Are you still working from home, maybe hybrid working, or back in the office full time? Maybe nothing changed for you during lockdown?
Before lockdown, I drove to the office most days – an hour or so in the morning and an hour and a half in the evening. To be honest I always enjoyed the drive in, but at the end of a busy day, the drive home was tedious. And arriving back to the family late was not great.
Life was busy – calls, face to face meetings, on site client visits all over the country. More than once I’d find myself stranded, late at night at a train station – usually far from home.
And then overnight everything changed. Suddenly, like many people I was at home all day every day. Me, my wife and our boys, all together, all day. And on the whole, I loved it. The extra free time, no travel, time with the family, time to learn new things. Lots of walks in the wonderful parks near where we live, time in the garden. The pace of life generally slower. More time to stop, think and reflect.
But over time, the lack of human contact and connection is something I started to find challenging, and I think many people would say the same.
But now many of us are beginning to re-enter at least some of that previous world, maybe going into the office on some days each week, new social opportunities are appearing and we can travel again. For some their routines are changing, new actions and decisions need to be thought about and once again you might find yourself having to say no.
And for some, this move back to a new kind of normal is creating anxiety – being back in face-to-face work situations, being part of large groups and gatherings, socialising in a way not possible in the last 18 months. Maybe you think about new etiquette – what’s changed? Should you shake hands, should you hug? Will the other person be OK with that? (I love a hug!). Do you even want to be out, or does the sofa and the TV suddenly look more inviting?
Suddenly our lives have become more three dimensional, more complex. There are more emotions, more opportunities – at least it might seem that way, to succeed or fail. No longer sat just behind a keyboard or a phone, but once again out there in all our humanness. Listening, talking, socialising and working in busy environments. It can be tiring, it can leave you drained and feeling anxious.
As we return to a more ‘exposed’ way of living, it could be tempting to avoid social or business situations. To prevent this happening, there are things you can do to manage your social anxiety and the feelings of unease it might be bringing. And remember – If you’re feeling anxious about socialising and work as lockdown is eased, you most definitely are not alone.
So in this blog post, I thought I’d share some tips on how to overcome your social anxiety.
Before you go to an event or occasion, or even work, practice a relaxation technique. A simple way to relax is through simply breathing consciously to re-balance your oxygen levels. Take some deep slow breaths in through your nose and then slow breaths out through your mouth for a couple of minutes. Its amazing how this simple act can positively impact your emotions.
Be aware when your anxiety starts to rise
Often, this can be an increased focus on how you believe you are being perceived by those around you. It might feel like an inferiority complex, where you are somehow ‘less’ or ‘less capable’ than those around you.
Maybe you feel some physical sensations, increased sweating, sweaty palms, clenching your hands and brain fog. Take some deep breaths and then consider what it is that’s worrying you. Maybe its rejection, or interacting with others? In this case, ask yourself, truly, what is the worst that can happen? This will help you rationalise your thoughts and your fears.
Get back in the habit of holding short, confident, face to face conversations. Have a chat with the cashier next time you are shopping, or maybe when you’re walking the dog, chat to other dog owners. Look for these small passing opportunities. This is actually a really important step, because the more you avoid social situations, the harder it will be to adjust back into a more sociable life.
You don’t need to be the life and soul of the party. You might worry about not having enough interesting stuff to talk about. Remember – you aren’t alone in this. Up until now, life for most has been relatively quiet and repetitive, only now are we starting to do more, to venture further from home.
So simply focus your attention on being interested in the person you are talking to. Show empathy and kindness and try to avoid being stuck in your own mind. You’ll find if you do this, people will accept you – but for that to happen, you need to accept yourself.
It’s well established that exercise can help improve our mood and general well-being. Exercise releases endorphins into your body that will heighten your sense of well-being. Not only that but when you experience physical symptoms like nausea, sweating, shortness of breath and trembling, your body is moving in to fight or flight mode, releasing adrenalin and increasing your feeling of panic. Going for a walk, run, or whatever form of exercise works for you, prior to a social event can help to reduce these symptoms.
Practice makes perfect. The first few times you are in a social situation might not go as well you planned. But, like exercise, you need to ‘keep in shape’ and keep practicing, helping reduce your social anxiety over a period of time.
Ask for help
When you suffer from social anxiety you might find yourself feeling alone and even isolated. But by connecting with someone who might be able to help, you might experience a real improvement in how you feel. Look around you, can a friend provide support? What about a Manager at work – could they help support a return to the office for example?
If you find your social anxiety feels more challenging, perhaps disrupting your sleep, concentration and your day-to-day activities, it might be worth speaking to your doctor or finding support from a therapist, coach or counsellor.
Remember feeling this way is normal. For many it will take time to readjust. Don’t expect too much of yourself, don’t rush and don’t take on more than you feel you can comfortably handle.
As always, if you want to learn more about what I can do and how I can help, please reach out, or click here to find out more and book your free, 30 minute no obligation call.