During the lockdowns caused by the Covid pandemic, I made sure to mainly concentrate on my business. I knew I had to. As no one could tell where the economy was heading. My mantra was to focus only on the things that I have control over and let go of the rest. This helped me in gaining more clarity and raising levels of productivity, but with time, while the Covid vaccines started placing their marks, and people started seeing each other again, that clarity, slowly, got painted by drops of confusion and social anxiety.
I was not alone. A survey by the American Psychological Association found that about half of respondents said they felt uneasy about returning to in-person interaction once the pandemic ends. Richard Heimberg, a professor at Temple University who has studied social anxiety since the early 1980s, said that the transition into society is likely resulting in all types of anxiety. He also added that even those without a history of social anxiety may find themselves experiencing it for the first time.
Alienation: a by-product of social anxiety
The feelings of social anxiety can lead to further isolation, and with that, to a sense of alienation from society. With that being said it can be beneficial to take time, in silence, with yourself, for reflection and perspective. But as scientist Matthew Lieberman said, our need to connect is as fundamental as our need for food and water. Some of the coping strategies recommended for social anxiety are journaling, practicing mindfulness, doing CBT therapy, and exercising among others. It is also important to practice self-compassion and be easy with yourself. Do things at your own pace and focus on what is truly important for you.
Post Pandemic: Activities for improved mental health
Once the Covid pandemic truly departs, and restrictions are lifted, several activities can assist in improving mental health and contributing to a sense of belonging and togetherness. Some of these activities include:
*Joining a social program: It can be taking part in classes, like painting classes, or language classes. You can join a local sports team. Anything that lets you meet new friends and engage on a weekly basis. Sometimes, during a busy work week, we don’t feel like going outside, but a commitment to a social program can do the trick.
*Have a meetup location with your friends: In the amazing TV show “Friends”, the leading characters would always meet up in the same coffee shop. While obviously, this is a TV show, having a specific place you can always hang out in, will help this become a habit. As it cuts the sometimes clumsy effort of thinking on where to go. You save that energy for the gathering itself.
*Schedule a time for yourself: This is a time that you can use for complete relaxation. Do the things you enjoy, such as meditating, watching a movie, reading a book, working on a new project, whatever that gives you time to be with yourself and enjoy your own company.
*Plan a trip: Going to new places can expand your consciousness while also giving you a chance to meet new people, hear fascinating stories, and feel more connected to the world.
*Find people who share your passions: This is especially important for artists who usually spend a lot of time alone working on their craft. Having a like-minded group of people to share thoughts, ideas and feelings can be extremely supportive.
I hope these ideas can help people who are coping with social anxiety. Helping them remember that they are not alone and that there are many evidence-based practices that contribute to improved well-being.