I recently published an article about the transitions we are all currently making from lockdown to ‘normality’. Within the article, I touched on recognising the physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety that you may or may not experience in certain social situations as a result of the Covid pandemic.
In this article, we are going to look at ways to cope in social situations when you might feel this anxiety starting to take over. Perhaps you might experience the symptoms of anxiety while out for dinner with friends. Or perhaps on the tube on the way to work. Or even while shopping at your local supermarket. Self-help techniques can help to reduce the severity of the anxiety symptoms you are experiencing and can offer comfort in times of need. So, here are a few things that you could try…
Making notes about your anxiety can often help to help you identify triggers and understand more about why you feel this way. If you are in a certain situation and start to feel anxious, then take a time out and find a space to sit down and rest. Pop-out your notebook or phone and write a couple of simple notes about where you are, who you are with, and how you are feeling. If you don’t have the means to write anything down, then simply think about them instead.
By thinking about or writing down what goes through your mind in certain social situations, it can help you to realise the situations that might be making you anxious and also why that might be. Comparing notes over a period of time can be helpful in making connections and finding triggers that might be causing you to feel this way. You could even give your anxiety level a score from 1 – 100. 100 being your worst and 0 being no anxiety at all. This is helpful to work towards dealing with your fear and recognising the worst scenarios to avoid for now.
Breaking down challenging situations
Just like I mentioned in my previous article, if you are worried at all about exposing yourself to certain social situations at the moment, then a better approach might be to ease yourself in slowly and at a pace that makes you feel comfortable. We are all different and will feel very differently about re-introducing ourselves to shops, cafés, public transport, and beauty salons.
Breaking down a challenging situation can help to overcome overwhelming anxiety and create more manageable chunks to deal with. For instance, take the example of public transport. Perhaps you are nervous or anxious at the thought of getting back on the tube or bus to work once your office or place of work re-opens? In order to break down this challenging activity, you could create a gradual scale of taking smaller journeys and during quieter periods when there won’t be as many people on the tubes/buses. You can then work your way up towards taking slightly longer journeys, travelling at busier times, or taking more complex routes that require a change of line.
Similar steps can be taken for other social situations too, for example, choosing quieter times to visit the shops and starting with smaller stores too before venturing to larger, busier ones.
Using relaxation techniques
If you are out and about and start to feel the symptoms of anxiety coming over you, then using relaxation techniques can help to reduce the severity of the emotions you are experiencing.
When you are anxious, you tend to take rapid, shallow breaths from the chest that can cause an upset in the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body. This can result in palpitations, dizziness, muscle tension, and nausea – the most common symptoms of anxiety. Diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing, on the other hand, stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system. This form of deep breathing engages your diaphragm, allowing your lungs to expand better. It helps to regulate your heartbeat, blood flow, breathing, and digestion. The easiest way to determine your breathing pattern is to put one hand on your upper abdomen near the waist and the other in the middle of your chest. As you breathe, notice which hand raises the most. If you’re breathing properly, your abdomen should expand and contract with each breath (and the hand on it should raise the most).
How to belly breathe
- Place one of your hands on your belly, below your ribcage.
- Allow your belly to relax completely.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose. The air should move into your nose and downward so that you feel your stomach rise with your hand.
- Exhale slowly through slightly pursed lips. Your belly should now fall inward (toward your spine).
- Repeat 10 times.
Havening is another technique that is extremely helpful in times of anxiety or fear. It refers to a newer alternative therapy technique that incorporates distraction and touch movements. It uses a gentle touch of the upper arms, hands, and face while voicing positive affirmations, to try and rewire unhealthy neural pathways that have developed due to stress or trauma – putting healthier and positive responses in their place.
Talking about your feelings of uncertainty, fear or worry can also help a great deal. Open up to loved ones about how you feel and keep talking regularly to support each other. Talking Therapy and CBT can also help you to overcome anxiety in social situations. This type of therapy focuses on how your thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes affect your feelings and behaviour and offers coping skills for dealing with different scenarios.
If you are thinking about how Talking Therapy or Havening could benefit you, then please feel free to give me a call on 07787 831 275 for a free consultation or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will email you back as soon as I can.