I have noticed a lot of people talking about the difficulties of getting back on track after the Covid-19 pandemic. Yes, we all became more cautious when it comes to being outdoors. And now we must deal with the fear of coming back to usual social events.
I have met two friends last week. That was a great and quite a massive achievement considering that I am not sociable in the summer. And I am going to explain why.
I am not going to lie, but the first time I have been out on a “gathering” event in December last year, I felt quite paranoid. Even knowing that people present at the gig were all vaccinated. The first thing I did the following morning was regret my decision. Not to mention that I have given up going on a gig that I wanted to attend for ages.
However, it already happened before. Way before the pandemic, I used to “give up” events or meeting pre-scheduled. Canceling my presence, months, days, or hours before the occasion.
To be honest, I always thought it was just the way I thought introverts deal with this kind of situation. Until it starts to affect other more important situations such as a day at work, or a job interview. Sometimes, I just can’t make it.
That was when I started to read more about social anxiety and tick almost all the boxes that point out the fact, that I may have had social anxiety for ages.
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is one of the most common psychosocial disorders today. As its name says, it is characterised mainly by the excessive fear of exposure to social situations, even the most common.
However, what begins with simple perfectionism can be allied with situations of constant insecurity and low self-esteem and end up turning into episodes of anxiety that evolve into a disorder. And although frequent, the social phobia has absolutely nothing normal and needs to be treated as soon as it is diagnosed.
I am starting to understand that it may be something that I have to deal with for the rest of my life. So, why not put together a guide with some steps I have followed to overcome/deal with social anxiety.
It is important to remember that it may be different for everyone. It’s quite personal and you should consult your doctor to give you more direction on how to deal with your social anxiety too.
Accept Your Thoughts
It is quite common for people with social anxiety to believe that they are constantly being judged and watched by everyone around them. I have this kind of thought constantly. Especially because my appearance is not considered “standard” by society.
This generates a sense of eternal insecurity, and I end up avoiding social meetings sometimes with the fear of being judged. I know I shouldn’t care. But some people are mean and being around judgemental ones can be a bit scary sometimes.
However, the most important thing in these times is to understand what is really happening and accept that negative thoughts are more recurrent than one would like. Only then will it be possible to try to overcome them, because no one can solve a problem if they do not face the real possibility of recognizing it as such.
Changing Your Actions
Together with dealing with negative thoughts, it is quite important once negative thoughts like these have been identified, there will be a need to transform them, acting to replace the illusory and distorted vision with another, more focused on reality.
Is it an easy task? Not really. These negative thoughts are usually about overthinking the future, taking things too personally, or trying to understand what people are thinking, or their opinion about you. It is called cognitive distortion and there are ways of changing these thinking patterns.
It’s worth it to start changing our thoughts towards those feelings. But it requires a lot of research, understanding, and practice.
Try to Expose Yourself a Bit More
I am not going to pretend that I do it. That’s true that I feel more confident when I avoid unnecessarily exposing myself.
Gradually, start exposing yourself to situations in which you feel uncomfortable. If the problem is too frequent crowded places, for example, start by frequenting a place with few people, or people you know. If you’re usually silent in some situation, try speaking once. Gradual situations like these can help overcome your social anxiety and gradually loosen up.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask
The fear of communicating can be a constant obstacle in the life of those who have social anxiety. To overcome this, the first step is to understand that the other does not always have any idea of what is going on with you.
Thus, prefer open questions, so as not to allow short answers such as “yes”, “no”, “sometimes” or “more or less”.
Instead, use questions such as “what do you do in your work?” or “what do you think about…”, and notice how, as the conversation goes on, your participation will also flow, without even realising it.
It’s important to communicate to break the ice. Also, to overcome the fear of making a progress when it comes to being more social. Even if it just means having more social contact with your friends.