As the country starts to open back up and people begin to mix again, many of us are facing social situations with feelings of fear and stress – or, as it is now known, Covid-19 social anxiety. It goes without saying that we would never advocate putting yourself in a situation where you feel unsafe, especially if you have underlying health conditions. However, if you want to get back out there, but you’re just not sure how, this guide is for you.
1. Find healthy ways to manage your stress
Unfortunately, stress is a part of life, especially at the moment. Instead of aiming to get rid of Covid-19 social anxiety entirely, it’s better to learn to keep it at a manageable level. While this may look different from person to person, there are a few tried and tested methods of bringing stress levels down that are free and easy to try, such as mindfulness, yoga, and breathing techniques. Natural supplements like adaptogenic herbs and CBD are also popular ways of modulating the body’s response to stress. Keep experimenting until you find what works for you.
2. Care for your immunity & improve your physical health
If your stress about going out and socializing relates to a fear of getting sick, it can help to take active steps towards boosting your overall health and immunity. Eating a balanced diet, avoiding alcohol, and trying to get enough sleep are all tangible ways to improve your overall physical and mental health, as is exercising regularly. The links between exercise and improved mental health are well established. That doesn’t mean you need to take yourself out to a crowded gym or spin class; at-home or individual exercise like yoga, weights, or running can also help. Learn more about how to balance stress and immunity here. Wearing a mask, social distancing in social settings, and receiving a Covid-19 vaccine may also help reduce the stress of going back into public safely. Check CDC guidelines for current recommendations.
3. Take it slow
Sometimes it can help to think of putting yourself in stressful situations like climbing a ladder. On the bottom step might be something like going for a socially distanced walk with a friend. A slightly higher step might be getting food outdoors with a small group, or going to a close friend’s house. Going to a crowded bar or flying on an airplane might be way up near the top of the ladder. The point is, you don’t need to get to the top of the ladder immediately. Practice climbing to those lower, easier to reach steps first, and the distance to the top will feel much easier.
4. Set goals
This point links to the one above. Setting and writing down achievable, measurable goals is the surest way to achieve them. Think about what your final goal – the top of your ladder – is. This should be something you actually want, not something you think you should be doing. Then think of the smaller goals – the steps on the ladder – that will get you there. Finally, and this is the most important part, remember to congratulate yourself when you reach one of your goals.
5. Allow time to recuperate
If you were an athlete training for a big race, you wouldn’t try to beat your personal best every single day, or you’d just end up getting hurt. Instead, you’d allow yourself time to rest and recover in between training and racing. Learning to manage the stress of going out again is no different. Being in social situations takes energy, and if you’re out of practice, it can be exhausting. To combat this, make sure you schedule in time at home to check in with yourself and practice some self-care.
6. Don’t beat yourself up
Set-backs are inevitable in any journey, so don’t beat yourself up if you end up bailing at the last minute due to anxiety. Journaling is an excellent way to look back on past successes, so that even if you take a step backward you can still see how far you’ve come. Most importantly, don’t compare yourself to others; everyone is moving at their own pace when it comes to getting back to life, and what works for one person won’t work for another.