you’re dealing with social anxiety, there are some steps you can take to minimize the impact of these feelings, including:
- Take a small step first. You don’t need to immediately attend a huge social event. Instead, get together with a small group of friends or go out to eat in a restaurant at an off hour when there will be fewer people present. Choose a low stakes and low stress social situation and go for it.
- Don’t let negative thought cycles take you out of the moment. When you do engage in social situations, challenge any negative thoughts that arise. For instance, if you think, “I can’t deal with my anxiety in this situation.” Replace that negative thought with a positive one like, “I am often anxious, but I’m also resilient. I’ve been able to deal with feelings of anxiety in the past, and I can do it now.”
- Practice mindfulness. Anxiety can pull us out of the moment, drawing us into our minds and making it easier for us to focus on potentially negative events. Mindfulness practices can help to combat this effect of social anxiety. One easy mindfulness tool you can do anywhere is to focus on your senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch). Focus on each sense in turn and consider what you’re experiencing right then.
In addition to these tips to alleviate symptoms social anxiety in the moment, you may also want to consider working with a therapist to overcome social anxiety. There are many therapy methods that may be utilized to address social anxiety, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy. CBT is a versatile form of therapy that works by helping clients understand the way thoughts, feelings, and actions are interconnected and develop strategies to make adjustments to their thinking, feeling, and acting.
Exposure therapy can also be helpful for people struggling with social anxiety. It allows clients to develop a plan of gradual exposure to situations where they would experience social anxiety under the guidance of a trained therapist who can help them manage difficult thoughts and feelings as they arise.
Interested in Learning More About Therapy for Social Anxiety?
Our knowledgeable therapists offer CBT, exposure therapy, and other approaches to counseling that will best suit individual needs within the specific situation. You don’t have to struggle through social anxiety on your own or just accept that you’re going to be uncomfortable. We’re here to help. If you’re ready to work with one of the skilled professionals at the Center for CBT in New York City, please don’t hesitate to reach out.