At the start of the lockdown, almost half of the people in the UK reported high anxiety levels. This spike was no surprise — it was the way we reacted to a big change in our lives that had left us socially isolated.
Now it’s time to revive our social lives, and many find it terrifying. How do you even talk to people anymore? What do you talk to them about? As we’re starting to reintegrate into our communities, our anxiety levels spike once again. Luckily, there are ways to keep your post-lockdown anxiety at bay.
Take It Slow
After a year in lockdown, many are emerging from almost complete isolation. Starting to socialize again can be challenging, but you don’t need to plunge yourself back into your social life if you’re scared. In fact, it’s best to do it bit by bit.
Start with your innermost circle of friends and family — your comfort zone. If you’re not sure you have it, just start with the people who make you feel most at ease. They will allow you to be more relaxed and not feel like you have to put in obscene amounts of effort in a conversation.
Introduce other people back into your life gradually and at your own pace. However, don’t avoid anxiety-inducing situations altogether. Instead, face them one step at a time.
Prepare in Advance for Social Occasions
Preparing in advance for any potentially stressful social situation could help you reduce your anxiety levels when you get there. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should preplan your every move. However, you should get all the info about the event, just so you know what to expect when you get there.
For example, knowing when the event starts and finishes, how many people will attend, how many familiar faces you’ll see, etc. helps you eliminate the guesswork and curb situational anxiety.
If you can picture the event before you get there, it will help you stay calmer and feel more in control. Some people find it helpful to prepare some conversation starters and avoid awkward silence.
Talk to Someone About How You Feel
Social anxiety and loneliness can be isolating, but keeping them to yourself can make you feel even more removed. It’s important to talk to someone you trust about your feelings. Your anxiety can make you feel like no one would understand because everyone else seems to have it together. However, that’s far from the truth.
One in four people in England experience some kind of mental health problem each year. If you open up to someone, chances are they will not only be supportive, but they will also have been through the same thing or are even going through it right now. You’d be surprised to learn that even some of the most extroverted people you know are struggling with post-lockdown anxiety.
Try to Maintain a Routine
During lockdown, you might have established a routine, even if it only meant moving from the bed to the couch and back to bed every day. Routine is not only great for when you’re trying to be productive. It also provides us with a deep sense of stability.
As you get more social, your lockdown routine will get disrupted, and this may cause you to panic. However, it’s important to remember that you’re supposed to break that routine as you gradually transition to the post-lockdown life.
But that doesn’t mean that you should give in to chaos and panic. Try to establish a new routine, one that allows a bit of time here and there for socializing but retains elements of the old routine so that it doesn’t destabilize you completely.
Prioritize Relaxation Time
Even if you’ve spent the entire lockdown doing almost nothing, it doesn’t mean that you should try to make up for it and never give yourself a break anymore. Carving out some time of your day for relaxation is now more important than ever.
If you’ve had little social contact during the lockdown, now, getting social will probably feel tiring and even exhausting at times, even if you enjoy it greatly. Remember that that’s completely okay and give yourself plenty of time to wind down and restock your energy by having some mindful “me” time in between social encounters.
Just as we need to work to get our bodies in shape and not get out of breath easily, so do we need to exercise our “social muscle” before we’re able to enjoy more intense social situations again.
Learn to Recognize Unhelpful Thoughts
We’re all susceptible to unhelpful thoughts from time to time, but anxiety seems to amplify them. These thoughts are otherwise known as cognitive distortions, and they can make us feel desperate, hopeless, and overall depressed.
These thoughts are often black-and-white, and they tend to catastrophize and personalize any minor issues. “I’m a failure, and no one likes me,” “I can’t do anything right,” “I’m so stupid,” etc. are some examples of unhelpful thinking.
Of course, these statements are not facts; they’re manifestations of your anxiety. So once you learn how to recognize them, you can remind yourself that they are not real and you shouldn’t believe them. Just remember that conditioning yourself to identify cognitive distortions and turn them around takes time and practice, so be patient.
Get Professional Help
Ultimately, if you feel like you can’t deal with your mental health issues on your own or with the help of friends and family, that’s perfectly fine. You can always turn to a professional for help. Psychotherapy has helped numerous people through their struggles, and it can help you too.
What’s more, you can even choose the psychotherapy style that best suits you. For example, this therapist in Central London relies on Buddhist-influenced psychotherapy practices. You can also go for a more conventional style, such as cognitive behavioural or psychodynamic.
You can also ask your friends for recommendations or try out several styles to see which one suits you the best. Everyone is different and will find different things effective, but remember that you don’t need to struggle alone — reach out for help if you need it.
Jennifer Wilson is a writer at Qeedle.com She knows business processes and operations management inside out. As she understands all the challenges of running a small business firsthand, it’s her mission to tackle the topics that are most relevant to entrepreneurs and offer viable solutions.