Lockdown is finally over; for now, at least; and as a degree of normality resumes we are able to catch up with friends, connect in person with loved ones and just generally socialise and get out and about a little more.
These things all sound positive in theory – but in practice it’s been a year since most people have been around others, and it’ll be a big shift for our mental health and wellbeing after such a long time housebound.
Some people are thrilled that we can start mingling face to face again, but others are experiencing some form of social anxiety. There are more social norms to navigate now – social distancing, a lack of touch, face masks – and it can very easily feel as though you have nothing much to talk about other than the pandemic!
Regardless of how confident you feel as life moves back to a new norm, there are techniques and tips everyone can use to help them better understand and navigate their own anxieties. It’s time to put angst aside and get back into the swing of things!
Be Aware Of Your Triggers
Everyone has totally different triggers that they’re afraid to confront – some big, some small, some irrational. When you’re able to identify which aspects of meeting in person unnerve you, you’re better able to deal with them. Knowing your triggers is the first step to overcoming the subsequent anxiety. e.g. if you recognise your trigger to be ‘meeting new people’ and this is what you fear, take things slow. Don’t be pressured to do something that you want to do. When you’re heading out be sure to meet new people in small groups, maybe of one or two, over bigger crowds.
Start Small and Build Confidence Gradually
If the whole idea of going out and meeting others right now is too much, you can build your resistance to it bit by bit. Go for a walk in a park where you know there will be others but you can distance yourself if thats what makes you feel comfortable. Pack a bag in preparation with everything you may need to make you feel a little safer. Book a table outside rather than in if being in the fresh air makes you feel better. As you work through your fears by small exposures, you can rid them without trauma.
Visualise the ‘Normal’ You Want
Visualisation is a powerful tool, but in reality, the life you used to visualise you’d lead may have shifted now. Work out exactly what it is you want and how you’d socialise in an ideal world. Rid yourself of peer pressure and explain to others how you wish to socialise moving forward. Training your brain to visualise exactly what you want from social situations will help you assert it and approach it with confidence. Push yourself a little further and challenge the fear, then stand up and face it.
Keep a journal of your thoughts to note them down, map them out and give you perspective. If nothing else, we’re going through a historical time – and having a record of that will be hugely interesting in years to come! Nine times out of ten, you’ll be able to look back on your journaled emotions and see real progress. Making a habit of journaling can result in formulating new thought patterns that dispel your internal negative beliefs and help you overcome, well, just about anything!
Go For It
Sometimes, you’ve just gotta take a leap of faith. Accept invites and go along to events, safe in the knowledge that if you don’t feel safe, or it all feels too much, you can choose to leave. The more you expose yourself to the new normal, the more it will actually feel normal, and from there, life can resume.
There’s nothing stopping you taking things slowly, and getting out and doing things (even in a different way to pre-pandemic), will boost your confidence and self-esteem skyrocket.
It’s very unlikely now that you’ll be the only person feeling a little on edge when out and about in society again, so don’t be afraid to be open, honest and upfront about it. The only way from here is forward; you’ve just got to take the first step and that’s well within in your control.