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Regaining Social Confidence as Pandemic Restrictions Lift

Wednesday, May 04, 2022 5:59 PM
Tags: anxiety

By Isabelle Banin

If you often find yourself over thinking your last conversation or are nervous to talk to new people at parties, you’re not alone. Feeling high levels of social anxiety from time to time is common, and over 12% of Americans could qualify as having social anxiety disorder at some point in their lifetime.

The pandemic has also taught us self-isolating behaviors and has made many of us more anxious. While it may feel comfortable at times to stay inside our pandemic shells, isolation and loneliness pose significant risks to our health.

The good news is that you can take steps to overcome social anxiety. Brandy Wolff Crandall, PhD, a NorthShore Clinical Psychologist, has these tips:

  • The longer we avoid doing the things that make us anxious, the more our anxiety tends to grow. Write down situations that make you anxious, such as conversing with a stranger at a social event, then challenge yourself to try each one.
  • We often feel socially anxious in uncertain situations, and creating a “game plan” before social gatherings can increase our confidence. For example, brainstorm a few topics you might enjoy talking about before the event to manage anticipatory anxiety and work on improving conversational skills.
  • Deep breathing and focusing on your breaths can help you stay grounded in the present moment, relax your body and feel emotional distance from negative thoughts.
  • Improve your inner monologue by focusing on positive self talk. Examples include telling yourself “I can do this” and “I am prepared for this” to break cycles of worrying.
  • Try to focus on the positive aspects of past, present and future situations. Strategies include writing down what you are looking forward to in the future and positive outcomes from past situations. In the present moment, try focusing on what you find enjoyable.
  • Understand that these strategies take practice and may not feel automatic at first. While your social anxiety will not disappear overnight, you can decrease and learn to manage your social anxiety over time. Be kind to yourself during this process, expect to make mistakes and forgive yourself if you do.

While this article includes general advice to decrease social anxiety, a licensed mental health professional can provide you with an individualized treatment plan. If you believe you may have an anxiety disorder, visit NorthShore’s Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences or your preferred provider to book an appointment. Even if your symptoms are of low severity, a mental health professional can still help you determine your goals and improve toward them.