The COVID-19 pandemic was a phenomenon that the modern world has never seen. Losing your sense of normalcy could cause anxiety for anyone. Social anxiety is defined as an intense fear of being watched or judged by others, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. COVID-19 lockdowns caused some young people to become a recluse, but going back in public could cause their social anxiety to flare up again. If you suffer from social anxiety, here are some tips on how you can work through it.
Laying in bed all day can be very tempting, especially when there’s something you’ve been dying to watch on Netflix, but it can also hold you back from moving around and fighting the social anxiety monster. A light exercise routine can be a good way to move around, or just taking a walk around your neighborhood. If you have a gym membership, consider going to the gym and just walking on the treadmill or taking a class. It will get you moving around, and you may start to feel better at the end of your workout. The gym may be the place you want to avoid, but it could be helpful to break yourself out there. This could also be your opportunity to do things that are outside of your normal routine. When you feel like you’re in a rut, it can make you feel like you’re living the same day every day so it wouldn’t hurt to switch things up every now and then.
When dealing with social anxiety, some people tend to hold their breath in. You can start out by looking up breathing exercises on YouTube or even a mediation app. You could even try listening to some sleep sounds on music apps like Pandora or Spotify. This music can soothe your anxiety beast and make you feel like you’re in control of your emotions. Focus on your breathing by taking a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. It might not sound like it can be helpful, but it’s a good way to calm yourself down. Also, take the time to unclench your jaw and relax your shoulders. Some people tend to do this without even realizing it, but what you’re doing is holding your anxiety inside instead of letting it out. Whenever you feel like your anxiety is about to flare up or feel like things are out of your control, just inhale and exhale and hopefully, you start to feel better.
Don’t Focus on the Negative
Negative thoughts tend to rumble around in your head when you're dealing with social anxiety, making you feel like you’re not good enough or making you think that no one wants to be friends with you. However, just because you think it, that doesn’t make it true. Find some inspiring affirmations, write them down and repeat them to yourself as much as you need to. If you think it would be helpful, write the affirmations down on sticky notes and place them where you can look at them every day. If you aren’t a fan of writing things down, find an affirmations video on YouTube and listen to it every morning before you start your day. Ask one of your closest friends what they like the most about you. Try to replace your negative thoughts with positive ones and it will put you in a much better headspace. By doing so, you could start feeling better about yourself and want to get out of the house more.
Getting out of the house can feel like a daunting task at first, but you shouldn’t let it hold you back. You can start off small by walking around your neighborhood or your local mall if you’re comfortable. Once you feel that you’ve conquered that, you can move up to going out to lunch or dinner with a close trusted friend. Once you feel like you’re ready, you could even try going out to eat by yourself. Going to a movie by yourself could also be helpful since you don’t have to interact with a lot of people and you’re in the dark most of the time. One more thing you could do to get over your social anxiety is instead of using self-checkout, try going to an actual cashier as a practice exercise. Use that time to build up your social interaction skills. By taking these small steps, you’re building yourself up towards bigger goals and you’re showing yourself that you want to change and committing to that change.
Celebrate Your Accomplishments
After crossing one of your small goals off your list, don’t be afraid to celebrate yourself. At one point, you thought that you wouldn’t be able to go to that dinner, but you did, so don’t be afraid to give yourself props. Celebrate yourself by buying some ice cream, doing a self-care routine, or get dressed up for no reason. If you feel comfortable, you could explore your town by yourself. However, you choose to celebrate, just remember that every little bit counts and realize that you can only get better one day at a time.
If These Techniques Aren't Working
If you feel like you’ve tried everything and nothing is working, speaking to a professional may not be the worst idea. Venting to your friends can be helpful, but they don’t have the same tools that a professional therapist would have in their arsenal. A therapist could give your exercises to use or even prescribe medication if you need it. Participating in a support group with others who have social anxiety may also be helpful.