Tuesday, August 3

Nervous about going back to socializing? Here’s how to handle the end of the lock | Life and Style


IIf the limit of your conversational ability in the past year has been growling during Zoom meetings, discussing dinner plans with your roommate, scolding your children, or making passive-aggressive comments to the cat, you may feel out of practice now that big gatherings look tempting within reach. Perhaps you’ve enjoyed this period of government-mandated introversion quite a bit and are dreading the idea of ​​being expected to socialize. Either way, if all goes according to plan, this era of social distancing may be starting to wind down. For those feeling a bit intimidated, here’s how to get back in.

Some social anxiety is normal

Two men hugging outside a building
Social rules may have changed too, do you hug yourself? Do you need to put on a mask? Photograph: Sarah Mason / Getty Images

It’s part of the human being, says Emma Warnock-Parkes, a clinical psychologist and researcher on social anxiety disorder at the University of Oxford. “We’ve all been socially deprived this past year, and when you haven’t done something in a while, it can feel a little strange to do it again.” Social rules may have changed too, do you hug yourself? Do you need to put on a mask? “Some anxiety is understandable, so we need to take a little break.”

You can’t lose social skills

“We acquire most of our social skills between the ages of zero and seven,” says clinical psychologist Linda Blair. “Sometimes it’s hard to get to them and we have to dig down, but they are there.” A reminder of what is socially acceptable may be necessary: ​​Have your table manners become sloppy? – but your fundamental skills will not have irreparably withered. Also, remember that changes in constraints will be gradual, he adds. “You don’t have to prepare for something that feels like a tsunami.”

Build trust gradually

Start slowly and go back inside.
Start slowly and go back inside. Photograph: Cold Snowstorm / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Write down a few small goals you’d like to accomplish in the next few weeks, Warnock-Parkes advises. It could be “communicating with people online, making an appointment with someone for a walk, or taking an online course.” If you feel like you’re struggling, there are effective treatments, usually CBT, for social anxiety (in England, it can be accessed through your Improve access to psychological therapy Service). “Social anxiety starts early in life, most people describe it in their early teens, so if you’ve always lived with it, you often think it is what it is. But there are really good treatments that can really change someone’s life. “

Don’t avoid social situations

It may seem like the easiest option, but it won’t help in the long run. “Avoidance incubates anxiety,” says Warnock-Parkes. It can also have negative consequences, such as losing job or friendship opportunities. “The world has shrunk around us and it’s comfortable, but it’s not good for us,” says Nadia Finer, coach and founder of the Shy and powerful society. “When you are shy you have to do it, in order to move forward and experience life fully, practice courage.”

But keep in mind what you can tolerate

Can you ever go to a big party?  Of course, but you don't know when and that's fine. '
Can you ever go to a big party? Of course, but you don’t know when and that’s fine. ‘ Photography: Dosfotos / PYMCA / Rex

As restrictions change, it’s reasonable to set limits, says Blair. If you suspect that your employer wants you to return to the office five days a week, you can avoid it with a plan of why and how you could start with two. “So you’re not on the defensive,” he says. Turning down an invitation to a large gathering once it’s allowed, like weddings or an important birthday, “is more than acceptable. I have said that I am not ready for things and that nobody cares. ” Pave the way by fulfilling certain obligations, like sending a gift, but don’t offer an explanation other than saying you’re not ready. “Can you ever go [to a big party]? Of course, but you don’t know when and that’s fine. “

Relieve pressure

“People who are more socially anxious tend to do so because they put a lot of pressure on themselves, and that will probably be the case as life opens up,” says Warnock-Parkes. Social interactions are not a performance, he emphasizes, it is simply about being with other people. “One of the most common fears people have is that they feel like they should be interesting all the time.” But many of us have had quite a mundane existence over the past year. “The simple act of sharing how boring you have felt in the confinement is probably enough, because that is also the shared experience of other people.” Don’t assume that being anything less than a stunning storyteller is a failure. “Having very high expectations of yourself, always having something witty to say or never stumbling over your words, is a route to feeling socially anxious. These are totally impossible standards. “

