After over a year of hearing phrases like “socially distance “or “six feet apart,” it may be difficult transitioning back to socializing in the ways we once knew. It took time to adjust to the virtual world whether it was for work, school, or other events. We became accustomed to Zoom meetings and facetime… missing out on body language and in-person connections.  

It is okay to feel socially anxious as we are transitioning.

Here are some ways you may experience this anxiety in social settings along with ways to help you cope with it.

You may find yourself… 

  • Hyper focusing on nonverbal cues for signs of disapproval from others.
  • Critiquing yourself for saying something “silly.”
  • Making up fake excuses to leave social settings because you feel overwhelmed.
  • Filtering your “true self” to only show what you believe will be accepted.
  • Experiencing physical sensations like sweating profusely or feeling nauseous.

Ways to cope… 

  • Keep in mind the Spotlight Effect! The Spotlight Effect is a social phenomenon where we overestimate the extent to which others notice about us. People don’t think as hard or as critically about us as much as we do about ourselves. In fact, most people don’t notice our flaws as much as we think they do. So, the next time you’re feeling socially anxious, remind yourself that you may be experiencing The Spotlight Effect…and that light may feel bright during this transition!
  • Let someone around you know how you’re feeling. Saying something like “I am feeling nervous or anxious” can lighten up the mood and can give others a chance to help you through this difficult time. You may also find out that you are not the only one feeling this way!
  • Don’t focus on being perfect. Not only does perfection not exist, but it can also add to the anxiety you’re experiencing. Instead – focus on accepting the worst-case scenarios that are coming up for you and think about ways that you can prepare for them.
  • Challenge your negative thoughts. Asking yourself questions like “how likely is this to happen” in relation to the worst-case scenarios that are coming up for you or “is this thought a fact or just an opinion?” Asking ourselves these questions can help us with thinking more objectively.
  • Try a deep breathing exercise. In times of distress, your breathing may be faster. Take a few minutes to ground yourself with a deep breathing exercise to help regulate your body. Find a safe space or excuse yourself to the bathroom and take a couple of deep breaths.
  • Face your fears! Every day try to do one small thing that feels scary. As much as avoiding social interactions may temporarily feel better, it may hinder our day-to-day life and take away from making those connections that can truly help us. Make a list of things you can try to help you face your fears for example: making small talk with the mailman to telling a funny story to a group of friends.
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