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One Year of Isolation: Social Anxiety on the Rise

The idea of normal seems like another galaxy far away after a year of the pandemic. As more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, "normal" begins to creep back into our everyday lives as our schedules start to fill. If going back to your old life filled with people and places seems a little scary, you're one of the millions of people feeling the same way.

The past year has taught us to roll into our new reality. We've lived through the fear of the unknown every day for a year. We've stared death in the face as our loved ones fought for their lives. We've physically distanced ourselves from loved ones and only seen many faces on virtual phone calls. Somehow, we started to adjust to this new life. It was challenging, but we figured out the new way of living. Suddenly, it's time to transition into another new way of life. We're expected to get back into our lives while changing yet again.

The Why

It's only natural to feel anxiety after living through a global pandemic for an entire year. Many people have been in isolation without much social interaction. Changing this dynamic is scary. The truth is that even the most extroverted person might be a little scared. Everything most people have ever been taught about being social was turned upside down.

People were forced into relying on virtual forms of communicating. By doing so, the ways of communicating in person with body language and facial cues are thrown out the door. We learned to live this way. Now, the tables are turning.

Going back to our daily lives will throw us for a loop both physically and mentally. We may feel anxious because we may even notice the tiny things that we didn't have on those video calls. We may feel like superheroes with wild senses, hearing and seeing every little detail.

The Who

Every single person in the world was impacted at some point by this pandemic. If you haven't been in your usual social world, you will be thrown off just a little bit. Anxious introverts that have never been excited to be in a huge social gathering might actually do better than the usual overly excited extrovert because they didn't have such a tough transition. Their biggest challenge will be when they have to jump back into the social world. They can do it because they were able to do it before, but they actually preferred isolation.

There is an introversion to the extroversion spectrum. Everyone lands on it somewhere. Some people that are more introverted may have had an okay time, while others may have struggled a little more. Many extroverts had a tough time during the pandemic because it hit their emotions. They relied heavily on social media and virtual calls to get through the isolation.

The climate of your living area also played a huge part in your adaptation to the pandemic. People that lived in warmer areas were able to play outside and see people in a socially distanced setting. People in colder areas weren't able to maintain those social connections as well.

Coping With Social Anxiety

The best way to cope with social anxiety is to dive into it. Called exposure therapy, this method is quite simple. As we ease ourselves into the world more and more each day, our minds and body will start to live in this new world without as much fear. We'll need support from others as we go through this transition. We can use relaxation techniques and deep breathing to get through these times.

We should expect a level of discomfort because we've been in another world for a year. It's important to start with smaller groups and build from there. Going to a large concert shouldn't happen in the first week of easing into your new normal. You should gradually turn up the degrees of being social each day.

If this seems too difficult, it's important to reward yourself for success each day. When you make small steps in the right direction, give yourself a reward. If you go on a walk with a few neighbors, do something fun for yourself. This could mean letting yourself watch a television show or take a hot bath. You're rewarding yourself with your favorite things you did in isolation.

The most important thing is to give yourself grace. Know that it's strange, but admit that it's okay. Be gentle with everyone around you. Each person might get back into their new normal their own way. Take it a day at a time. If you're invited to six parties, attend three of them. Remember that you don't have to make yourself do anything. You only have to take the steps towards your new life. You determine if these steps are tiny or big.

Navigating our new normal will impact everyone. We're all trying to figure this out together. We should help each other through each step. Ask questions and be open to sharing your experience. People with social anxiety might need more help. They can even seek professional help to jump into this new world. Give them a hand to hold as they wade through the ripples. It's been a long, hard year. This new sense of normalcy is a good thing for every person, but it will still be a scary transition for many people.

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The content on this page is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute professional medical advice. Patients should not use the information presented on this page for diagnosing a health-related issue or disease. Before taking any medication or supplements, patients should always consult a physician or qualified healthcare professional for medical advice or information about whether a drug is safe, appropriate or effective.