Social anxiety disorder – also known as social phobia – has become increasingly more prevalent as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The world is slowly reopening and while we are excited to get back to normal life, a big percentage of the population is starting to feel apprehensive about returning to their social lives.
With almost half of adults (48%) reporting that their well-being was being affected by the pandemic, it’s no surprise there is apprehension about re-entering a post-Covid-19 world.
We have all been in new situations where we have felt uncomfortable or anxious. Common situations that people tend to struggle with are: meeting new people, dating, speaking in public, entering rooms and making eye contact.
For most, feelings of anxiety are overcome and tackled head-on but for some, it all becomes too much, and the stress this situation causes leads to plans being cancelled and the person affected becoming more socially recluse.
To support those feeling overwhelmed at the thought of returning to normal life, Onebright’s Clinical Director, Lee Grant offers five tips on how to combat social anxiety.
Five tips on how to combat social anxiety
Take a deep breath
Usually, when you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, your breathing tends to speed up and become shallow. Breathing this way can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded, which in turn, makes the issue worse. To regain control of your breathing, sit down in a comfortable position and try to relax your shoulders. Place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest and breathe in through your nose for four seconds. Hold your breath in for two seconds and slowly release for six seconds. Repeat this until you have noticed your breathing has returned to normal.
Use your five senses
Try to divert your attention to your surroundings and away from what is in your head. Focus on your five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Go through each sense and identify five different things within your environment. This will distract you from feeling anxious by directing your thoughts elsewhere. The next time you start to feel worried about a social outing, reach for your home comforts, for example, listen to your favourite song or watch a familiar tv programme.
Preparation is key
New social situations can be extremely daunting, especially if you are meeting new people. A good technique to reducing anxiety and stress levels is to plan ahead for these social situations. It’s common to worry about awkward silences when interacting with someone for the first time so arriving prepared is a great way to fill those spaces. Try reading magazines or flicking through news sites before you leave, this will give you fresh topics to ask questions – which let them do the talking!
When society returns to normal, don’t put pressure on yourself to spring back to the person you were in March 2020. Focus on being present in a conversation. Remember, the person you’re talking to probably isn’t aware that you are feeling this way. So as to not overdo it, schedule restaurant meals with close family and friends in the first instance. By doing this, you will hopefully become accustomed to being around large groups of people thereby reducing your nervousness around it. Do your best to engage with those around you. Make eye contact and ask questions to regain confidence. Most importantly, be patient with yourself.
Talk to someone
If you are struggling with social anxiety disorder and these methods are not helping, you may decide to seek professional help. Engaging in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy during difficult times will help you recognise signs of anxiety and give you personalised advice on how to tackle these feelings.
While we continue to navigate through the pandemic, CBT therapists can provide Remote Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions in the comfort of your home via telephone or digital channels. SilverCloud – Onebright’s online therapy programme – was designed to give clients access to flexible cognitive behavioural therapy which is useful for mild to moderate mental health issues like anxiety, low mood, or financial and work-related stress.
At Onebright, our goal is to encourage vulnerable people to stop dismissing signs of depression, reach out for the support they need and get back to feeling like themselves.
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