How To Survive Post-Pandemic Reality When You Have Social Anxiety
7 minutes read
With the world slowly opening up again – from offices welcoming employees back to their desks and social gatherings at a 2-year high, many of us might find it hard to switch back to life pre-covid.
“Essentially, any periods of life adjustment have the potential to create anxiety. The human condition generally prefers certainty, order, and predictability. Returning to work, for some, will feel uncertain, destabilising and unsettling, Owen O’Kane, Psychotherapist, and Former NHS lead tells Beauty Daily.
Hit especially hard are the people who started working when Covid broke or began in the middle of the pandemic and have only interacted with colleagues via zoom – then just like that – you need to face people IRL (in real life).
Work and social anxiety are real. Thankfully, there are ways to combat this stress.
The Sunday Times bestselling author of Ten to Zen and Ten Times Happier, O’Kane, says: “Anxiety is defined as ‘intolerance of uncertainty.’ So it is not surprising that not knowing how the return to work will create anxiety. The key is to learn to tolerate uncertainty, trusting that you will cope, manage, and adjust. Then, when the adjustment period has passed, the anxiety will likely ease.”
Beauty Daily speaks to three leading mental health experts to share their coping strategies for managing work and social anxiety.
Is it normal that we feel anxious around people these days?
You may wonder why some of your colleagues go back to work as if it’s like a walk in the park, and here you are, freaking out, having interpersonal conversations with yourself, asking, “Is something wrong with me?”
Calm down. Experts say it’s completely normal. Phew.
“People may be feeling anxious for a variety of reasons. Aside from the ongoing uncertainty around Covid, when we are unfamiliar with colleagues or have gotten out of the habit of interacting with others, this often makes us feel self-conscious or apprehensive. This is likely to be more so if we are naturally introverted or have gotten stuck in a routine of working from home, which involves reduced contact with others; like anything else, social skills need to be practised, otherwise, we get out of the habit,” explains Richard Reid, psychotherapist and CEO of Pinnacle Wellbeing Services.
Returning to a regular routine may create anxiety for many people due to adjusting to schedules and commutes, expectations, and less flexibility. In addition, the thought of socialising and interacting with colleagues may induce anxiety as some people may feel deskilled. We can all relate that our social skills have become somewhat rusty.
O’Kane also reiterates that living in a state of hypervigilance for two years and under strict guidance has often been focused on avoiding others to prevent infection. For some, this may evoke some degree of health anxiety.
9 ways how to get over social anxiety
People living with social anxiety often deal with an intense fear of social situations that affects their everyday life. If it’s Covid-induced social anxiety, chances are you’re going through a phase; pushing yourself out there is key.
Owen O’Kane, Psychotherapist, Former NHS lead and Sunday times Best-selling author Ten to Zen, and Ten Times Happier
Talk to your manager or a trusted colleague
Explain to them your worries about returning to work. Naming an anxiety automatically helps discharge it. Plan how you intend to return to work and be as organised as possible; it will help you feel a greater sense of control. Request a phased return to regular working hours if the anxiety feels overwhelming. Most managers will be supportive and understanding of this.
Remember what you are experiencing is very normal
Considering the chaos of the last two years. Adjustment takes time. Try to be self-compassionate.
You’ve got this
Remember, you have coped before in the normal ‘working world.’ Approximately 90% of our worries never happen. Try to remind yourself of this.
Richard Reid, psychotherapist and CEO of Pinnacle Wellbeing Services
Acknowledge your anxiety, but don’t give into it.
Proactively interacting with others little and often is a great way to reassure our brains and become more comfortable.
Forget about yourself for a moment
Focus on the words and needs of others when interacting with them. When we focus on others, then we naturally become less self-conscious.
Apply positive thinking
Often, we focus on why we don’t want to interact with others. Instead, think about the positive opportunity that a conversation may present. Our brains act on the ideas or imagery that we present to ourselves and can create self-fulfilling prophecies.
Katie Maycock, Stress and burnout specialist and founder of OMNIA Wellbeing
Create a new routine
As the world shut down and we started working from home, we all adjusted and found a way to live with it, thus creating a routine or structure that felt right at the moment.
Many of us have become too comfortable with it. If we want to transition back into the office, we have to disrupt that. Developing a new routine or restructuring your day can be hugely beneficial for leaning into your discomfort and thus overcoming anxiety.
Be honest and open
It may seem that talking about how you feel would create its own level of anxiety, but leaning into that discomfort and letting your colleagues or manager know that you are anxious or nervous about returning to work can be helpful. It’s also a healthy reminder that you’re not alone in how you feel.
This way, you and your colleagues or manager can devise a plan of action to help you feel more comfortable returning to work. The same can be true if you’re struggling with social settings, except instead of colleagues/managers, you can let your friends know. Again, it can be easy to feel alone when you feel anxious, but letting others know can be the first step towards getting the support you need.
Seek professional help
If you’ve exhausted all other options and find that your anxiety is unmanageable, make sure to seek professional help. There is no shame in this, and there are countless mediums you can use to find high-quality support. First, check with HR and see if your company has any programs in place that can help (for instance, counselling or therapy services). You’re not alone; millions feel in a state of anxiety daily, so by speaking about it, you might encourage other people too. You are not alone.
Beauty Daily approved three wellness hacks
1. Set your intention
Science has proven that your attitude in the morning shapes the mood for the rest of your day. Take advantage of this finding, start your day the right way, and set clear intentions. Add mindfulness to morning tasks, even while taking a shower. Use a shower gel that contains uplifting oils, like mint or rosemary. We love Tonic Bath and Shower Concentrate in the mornings; it promotes a feeling of enthusiasm for the day.
Read next: Morning Habits For Re-Setting Your Mind
2. Spritz confidence
If you need a boost of confidence, use the power of aromatherapy. This is when a spritz of something might come in useful. Try Eau Dynamisante; it contains ginseng essential oil, which is proven to uplift and increase energy; patchouli to provide feelings of relaxation and help ease stress; and finally, a citrus lemon essential oil helps boost the happiness hormone serotonin. A spritz will help set the scene for your body and brain to be ready for the day.
3. Pause and breathe… let it all out
Another pro tip from stress and burnout specialist Maycock is to practice deep breathing.
“When we feel stressed, nervous, or anxious, our body experiences the fight-or-flight response. This is an automatic, anxiety-inducing physiological response that requires effort to come down from. The best way to do that is to breathe.”
Rule Of Five Breathing:
– Breathe in for five seconds (focus on breathing deep into the stomach, not the chest)
– Hold that breath for five seconds
– Breathe out for ten seconds. Repeat this as many times as you need.