As lockdown gradually eases and social restrictions are soon to be a thing of the past, many are flocking to make plans, fill up the social schedule and book in some much-needed time out after months of isolation. For some, this newfound freedom might feel exhilarating. But for many, adjusting to the 'new normal' has brought about a painful reality.
This Mental Health Awareness Week, we uncovered the truths behind social anxiety. If you're feeling overwhelmed and fearful at the changes brought about by lockdown easing, the chances are you're not alone.
After nearly a year confined to the same indoor space, it can feel frustrating or confusing when the thought of making plans again doesn't make you want to jump with joy.
If the thought of making plans is overwhelming, you are not alone
Just as the change from having a highly social work and personal life to nothing at all during lockdown was a jarring contrast, the shift from changing your isolation routine to accommodate pub trips, dinner dates and socialising can be detrimental to a person’s mental health.
When our natural routine does a 180, this can cause even the most extroverted people to feel like they are becoming introverted and not wanting to mix with others.
What is social anxiety?
According to AXA Mental Health Lead, Eugene Farrell, social phobia is a "fear or dread of being judged by other people for being anxious, or for not meeting their perceived standards, and feeling humiliated, ridiculed or rejected as a result."
Our mental health and self-perception have suffered during months of lockdown. Sleep took over socialising, Zoom replaced colleague chats and TikTok stole our spare time (worth it for the laughs, though).
Social anxiety is more than shyness. It's an intense fear or worrying that manifests ahead of, or during social situations, that affects everyday activities, self-confidence, relationships and work or school life.
Try talking to a loved one about how you are feeling
How to cope with social anxiety
Eugene told HELLO! that in order to ease social anxiety, one of the simplest ways to help you through is: "recognising some of the ways in which your thoughts may be distorted." Have your relationships changed with friends? Has your body or skin changed in the last year? Do these thoughts and feelings feel worse after you've seen a particular person, or drunk alcohol?
"It can often help to write your feelings down, or talk to a friend or loved one about your thoughts" recommended Eugene. This can help us to pinpoint the facts with our 'rational mind, rather than falling for the emotions of our 'emotional mind'.
Why not try using a mindfulness journal in order to write out your thoughts and feelings?
Sara Miller mindfulness journal, £18, John Lewis
Social anxiety can seem particularly heightened in a post-lockdown world, especially if you're feeling worried about venturing out into social situations without having received both COVID vaccines.
Don’t be afraid to make small changes in your lifestyle to accommodate your shifted feelings. If certain triggers make your social anxiety worse, opt for an alternative. Don't force yourself to restart 'normal' life again immediately, it's OK to need time and space to readjust.
If you're struggling with your mental health, or feel like you need urgent help, visit Mind for valuable mental health crisis helplines.
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