We have all been affected by the pandemic, and the latest covid variant -Omicron, has taken us all by surprise. Once again most of us have been forced into self-isolation, due to its highly contagious nature. In the last two months every aspect of our society both in Australia and the world, once again has been disrupted. As we are ‘learning’ to adapt to this new variant many of us are also finding it challenging to move outside of our homes and socially connect again.
I was invited to the tennis grand finale for free and I was so excited. Finally, a social outing! However, that didn’t last long because I found myself beginning to worry about connecting with my friend and the idea of interacting with thousands of other people at the venue. Was it too soon to be out and about -there are so many cases – I’m immune compromised maybe it’s best I stay home! All sorts of issues started to pop into my head, and it made me feel anxious. Thank goodness the thoughts and feelings didn’t last!
It is very normal to sometimes feel anxious especially in the context of the pandemic. It is not normal on the other hand to spend so many weeks isolated from loved ones and our community. If you experience social fear that is constant, or find yourself avoiding social situations, thoughts and behaviours that disrupt daily living then this may be an opportunity to chat to your GP or a therapist to support you.
Unfortunately, we are seeing a rise in social anxiety disorders manifest in adults and children due to the pandemic. It has also increased in prevalence in those individuals with a pre-existing social anxiety diagnosis.
Social anxiety disorder is defined as an intense constant fear humiliation or embarrassment in a social setting. There are physical symptoms (rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, trembling, shaking, blushing) and psychological symptoms (feeling panic before a social interaction, avoid social situations, missing work, or school). Many people are aware that their fears are unreasonable, and that the social anxiety is having a negative impact on their daily lives. It affects different aspects of a person’s life such as social activities, relationships, work performance and academic functioning.
It is important to remind ourselves that it is normal to feel socially anxious especially when remerging from self – isolation. Research tells us that despite socializing less many people are stressing more about social connections. Many of us have adapted to spending a lot of time isolated at home and the thought of preparing to go back to the office or school may be daunting for many of us.
I had to self-isolate a few weeks ago because my daughter tested positive! I needed to go food shopping after eight days of being inside the house and felt very apprehensive. I found myself sanitising everything and keeping my distance from people.
Adapting in this new way of living is a process therefore it will take time. If you are experiencing social anxiety whether mild of severe, please be kind to yourself. The good news is that the outlook is positive and there is excellent treatment for anyone seeking help.
A few useful tools that may help keep fears under control.
*become familiar with triggers that make you feel nervous or out of control
*practice relaxation and breathing techniques
*meditation, or yoga
Hur J. (2020) Social Context and the Real -World Consequences of Social Anxiety. Journal Of Personality and Social Psychology,71, 796-809.
Hoffman Y, Grossman E, BergmanY, Bodner E. (2021) The Link Between Social Anxiety and Intimate Loneliness is Stronger for Older Adults Than for Younger Adults. Aging Mental Health, 25(7),1246-1253