How to Deal with the Pressure of Socializing in a Post-Pandemic World When You Have Social Anxiety
The pandemic allowed us to hone our bread-making skills and develop a close relationship with
Netflix, but it also reinforced social anxiety for many of us.
With the holidays shortly approaching and the push for more vaccinations, there might be
looming pressure to reintegrate back into society. Many of us felt the sting of social isolation
from quarantine, but those who live with social anxiety felt a reprieve. People with social
anxiety were gifted with worldwide grace in the form of stay-at-home orders. Some of us may
be excited to reunite this holiday season with our loved ones and celebrate a new year making
up for lost time. Others who live with social anxiety may be dreading this social pressure to
reintegrate and socialize.
Quarantine-Induced and Reinforced Social Anxiety
Our homes became our sanctuaries from an unknown and deadly virus. We were
encouraged by public health officials to limit contact and make our homes, which doubled as
workplaces, more comfortable than ever before to ease the pain of quarantine.
Society became so adept at following these orders that it led to an experience known as
cave syndrome, in which people feel anxious to leave their homes.
Those who live with social anxiety are familiar with living a reclusive lifestyle long before
the pandemic. Seeing the world live in a similar manner brought relatability to a mental health
condition that was once thought of as non-existent. We began to see the benefits of drawing
inwards, having more time for ourselves, and less time for socializing. Social anxiety became
reinforced and protected by the many threats brought upon by the pandemic.
Healthy and long-lasting relationships are fundamental to human life. We are wired for
connection and the pandemic highlighted this basic need. However, popular media and societal
influences inadvertently place high pressure on having a robust social network made up of
romantic partners, friends, and family, especially on individuals in their 20s.
A post-pandemic world amplifies this pressure to be social and make the 2020s the
roaring 20s. Those who deal with social anxiety already have a perception that people have
high expectations of them to be charming, exceptional – i.e., socially perfect. The pandemic
allowed people to shield from their social anxiety by offering a bullet proof excuse to avoid
Unfortunately, avoidance exacerbates anxiety and as the world slowly shifts from virtual
to real world, it is inevitable that we will be reconnecting with others again.
Fortunately, there are ways to honour the benefits and feeling of safety that we
mustered from hiding away in our homes, while bravely walking into a post-pandemic world.
How to Deal with the Pressure of Socializing in a Post-Pandemic World When You Have Social Anxiety:
1. Practice Self-Compassion and Set Your Own Expectations
The pandemic has been extremely rough on the world and it is okay to not have used this time
to create a list of accomplishments. Those who live with social anxiety struggle with a
perception of expectations from others. These expectations are actually self-made and can be
shifted anytime. So, while you may feel pressure to fill up your social calendar now that you
have the option, the choice and expectation is actually set by you.
2. Go at Your Own Pace
Others may be quick to rush to the next party in fear of more restrictions but set boundaries for
yourself and let others know your boundaries. Say yes to activities that you feel safe and
comfortable with and feel strength in being able to say no.
Use self-reflection time to consider your priorities and positive qualities rather than
perseverate on perceived expectations that others have of you.
Self-reflection could also help you identify your values. Perhaps, you value the connection that
you gain from an intimate gathering vs. a lively party.
4. Be Selective & Gradually Expose
Your social anxiety could be context or relationship specific. Having time to self-reflect could
help you discover any subtle toxic traits in your friendships, which could be the simple source of
your social anxiety.
Gradually expose yourself to people and situations that you feel more trusting and confident.
Keep your conversations within these situations light and easy. A polarizing and intense
conversation may be too much for you right at the start.
5. Accept Yourself
Not being in a romantic relationship or having a large network of friends may leave you with
the feeling that you are behind in life or socially inadequate. However, having perfectionistic
standards of yourself will only leave you feeling paralyzed and anxious. Aim for self-acceptance
of where you are right now and value the relationships that leave you with a feeling of safety
and acceptance, no matter how few they may be.
Most importantly, develop a loving and accepting relationship with yourself to ease the fears of
never being good enough for others.
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I change” – Carl Rogers