No one can tell how you feel

One of the concerns of people with social anxiety is that it is obvious. “People often assume, because their hearts are racing or they feel sweaty, that others can see that,” says Warnock-Parkes. “But we know from our research, when we look at how socially anxious people show themselves on video, this is simply not true. What is happening in your own body may seem magnified to you, but it is often invisible to others. “

Focus outward

'If you are socializing, it may also be for the benefit of your children.  That purpose helps us overcome our own fears. '
‘If you are socializing, it may also be for the benefit of your children. That purpose helps us overcome our own fears. ‘ Photograph: Getty Images

Whether it’s in large meetings or one-on-one, if you focus too much on yourself, you end up feeling self-conscious, says Warnock-Parkes. “Try to get out of your head and lose yourself in what’s going on around you. Look around you and see what others are doing and saying, rather than scrutinizing yourself. You will feel much better about it and quickly realize that other people are much more lost in their own world than they are focused on you. “

Think of your highest purpose, says Finer. “It takes away the emphasis.” If you are intimidated by giving a presentation in person, instead of thinking about your own performance, “think ‘who are you helping with this job?’ If you are socializing, it may also be for the benefit of your children. That purpose helps us overcome our own fears. “

Think of other people

They are probably uncomfortable too. “Even extroverts wonder, ‘Have I lost my skills?'” Says Blair. “Instead of worrying about yourself, you can think, ‘How can I reassure others? How can I calm myself enough so that they feel comfortable when they talk to me? That’s a really good way to automatically calm down, your fear reaction decreases, and then you can think more clearly. ”

It is not all your responsibility

Warnock-Parkes reminds us that “social interactions are a two-way street. Other people do not participate in social interactions hoping that the person they are meeting will interpret or entertain them. Social interactions are simply about being together. “When you overanalyze yourself, you get the impression that the other person is doing that too, when they are not.” The more we can get out of our heads and get lost in social interactions the more we enjoy them. “

Don’t write a script

Don't put too much pressure on the interaction ...
Don’t put too much pressure on the interaction … Photograph: Lucy Lambriex / Getty Images

While it’s tempting to prepare conversation starters or witty lines, it’s actually counterproductive. “It makes you more self-centered, more anxious,” says Warnock-Parkes. “It takes you out of the interaction because you are more in your head, thinking about your list of things to talk about, rather than just following the flow of the conversation.” Without knowing it, it can make you seem distant or disinterested in the other person. “Again, it puts too much pressure on the interaction.”

And don’t stop on that later

When we feel socially anxious, we tend to give too much mental space to the things we did or said, which gives us the impression that the other person is also judging us and discovering that we are lacking. “Other people have actually moved on to the next thing in their day, they’re not analyzing your every word or action,” says Warnock-Parkes. “You are the only one looking at yourself under a microscope.”

Celebrate small victories

“We can be mean to ourselves, especially when we’re shy, and I don’t think we can talk to anyone else in the same way that we talk to ourselves,” Finer says. Congratulate yourself on the small steps you have taken to the outside world.

Expand your social life

Many of us will have discovered who our true friends are during this period, and our social circle may be smaller than we imagine, which can be disturbing. If you want a larger social life, start by writing down a few small goals, says Warnock-Parkes. “What would you like to change? What would you like to do differently? Start now, before life opens up, to take some steps towards that, maybe communicate with people online that you haven’t talked to in a while and organize a few things in the next few weeks to strengthen their socialization again. “

Or keep a low-key social life, if you want.

Do you want a lot of friends because it would make you happier or because you think you should?
Do you want a lot of friends because it would make you happier or because you think you should? Photograph: Tim Robberts / Getty Images

Perhaps you’ve had a quieter, less hectic life, with fewer people demanding your time, and you want it to continue. This is also perfectly valid. To demanding friends, Blair advises, “you say, ‘In fact, I’ve found that I now want to proceed differently. I still really want to see you, but I’m not going to big parties, ‘or whatever you want to say. “Do you want a lot of friends because it would make you happier or because you think you should? likes’ and followers that we’ve been instilled in, but we don’t need hundreds of people around us, “says Finer. Introverts, he says,” prefer deeper relationships with fewer people. There’s no picture of success. it shows this outgoing ideal and we’re all supposed to aim for that, and actually, that’s not for everyone. “


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