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Coping with Social Anxiety: Returning to Social Occasions Post-COVID

by Dr. Charmain Jackman

For people with social anxiety, not having to attend in-person events might have been a relief. However, having to attend marathon Zoom meetings may not have helped either.

Here are tips that can help you to navigate a “post-Covid” life.

  1. Socialize at your own pace: You may already be getting invitations to meet up for lunch as people anticipate being able to socialize in-person again. Consider how many events you can tolerate in a week and follow that. It may also be helpful to start with people you are closest to as a way to build up your stamina for socializing. While you may feel pressure from others to go out, pace yourself!

  2. Size matters: For people with social anxiety, socializing with one or two other people is tolerable, but larger groups can increase the anxiety. Before accepting an invitation or making plans to meet up, ask how many people have been invited or will be attending. That will help you to decide whether you want to attend or skip that event.

  3. Mindfulness Can Put Your Mind at Rest: Remember to practice your mindfulness strategies now and use them when you are out. Simple breathing exercises like slow breathing or box breathing are great tools to control your heart rate. When you are out, practicing grounding techniques that engage your senses can help stay in the present moment and distract you from worrisome thoughts. There are many apps available such as Liberate, Shine and My Life that have mindfulness and meditation strategies.

  4. Meet with a therapist: If you are not already seeing a therapist, this can be a good time to start. Anxiety levels are at an all time high, according to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America 2021 report so many people are feeling anxious like you. There are many therapist directories such as InnoPsych that can help you find a therapist just for you. Also check out your workplace EAP or your health insurance for referrals.

  5. Be open with people around you: Sharing your story and letting people know that you have social anxiety can actually really help. You can invite them to be part of your coping plan by letting them what you need when you are out. Sharing with people can also help them to understand when you decline an invitation. There are lots of celebrities who have shared their struggles with social anxiety, and may be a great way to ease into the conversation.

  6. Be patient with yourself: This has been a very challenging time and the best thing that you can do for yourself is to practice self-compassion. Be kind to yourself and don’t be too hard if you find that going out increases your anxiety. Set small goals and increase or decrease based on your comfortable level!

Dr. Jackman is a Harvard-trained licensed Psychologist with over 23 years of experience in the mental health field. She is a national spokesperson on BIPOC mental health and advocates for emotional wellness for all. Dr. Jackman consults to corporations on the intersection of diversity, equity, and inclusion and mental health. She is the founder and CEO of InnoPsych, Inc. an organization on a mission to disrupt racial disparities in mental health. Learn more at: Connect on Instagram at: @InnoPsych and Facebook: @InnoPsychMA.

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