How to Manage Social Anxiety
Has social anxiety got you feeling unsure about re-joining the social scene since lockdown?
If the answer is yes then you are not alone!! Social anxiety is nothing new for a number of people. However, after 18 months of yo-yo-ing in and out of lockdowns, restrictions, guidelines the number of us struggling to go back to ‘normal’ has increased. And, understandably so! After all, we have essentially been told to fear each other for over a year.
During our retreats through late 2020 and early 2021, we have had some truly open and insightful conversations with our guests. The topic of fluttering between that excitement to socialise and the lingering feeling of being hesitant was common for many of us. Furthermore, many of us had different tricks and techniques that helped along the way and we were able to pick up some great tips!! In fact, as you read through you will find quotes from our wonderful guests!
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is a feeling of fear in social situations. It could be specifically in regards to meeting and being around strangers. For some, it stems from wanting to avoid contact with a certain person. For many, social anxiety is triggered by sound and theI thought intimacy of being surrounded by a large group of people creating a feeling of claustrophobia.
Most of us at some point in our lives have experienced anxiety. We all have our own personal triggers to that feeling of discomfort, unease and unwarranted fear, rational or not. Many of us experience our anxiety differently too which is why it is so important to be kind and patient with each other.
Take Your Time
It’s not a race to the social finish line! For many of us, we are bursting at the seams with excitement and anticipation to see our loved ones and being with our friends again. But even those of us that feel ready to roll still need a little gentle easing back in. We all need to move at a pace that feels right and most importantly, not put our own speed of re-socialisation onto others. Standing in a crowd of people may be comfortable for you but your friend may not feel the same way. Slow and steady is how you will win this race and avoid any feelings of overwhelm or unnecessary anxiety.
“I figured out pretty quickly that I wasn’t 100% comfy in a crowd! But just went for the little and often technique and after a while, it seemed to work!”
Pushing Social Anxiety Comfort Zones
The unfortunate thing about social anxiety is that the more isolated you make yourself and the more situations you avoid, the harder it becomes to socialise again. Sadly, those of us that had social anxiety BEFORE lockdown have become very accustomed to not having this fear challenged! However, there are a few ways you can gently break the cycle.
- Increase your communication in other ways such as talking on the phone or on Zoom so you can become comfortable with speaking and having conversations.
- Make a point of leaving the house every day. It doesn’t matter if it is to go to the shop, go to the post box or just walk around the block. Leave the safety bubble of your four walls.
- Scope it out. If you have something planned, a great thing to do is go and scope it out first! Walk to where you will be meeting and get a feel for it so that it doesn’t feel brand new to you when you arrive. This is especially effective if you will be meeting people there in the evening when it’s dark.
- Talk it through. Start a conversation with someone you trust about how you feel so you have them to support you.
- Be clear with yourself as to what is too far out of your comfort zone and experiment with everything within it in a more manageable way.
- Remember, you are always far more capable than you think you are!
” I got to a point I just had to just get on with it because I knew I had to go back to the office. Which seemed daunting. I found that listening to music really helped me feel more relaxed especially in the mornings.”
Be Clear with your Boundaries
Let’s say you have been invited to dinner with a group of friends at a restaurant. Although before this may have been a totally normal way to spend your Friday night, now the idea of being in a loud room, surrounded by people feels a bit daunting! That’s OK! Perhaps you would feel more comfortable with being with a group of people outside, instead of inside. You could suggest a venue or location that you will feel more comfortable with. After all, chances are you will not be alone in your feeling and someone else in the group may be really relieved that you spoke up!
” I had to say no to a wedding and felt so bad about it but it was a long journey and I was really anxious about driving that far after so long. Luckily they totally understood and I watched it love on Zoom!”
Be Compassionate with Your Social Anxiety
Practice self-compassion as much as possible. Often, experiencing social anxiety can make us feel like a ‘social failure’ which is just not true! Be kind to yourself in both your words and your actions. Be your own cheerleader! Every time you do something that pushes you out of your comfort zone make sure you recognise and celebrate it. No matter how small, acknowledge your victories! It may even be nice to keep a record of them in a journal or diary. Being able to look back at all the wonderful things you have done on days when they feel not possible can feel empowering and remind you of how capable you are!
Use Your Yoga Practice to Help with Social Anxiety
Stop. Pause. Take a few soft, slow breaths. Imagine as you breathe in you can gather up any worrying thoughts and feelings. Gather up those butterflies of anxiety. Then, as you breathe out allow them all to flow out with the breath. Let your exhale untie the knot in your stomach and smooth over the tightness in your chest. Gather and then, release. Gather and then, release. It may take a few rounds but in time your breath will work its magic leaving you to feel calmer, more grounded and ready to take on challenges. Yoga Nidra is also a wonderful grounding technique that can work wonders for reducing stress and anxiety.
“Yoga genuinely got me through lockdown. “
Overall, the message around social anxiety is one of kindness, compassion and respect. Not just for ourselves but for those around us too. Lockdowns have highlighted how key our communities are and how vital our connections to loved ones is. As we all move forwards now, let’s hold them dearer than we ever have. It’s time for fun again.