As we are transitioning from a completely isolated world to one that is almost relatively normal again, it is not uncommon to feel more socially anxious. As we got used to staying in our comfortable bubble during the pandemic, we may catch ourselves saying “no” more frequently when asked to leave our homes or hang out with friends now. If you are starting to feel increasingly socially anxious and it is preventing you from living a productive and fulfilling life, I have included some tips below that can hopefully help you slowly overcome these fears. I am not a medical professional by any means — these are personal tips that work for me, and I hope you will find them useful and applicable to your life as well!
Overthinking is like your toxic best friend — she fabricates false situations, convincing you that you are being internally judged and scrutinized by everyone. Overthinking is a constant struggle of mine; it has prevented me from listening to my internal “yes!” to social events in fear of what could go wrong. Avoiding social gatherings may seem easier at the moment, but we will probably later regret these decisions and feel left out on a great opportunity to socialize with others. I urge you to fight negative thoughts and try your hardest to ignore them, because no one is paying as much attention to you as your anxiety is dictating.
Take it Slow
Do not feel compelled to rush out of your comfort zone at once. Lessening your social anxiousness around others is a gradual process that will take time. It is important to set realistic goals for yourself — that way, you will see more improvement. Try taking baby steps before you jump into big social situations. Doing so will make you more comfortable with seeing others, but hopefully not overwhelm you. Before we transition to the next point, please note that it is okay to take time for yourself. Just make sure you are living a balanced life — humans need interaction with others, but also time to themselves.
When you are starting to feel panicked, which is especially common if you are meeting someone for the first time, just remember to take deep breaths. A few months ago I attended a zoom call for a program I took part in with other students, and as I was talking I vividly recall my face turning bright red. Although taking a deep breath did not prevent me from continuing to flush, it made me calmer and more poised as I continued speaking. Even one pause or deep breath can shift your mindset and help you feel more at ease.
Arrive Early/On time
Being late is an anxious person's worst enemy. I am here to remind you to arrive early or on time! Not only will you feel more collected, but it will also give you time beforehand to practice what to say when meeting someone for the first time. Practicing can be very helpful for those that struggle with anxiety. This will calm your urge to avoid the social event altogether. Instead, planning ahead will allow you to enter a social setting feeling relaxed and confident. Further, practicing can be helpful when you are seeing a friend that you have not talked to in a long time. Just brainstorming a few topics beforehand can make you feel more comfortable and less anxious. Do not overplan though — that may cause unnecessary stress!
Stepping out of your comfort zone can be challenging, so be sure to congratulate yourself when you do so! Even if it sounds cheesy, it is important to pat yourself on the back when you achieve your goals. And remember, it is okay to skip out on social events sometimes. Quite frankly, we may not always be in the mood to see others. But don’t let this become a pattern — your anxiety does not deserve to limit you from living life to the very fullest!