The lockdowns and social distancing measures that most cities had to put in place during 2020 added an extra layer of stress to social situations. People who already had social anxiety experienced an increased risk of encountering worse symptoms like panic attacks and feelings of dread when out in public places. Some found that their social anxiety grew to include fears of contracting Covid when out running errands.
Research conducted in 2020 by Fuzhou University in China discovered that lockdowns actually improved social anxiety and helped people feel calmer about the pandemic. Now that things are starting to open up again, many people feel out of practice with social interactions, and there is still a high level of fear surrounding contracting the virus. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released information about coping with stress related to the pandemic, including the following advice.
- Practice meditation techniques
- Take care of your body by sleeping enough, getting regular exercise, and eating a balanced diet
- Limit your time on social media and take breaks from the news
- Make time to do activities that you enjoy
- Stay connected with others in whatever way you are most comfortable
Identify Social Triggers
The best way to reduce the possibility of having an anxiety response when you are in a public space is to identify what things are triggering you. There are some common triggers like crowds, loud noise, someone appearing sick, and enclosed spaces. Triggers can be literally anything, making them hard to avoid entirely, but you can develop a plan for coping with them. You may find it helpful to write down your list of social triggers. Then you can work with your therapist or a loved one to find ways to get past the problem.
You can look for the following physical signs that may indicate you have encountered a trigger. Once you notice these symptoms, you can use coping techniques to make them decrease or stop entirely.
- Feeling numb, dizzy, or lightheaded
- Losing your ability to focus or having your mind go blank
- Fast heartbeat and trouble catching your breath
- Sweating and blushing
- Trembling or feeling weak
- Feeling sick to your stomach
- Tense muscles
Three Find Useful Tools for Coping
You can find helpful coping skills by speaking with your therapist or trying different standard techniques to lessen anxiety and stress. Below are three common methods for coping during an anxiety attack you can use in social situations. When you notice the physical signs of anxiety, try one of these, and it should help your body naturally relax, which will lower stress responses.
- Deep Breathing: Inhale deeply through your nose. Hold your breath for a count of four. Exhale deeply through your mouth. Repeat this three or four times or until you notice your anxiety has started to lessen.
- Focus on Textures: Find something you can touch and focus on the texture. Multiple textures work best, so you can run your hand across a wall, your jacket sleeve, your jeans, and your keys. Focus on the differences in the textures until you feel calmer.
- 5-4-3-2-1 Technique: Mentally list five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Take your time with this and repeat it if you need to until you feel calmer.
Valuable Tips for Overcoming Anxiety About Covid
Some social anxiety is rooted in fear of the virus itself. You can do a few things to lower your stress level when you are out in public, where you may have to touch things and interact with strangers. Places like the grocery store or a restaurant can be difficult for people who have social anxiety and a fear of Covid. Here are a few tips to overcome Covid related anxiety:
- Self-Talk: Use positive self-talk to work rationally through the problem. There is a low likelihood of you catching the virus if you are following proper precautions.
- Take Proper Precautions: Make sure you know how to properly wear your mask and always wear it when you are in a public space, even if you are outdoors. Wash your hands often or clean them with hand sanitizer. Maintain social distancing of six feet between yourself and others.
- Practice Mindfulness: Focus on the moment and what you are doing. By practicing mindfulness, you can cut down on the worst-case scenarios that might be flashing through your mind and increasing your anxiety.
- Get the Facts: Avoid getting your information about Covid from social media. If you have questions and concerns, speak with your doctor, and they can give you honest facts that can set your mind at ease.
Covid-19 changed the world in many ways. Going out into a public place or taking part in a social event suddenly became dangerous, and that fear has stuck around for many people. In the last year, repeated lockdowns left us disconnected from our communities. Some people find it difficult to get used to being back in social situations now that places are starting to stay open. If you already had social anxiety before Covid, your symptoms may have worsened because of fears related to the virus and the fact that we have all gotten a bit rusty with our people skills. At Everlast Recovery Centers, we understand that social anxiety can impact your recovery and potentially interfere with your ability to reach out to resources like support groups. We want you to feel comfortable and safe during social interactions. To learn more, call Everlast Recovery Centers today at (866) 338-6925.