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Coping with social anxiety as lockdown eases

It is completely normal to feel anxious about seeing friends again after so long in lockdown. Gigi, 25, shares her experience of this and how she is coping.

Social anxiety is something I’ve had experience of in the past. But before lockdown began, I had it in check. So it surprised me when the same old negative, berating thoughts took hold since I’ve been able to see my friends again.

When we were first allowed to meet up with people one-on-one again, I felt really anxious. I found that the voice in my head was shouting that I wouldn’t have enough to say, I’d say the wrong thing, or the person wouldn’t turn up.

The voice in my head was shouting that I wouldn’t have enough to say, I’d say the wrong thing, or the person wouldn’t turn up.

When government guidance changed again a few weeks ago and we were allowed to meet in groups of six in outdoor spaces, I thought the social anxiety might die down, but it didn’t. I went to meet some friends in the park and my social anxiety definitely came too. Now it shouted that I was talking too much and monopolising the group’s conversation, that I was making people feel left out, or not asking the people I hadn’t seen for a while the ‘right’ questions.

My social anxiety was meaner in a larger group, which took me by surprise. It was so overwhelming on this occasion that I ended up leaving early.

My social anxiety was meaner in a larger group, which took me by surprise.

Since then, I’ve thought about what I’m going to do next time so I defeat my social anxiety. Here’s my list:

How I'm coping with social anxiety

1) Being open with friends

I opened up to a few of my friends from the group and told them that last time I felt anxious and that I hope it won’t be as bad next time.

Next time I will be honest with the friends around me and ask for help if I am feeling anxious – I don’t need to hide how I’m feeling. I have also asked one of them to come for a walk with me away from the group if I say I need it.

I don’t need to hide how I’m feeling.

2) Interrupting negative thoughts

I have prepared talk-backs that I can use to interrupt negative thoughts and stop them from taking over. These include:

Social anxiety: You’re not asking the ‘right’ questions.

Me: There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ questions. Showing you are interested in the conversations by asking questions is good enough.

There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ questions.

Social anxiety: Your talk is boring/stupid/annoying/[insert whatever your social anxiety tends to tell you].

Me: You’re here with friends that want to see you and hear about your thoughts and feelings. They don’t think these things about you. If they do, they will tell you. Even if they do think this, it doesn’t matter. You are good enough to be a part of this conversation.

You are good enough to be a part of this conversation.

Social anxiety: People are thinking that you look ugly/bad/weird/[insert whatever your social anxiety tends to tell you].

Me: You have a healthy, valuable body and mind that carried you through a difficult few months, and even here today. It doesn’t matter what other people think.

You have a healthy, valuable body and mind that carried you through a difficult few months, and even here today.

3) Being kind to myself

Lastly, I will remember that it’s okay to acknowledge my boundaries. It doesn’t matter if I’m there for an hour or five hours – it’s a strange time and if each baby step builds on the next, before you know it, your social anxiety will be another relic put to rest.

I hope this helps you to think about how you can tackle thoughts that your social anxiety throws at you. This is only temporary and you will get through this.

 

Author: Gigi, 25

Where to get support

If you are struggling with social anxiety, we have lots of information, tips and suggestions of where to get help on our anxiety page.

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