For over a year now, we’ve kept our distance, stayed inside and masked up. We’ve missed birthdays, BBQs and bonding but now the rules are starting to loosen. That means it’s time for us to get back to normal and start seeing each other again!

Lots of us are excited to get out there and get social again. But for some, the idea of socializing or heading back to work can cause an overwhelming amount of anxiety. Here are some ways that you can deal with the anxiety of life post-pandemic.  

What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety isn’t new. It’s something many people have experienced and is a serious mental health condition. Many people mistakenly think having social anxiety means you are just shy or withdrawn in social situations but it’s more than that. It’s an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others and can affect work, school and lots of your other day-to-day activities.

Social Anxiety Caused by COVID
We’ve been dealing with increased uncertainty and rapid change for a while now. These stressors combined with long periods of isolation can cause a lot of anxiety, even in those who haven’t experienced it before. Most of us are unpracticed in eye contact, social cues, body language and connecting with one another. Jumping back into things can cause major anxiety, but the good news is that there are ways to cope.

How to Overcome Social Anxiety
Getting back to normal should be a gradual process. We can’t just flip a switch and expect our lives to be the same as they were. The key is to start slow. Make plans with friends or family members that you feel the most comfortable with. This can be just a quick meet and greet at a park and then maybe move to indoor activities as visits progress.

Get Out and About
A great way to start adjusting back to life is to get out of the house and around people. It may feel weird at first but the more you do it, the better you’ll start to feel. You may not be back at work just yet but try driving to your workplace a few times a week to get back into a routine. If you are able to, bring your laptop and start working around some people at a local coffee shop. Try running more errands throughout your day or visit some shops you haven’t been to in a while.

Take Care of Yourself
Making self-care a priority has been key to maintaining good mental health during the pandemic and is going to be just as important as you feel the stress of transitioning back into regular everyday life. Self-care is not selfish and you need to do it. According to the World Health Organization, self-care includes things you do to take care of your own health like hygiene, nutrition, leisure activities, sports, exercise and much more. Here is a list of a few things you can do for self-care:

  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet
  • Get regular physical exercise
  • Avoid drugs, alcohol, or tobacco products

Find Some Coping Strategies
You’ve got self-care down and now it’s time to develop some coping strategies. These are tools you can use to buffer the stress that comes from social anxiety and can help you function in everyday life. One of the first things to do is identify the triggers that cause your anxiety. Start to visualize what life is going to look like as you re-enter social situations and figure out what causes your stress. That’s when you know you’ll need healthy coping mechanisms which can be whatever is best for you. Try to use breathing exercises, counting down from 10 backwards or download a mental health app that you like.

Reach Out for Professional Help
If you find you need it, reach out for help. There are so many resources available for people who are dealing with any type of mental health issue, including anxiety. This can be in whatever form works for you – by phone, in person or online. If you or someone you know needs immediate help you can call Crisis Services Canada at 1.833.456.4566 or text 45645.

GMS also offers support tools and resources as part of our health plans. Personal Health clients have access to LifeWorks, an award-winning total wellness program aimed at helping to improve mental, physical, financial and social wellbeing. While Group Advantage customers have an Employee Family Assistance Program (EFAP) as part of their plan that offers a number of online resources to access support networks, life coaching and other professional counselling services.

We are naturally social creatures but just how social is different for everyone. It’s normal to feel anxious about change. Go at your own pace and do what feels right for you. Just know that you’re not alone and there are supports to help you.