After the past couple of years with the pandemic, the world has been opening up. Most restrictions are gone by now, and we can live freely and openly like before the pandemic. Some of us might have even forgotten what it was like during the pandemic!
However, getting to the previous routines or behaviours we had before the pandemic can still be a slow process. Getting used to the open world and the opportunities we once again have might take some time. At first, after years of living in isolation, returning to the world may have felt strange or difficult. After all the unpredictable changes, one might have been experiencing social anxiety when returning to the ”old normal”. Getting back to usual social encounters, routines, and relationships might have surprised or even scared you.
Social anxiety defined
When struggling with social anxiety, one might feel ashamed, uneasy, or self-conscious in front of others. A person with social anxiety can often feel like the centre of attention or like others watch their every move. They might feel easily exposed and on edge because they anticipate the worst in most social interactions.
Harshly criticizing oneself after social events is also common for someone with social anxiety. Some individuals with social anxiety feel uneasy in most social situations if not all of them. Others experience anxiety only in particular situations, such as when meeting new people or doing public speaking. Sometimes the feared situation is very specific. Moreover, social anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as: sweating, blushing, feeling nauseous, body trembling or heart beating fast. Social anxiety is not a character trait.
How to cope with symptoms of social anxiety?
There are multiple different therapy styles and techniques for treating social anxiety. What works for who is always personal. Becoming aware of the symptoms is often an important step to start with.
Changing your thoughts – The majority of people who have social anxiety acknowledge that their negative thoughts about social events are often irrational. Negative thoughts and expectations about social situations or social performance might be limiting one’s experiences and/or relationships. Frequently different unhelpful thinking styles can underlie social anxiety. Hence, defining the negative thoughts that are causing distress and replacing them with realistic and positive ones is advantageous.
Accepting and committing – The grip of anxiety can be loosened by practising being present in the moment. Also being willing to accept the discomfort of the negative thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations of social events.
Exposure practice – Attending to different social situations helps with gradually challenging and overcoming the negative expectations of social situations.
Mindfulness practice – Different breathing techniques, muscle relaxation practices and mindfulness exercises are a great way to train to relax in high-stress circumstances.
Professional support – Different professionals can help and guide in dealing with social anxiety. They can help with exposure practices, identifying negative beliefs, practising mindfulness exercises and boosting commitment to the treatment.