After an extended period spent learning virtually and socializing through social media, Zoom, and Facetime, reintegrating back into the real world may seem daunting. If you feel anxious, you’re not alone. Many people report feeling uncertain or afraid to resume normal social activities. Here are some tips to help combat this anxiety.
Reflect on Your Social Values
What does a fulfilling social life mean to you? Which relationships do you want to cultivate or strengthen? How do you want to spend your free time? These are questions you can ask yourself as you begin the process of reintegration.
It’s worth reflecting on your social goals and writing them down. Remember that everyone’s goals will be different. For example, it’s okay if you lean more toward extroversion or introversion. It’s also okay if you value having many friends or just a few. Understanding your own values can make it easier to decide what's important to you and what's worth working towards.
Break Large Goals Into Smaller Steps
You may need to ease back into socialization slowly. Let’s say you want to work up the courage to eat dinner with friends. However, you haven’t eaten in a restaurant in over a year!
If this is the case, you might want first to experiment by ordering takeout first. Then, a few days later, commit to grabbing coffee with a friend who understands your anxiety. Finally, aim to plan for an entire meal with a group.
Practice Positive Visualization
Before an upcoming social event, imagine yourself handling everything with ease. Mentally rehearse a few lines if needed. Try to imagine how you might deal with specific stressors like awkward silences or intrusive questions.
Remember that the goal here is to be positive. Research shows that visualizing success can correlate with achieving success, so if you imagine yourself thriving, you may be more likely to thrive in a social setting.1
We store stress in the body, and it’s important to learn how to release excess tension to manage anxiety. After all, the mind and body are closely connected.
Optimal self-care can include:2
- Eating a variety of nutritious foods regularly.
- Staying physically active.
- Getting enough quality sleep.
- Practicing stress reduction techniques like yoga, massages, or meditation.
- Reaching out to loved ones who support you.
- Practicing creative expression.
While these activities do not necessarily eliminate anxiety, they can help you feel more confident and empowered. Over time, this pattern can reduce your stress levels.
Accept the Anxiety
It’s normal to feel some discomfort right now. We’ve had a tumultuous year, and many things continue to feel uncertain and unpredictable.
Accepting your anxiety means recognizing that your feelings are real. It also means acknowledging that they are valid and legitimate. Try to avoid criticizing yourself for how you feel—the more you try to resist what’s going on, the stronger those negative thoughts might become.
Seek Professional Support
If your anxiety impacts your physical or mental health, or if you feel like you can’t control your thoughts or feelings, speaking to a qualified professional can make a tremendous difference.
Therapy offers a supportive environment to process your fears and learn new techniques for coping with your anxiety. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.
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