The pandemic has become more controllable, with a vast majority of the global population practicing proper hygiene such as wearing masks and washing hands regularly as well as the production and distribution of vaccines making their way across the world. These are all extremely beneficial factors that have contributed to us achieving a sense of post-pandemic normalcy, however, there are still many challenges that we collectively have to face as we slowly move into a post-corona age.
Beyond our physical healthcare and the need for vaccines to eliminate the possibility of contraction, our mental health has taken a toll as a result of the strict lockdown protocols placed in countries during the peak of the pandemic’s impact. Many of us were forced, whether we enjoyed it or not, to begin working from home and were shut out of public spaces to quell the spread of the virus. The lasting ramification of being home-bound for so long, at least in comparison to our lives before the pandemic, is a growing presence and worsening persistence of social anxiety.
In this article, we will explore how the pandemic has impacted social anxiety as we know it and offer some suggestions to help you deal with post-pandemic social anxiety.
The Impact Of The Pandemic On Social Anxiety
Social anxiety disorder affects individuals in several unique ways, which is primarily the reason that it is so difficult for medical practitioners to pinpoint solutions. That said, it is the second most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorder in the US. It is typically associated with feelings of fear and despair at the thought of social interactions, such as public speaking or conversing with strangers, but it becomes more problematic when physical reactions, muscle tension, rapid increase in heart rate, and dizziness occur. Furthermore, the importance of monitoring social anxiety is on the rise as it may be a precursor to serious mental conditions like depression and low-self esteem.
Introverts may have embraced lockdowns as it meant that there was little need to leave home or interact with others socially, barring the occasional virtual meet-up. This is largely a consequence of one’s social anxiety and the sense that one’s comfort zone lies within the self and not in the outside world. Now, as the restrictions ease and employers encourage their employees to return to the office, people may be filled with a sense of dread and fear. This is an example of how social anxiety affects people, and those who were relishing in the joys of staying at home may be paralyzed by the thought of reentering the world. There is no denying the impact that the pandemic has had on social anxiety, in fact, recent studies found that social anxiety symptoms dramatically increased in response to the COVID-19 lockdowns.
These studies indicate a trajectory that would suggest social anxiety is becoming more widely accepted as a medical condition around the world, which bodes well for providing support to those who suffer from it. The more that we know and understand about this form of anxiety, the better we will collectively be able to manage it. And, to help you leverage the growing social anxiety support that is sweeping the globe we have compiled a list of strategic practices that will help you deal with post-pandemic social anxiety.
Easing Your Way Back Into Society
The best place to start when dealing with post-pandemic social anxiety is to gradually ease into social situations rather than be thrust into some daunting social encounter that you were not adequately prepared for. This is especially true as many friendships evolved after Covid. While returning to work may be demanded of you, you can implement a few helpful steps at home and at work to practice this tip. The following suggestions will help you start small and allow you to accelerate your social interactions depending on how quickly you adjust your social anxiety:
- Instead of ordering in with a delivery service, get out of the house for some time within the comfort of your vehicle and pass by the drive-through.
- Opt to go get groceries for your household instead of passing the responsibility onto others.
- Calendarize your social events, being realistic with how many and what types of events you are willing to cope with, and map them out in advance.
- Start talking with friends, family, or your romantic long distance relationships more frequently so that you can get more used to social interactions.
While these may seem simple, they are extremely effective for those that suffer from more severe forms of post-pandemic social anxiety.
Supplement And Nurture Your Diet
Your diet can play a much bigger role in your mental health than you may have originally believed. After all, the foods that you eat are responsible for bodily functions and the production of chemicals that directly impact your mood. Serotonin, for example, is a vital chemical responsible for the regulation of your mood, sleep/wake cycle, and other important internal processes. Eating certain foods has a direct influence on your serotonin levels and thus may make you more susceptible to social anxiety disorder. The following foods have been known to negatively impact serotonin levels so steer clear of them until your social anxiety is more manageable:
- Refined sugars
- Processed foods
- Cultured foods
While some foods negatively impact your serotonin levels, there are others that can boost them and help improve the rate at which you deal with post-pandemic social anxiety. Consider adding the following foods to your diet to benefit from this tip:
- Soy products
The final step to reducing your social anxiety through diet is to supplement your diet with high-quality products that boost mood and support serotonin production. There are many forms of anxiety supplements on the market, however, the key ingredients you want to look for are Valerian Root, which helps to calm the mind and body, as well as 5-HTP, which elevates the mood and increases serotonin levels naturally. You also want to invest in a product that offers a day and night formulation like Anxietex™ by Approved Science®. This will ensure that during the day you are still able to function as normal without overpowering fatigue or anxiety. A well researched night formulation should include ingredients like Lemon Balm and Melatonin to aid in calming the nerves and improving sleep quality.
Additionally, an even more beneficial natural alternative for reducing anxiety and stress is ashwagandha. The ancient herbal property has been used in cultures around the world for centuries because of its anxiety-relieving benefits. As with all supplements, be sure to purchase your products from a reputable company whose solutions have been clinically tested and positively reviewed. These are indications that the products will live up to their marketing claims and bode well for the efficacy of their desired impact.
Mindful Strategies For Social Anxiety
While it is not particularly easy, it is free to practice mindfulness in order to reduce your social anxiety. Mindfulness may involve a series of daily habits that will help you calm your mind and gain control over your anxiety. Be sure to implement a few of these tips into your routine if you wish to see positive social anxiety-reducing benefits:
- Meditate for a minimum of 5 minutes per day
- Practice deep breathing exercises
- Create a journal as one step in taking control of your anxiety daily
- Go for long walks by yourself
- Light incense or scented oils to permeate through your workspace
- Download a mental health app
Stop worrying as much and deal with your post-pandemic social anxiety more effectively by easing your way back into society, managing a healthy and supplemented diet, and practicing mindful strategies daily. Doing so will help you curb the feelings of fear and low-self esteem, allowing you to thrive in any social setting.