Quarantine was a Reprieve from Social Anxiety, Now What??

2020 will certainly forever be known as the year of the pandemic. Because you are an introvert and thus most likely an empathy to some degree, it’s been painful for you to watch helplessly as thousands of people have died and millions have been negatively impacted economically.

The fact that NO ONE seems able to confidently provide answers to basic questions regarding what is considered safe or when this whole thing will end has completely shaken our previously unquestioned assumption that life is relatively predictable and stable. We no longer can innocently believe that today will pretty much look like yesterday and tomorrow will resemble them both.

Yet, throughout all the fear and uncertainty, you also have been harboring a guilty secret since this whole thing started. That secret is that you have felt more content and more at ease than you have since you were a kid! Dare I say, at times, it has felt as though you were thriving?

Since mid-March, your world has been relatively free from idle chit-chat, work presentations and trying to think of creative ways of answering the question “what have you been up to?” Sheltering-in-place, that’s what you have been up to and that has been just fine with you.

You had know clue how taxing all those micro-interactions that your day used to consist of were. Or how socially inept those forced conversations at the grocery store with the person you kinda know could make you feel.

And let’s not even get started on work. Sure, working virtually was and is preferred because it’s safer, but let’s not kid ourselves here. Not having to spend the majority of our waking hours with people not of our choosing or attend those awful work birthday parties has been like Christmas morning.

But you know it’s coming. The return to “normalcy,” at least in some capacity. The paradox is as the country heals, social anxiety will most likely return to your daily life in some form. Your social sabbatical will end. This is something that you have thought about more than a few times. So, now what? What can you do differently this time around?

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Drop the Guilt – Whether this article resonates or not, most likely will dependent on your personality type. If the above sounds familiar, it’s not because you are a psychopath, it’s because you are an introvert living in a world normally conducive extroverts. 2020 has flipped this on its head and we have been living in an introvert’s world. This has driven extroverts crazy and made introverts almost universally breathe a sigh of relief. So, it’s ok to feel all of it – the relief of the seclusion and the fear of the return.
  • Determine what you want – If anything, the pandemic has expanded our horizons on how we can “do” life. Options exist that we previously didn’t assume existed. Many of us can work from anywhere. It that appeals to you, find a job that gives you that option. We have learned that we can say no to social engagements or invitations that feel like obligations. We can let fringy friendships fall away and be no worse for the wear. Decide what you want your life to look like and then start taking steps to build it as close to your vision as possible.
  • Develop a different relationship to social anxiety – When social anxiety visits your body and mind, do you greet it with acceptance and curiosity as you would a scared orphan? Or do you greet it with terror or resistance as you would an armed intruder who is coming for you and your family? Through utilizing mindfulness skills, we can learn to choose the former more often and this can make all the difference in our experience. It can give us just enough space to step up to what matters in life as opposed to being completely hyper-focused on our own bodily sensations and thoughts.

If the return to “normalcy” has you concerned that social anxiety will came roaring back with a vengeance, I can help you navigate that.

Please reach out with any questions or to schedule a free consultation. You can text or call 804-210-7891 or email at parke@richmondanxiety.com. To learn more about my approach to therapy, visit www.richmondanxiety.com. 

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