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Managing Social Anxiety post-lockdown

August 2020

In this month’s blog, we’re taking a look at social anxiety and how to manage it as life returns to “new normal”. Whether it’s something you’ve lived with forever or a feeling new to you, there are steps you can take to ease your anxiety.

Social anxiety – or social phobia – isn’t simply being nervous or uncomfortable around others; it can be a debilitating mental and physical battle.

People who live with social anxiety have an intense and persistent fear of embarrassment, humiliation, or rejection from others. This can lead them to avoid social situations.

It may be something you’ve lived with for years or perhaps lockdown has rekindled it. You may never have experienced it before, but are getting your first taste of it following months of restricted socialisation. Either way, you’re struggling with the prospect of reconnecting socially.

The return to ‘normal’ life after lockdown may feel daunting for many reasons and not only due to concern about the virus.

For sufferers of social anxiety, the lockdown period may have brought a welcome respite from daily face-to-face interactions and now, the thought of going back into the wider community, post-pandemic may feel challenging.

Social anxiety isn’t just about being nervous or uncomfortable around others, it’s a mental and physical battle. People who suffer with it often believe that others are judging them or will think badly of them. They believe that they’re being watched closely and they feel under pressure to come across well. At the same time, they may fear that they’re “not as good” as other people or aren’t ‘up to the mark’.

What are the signs?

  • Feeling anxious in social situations (physical symptoms include racing heart, sweating, queasy stomach, dizziness, shortness of breath)
  • Feeling pressured to do things ‘right’ in social situations
  • Feeling self-conscious around others
  • Worrying that others will judge or think badly of you, or notice your anxiety
  • Replaying how you acted in a social situation over and over again in your mind afterwards
  • Trying to keep quiet or not to draw attention to yourself
  • Not doing things you want to do because you feel anxious.

When we’re self conscious like this in social situations, our stress can be visible, e.g. causing us to blush or break out in a sweat. And so, we’ll worry about how we look; we may also worry that we’ll do or say the wrong thing or that we’ll end up publicly humiliated or embarrassed. It can be difficult to make eye contact or even think about anything other than “What is everyone else thinking?”

Coping strategies for Social Anxiety

  • Challenge your negative thought patterns
    • Question facts behind your thoughts and assumptions.
    • Try to imagine positive outcomes for upcoming social events or situations.
    • Confide in a supportive friend or family member about your concerns.
  • Distract yourself
    • Do something that you enjoy to take your mind off the social event or situation.
    • Go out for a walk or do another form of exercise.
    • Writing or keeping a journal.
    • Netflix and Chill.
    • Whatever you enjoy or whatever makes you relax or feel good.
  • Breathe
    • Practicing mindfulness meditationTake deep, evenly spaced breaths – making sure to use your whole diaphragm.
    • Relax your muscles by starting from your toes and focusing on different parts of your body all the way up to your face – tensing them – and then letting them completely relax.
    • For an introduction, read our Blog “Mindfulness & Meditation: Getting Started” .
  • Understand your social anxiety
    • Read 3Ts Self-Help Guide on Social Anxiety.
    • Identify what specific situations, events or people seem to trigger your social anxiety.
    • Take it slowly and take positive steps towards reducing avoidance and safety behaviours.
    • Set small and achievable goals to help you track your progress.

 

Reach out and get help early

These are all simple steps you can take that may help in the short term.  Social anxiety is treatable and professional support is available to aid recovery.

  • If you would like further information, see Social Anxiety Ireland’s website.
  • For anyone in crisis or in urgent need of help
    • Speak with your GP and/or Counsellor.
    • Crisis helplines are available 24/7 such as
      • Samaritans Freephone 116 123
      • Pieta Freephone 1800 247 247
      • Crisis Textline Ireland – Text 3TS to 50808 to start a conversation.
  • If you have self-harmed or injured yourself and require urgent medical attention now:
    • Please call 999 or 112 or
    • Visit your Accident & Emergency Department. 
    • If visiting your A&E, we recommend you bring a companion with you or arrange for them to meet you there. They can help support you while you wait to be seen.