It’s Back to School Time: Coronavirus Edition

It's Back to School Time: Coronavirus Edition

Back to school time is always stressful. In 2020, however, things have been kicked up a notch. Whether you’re a student, a parent, or a teacher, the safe reopening of schools is a very touchy subject right now. It’s enough to cause even those without social anxiety to feel the stress of the situation, so for those who are trying to manage their anxiety on top of everything else, it might seem like a terrible nightmare.

As difficult as the situation is, it is possible to get through it while (mostly) keeping your social anxiety in check. If you’re struggling, here are a few things to keep in mind so that you can come out the other side largely unscathed.

Acknowledge Your Stress

Not all stress is created equal, but all types of stress can trigger social anxiety. One way to address the effects of back-to-school stress during the COVID pandemic is to stop and consider the actual causes of your stress. Some of this stress will be productive, in that it involves ways to stay safe and keep others safe. Other forms of stress won’t be so productive, as they’re based on fear or mounting anxiety instead of concrete stressors that can be acted upon. As difficult as it may sound, stopping to analyze your stress and focusing only on those stressors that are actionable can help a lot with controlling your anxiety.

Consider All Available Options

In-person schooling. Homeschooling. Non-traditional instruction or NTI. Distance learning. Depending on where you live and what schools are involved, you or your children may have a number of options available when it comes to the new school year. Many schools even offer the option to switch between different instruction types during the school year. If this is a decision that you’re facing, don’t overthink it; stop, look at all of the options that are available, and weigh the pros and cons of each to help you make the best decision… even if it may seem like the “least bad” decision at the moment.

Maintain Safe Social Connections

Positive social connections can be a good way to keep social anxiety in check, but those can be hard to come by in the middle of a pandemic. Still, try to stay in touch with those who are closest to you and who have a positive effect on your mental wellbeing. Send emails, keep texting, schedule weekly video chats, or otherwise reach out. To better strengthen these social bonds, encourage your connections to reach out to you if you go too long without establishing contact, as well.

Care for Your Mental Health

Your doctor, counselor, or any other mental health professionals that you see will be there for you if you need them. Remember that. There’s no shame in scheduling an appointment or remote visit if things are difficult, especially if your anxiety is becoming overwhelming. They may have new coping techniques for you to try, or they may suggest changes to any medications you’re on to ensure that you can cope with all of the additional challenges that you’re facing. They’re there to help, and they’re waiting to hear from you if you need them.

Look to the Future

As difficult as things are, remind yourself that things won’t always be this way. Whether things get back to the way they once were or we all settle down into a new normal, there will come a day when you won’t be feeling all of the stresses that you’re burdened with at the moment. Things are hard, and this is one of the most trying back-to-school seasons in a lifetime, but it will get better with time. Remember that.

Is back-to-school stress triggering your social anxiety? What are you doing to help yourself and your family cope?

SocialAnxietySupport.com

Is Isolation Affecting Your Social Anxiety?

Is Isolation Affecting Your Social Anxiety?

As a person who experiences social anxiety, you may have actually been relieved at stay-at-home orders or social distancing mandates that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. Staying home means fewer social situations that could induce anxiety, stress, and fear. You’ve been able to stay at home and not feel guilty about missing out on parties, events with friends, or awkward family get-togethers. Overall, while others have been missing the ability to leave home and hang out with other people, you may have been happy to be at home more.

Downsides of Social Isolation

While it’s perfectly acceptable to avoid some social situation that may make you particularly anxious, it’s not healthy in the long run to stay completely isolated. Cognitive behavioral therapy, one of the common treatments for social anxiety, encourages gradual exposure to social situations in a way that lets you face some of your worries and fears. Staying completely isolated can lead to even worse anxiety in the long run since you miss out on opportunities to challenge your beliefs and fears and work to overcome them.

Dealing with a New Virus

Another aspect of this pandemic is the worries and fears you may face about the novel coronavirus itself, about getting sick or transmitting the illness to others. You likely feel judged every time you go out in public. If you don’t wear a mask, some may look down on you or call you selfish and rude. If you do wear a mask, others may roll their eyes and think you’re overreacting.

The fact of the matter is that there’s not enough solid evidence on how the virus is spread to make sure everyone is on the same page about how best to prevent the spread of the disease. Until everyone can agree on how dangerous it is and how exactly it spreads, there will always be people who judge your response to it. Remember that this has absolutely nothing to do with you. It’s most important to make sure you feel safe and healthy, no matter how others look at you and judge your actions.

Use Available Opportunities

Your job may have been moved to a virtual space, which could involve its own anxiety-inducing situations if you’ve had to interact on video or over the phone. This can be a good opportunity for you to maintain some social contract though, so use it as an opportunity, even if you need to ask your boss to make some adjustments, like letting you do meetings in smaller groups or just with your immediate supervisor.

You can also take this opportunity to interact distantly with loved ones. You may write cards, set up video calls with family, or stay active on social media. Also be sure that you are taking care of your physical health, which has a direct positive effect on your mental health.

What Does the Future Hold?

Returning to a more “normal” existence is going to take time, and this is good news for you. Many areas of the world are reintegrating slowly, giving you the opportunity to begin going to public and social events little by little. Don’t feel like you need to go to any events that make you feel like you’re risking your health or the health of your family members. This is an added stress on top of social anxiety that you don’t need to deal with. Do, though, reintegrate as you feel comfortable, to let yourself feel like you are managing your anxiety in healthy ways.

We hearing from you. Has the pandemic changed how you deal with social anxiety? Let us know in the comments!

SocialAnxietySupport.com

Coping with Social Anxiety in the New Workplace

Coping with Social Anxiety in the New Workplace

As the country is beginning to open itself back up, many of you are getting ready or may have already started working again. And although, as a whole, the United States is trying to pull itself back together, there are bound to be many people out there still struggling with the reality that is this new COVID-19 world.

Social anxiety can be hard to deal with on any day, but ever since the Coronavirus arrived on the scene, there is probably something else many of you are worried about now; possibly contracting or spreading the disease. Now, more than ever, it’s important for you to look after and be kind to yourself. Today we have a few tips that may help you feel a little bit lighter the next time you head out to work.

Do Your Best to Keep Healthy

Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, keeping approximately six feet away from others, as much as possible, wearing a face mask, staying home from work if you’re sick; this is all basic protocol on what to do when you’re working in the wake of COVID-19. Staying on top of these “keeping COVID free” procedures can help you take back some control while helping keep you and your co-workers healthy.

Try to Get a Full Night’s Sleep

Going to sleep can be the deciding factor between waking up a moody, dead-eyed, shuffling zombie, or a bright-eyed, functional individual when you’re getting ready to start your day. While it makes perfect sense that your sleep pattern and general routine have been blown to pieces because of the stay-at-home order, it’s best to try to adjust your schedule in a way that lets you sleep through the night.

Keeping to a Schedule Can Be Helpful

Speaking to routines, having a constant schedule of your job back in your life can actually be a great benefit to you. The distinct lack of structure can exacerbate many mental issues and anxiety. A return to your schedule can help you feel a bit more balanced again.

It’s Perfectly Normal to Feel Anxious

There is nothing wrong with feeling anxious. You’ve been dealing with huge changes because of the pandemic and it’s ok to feel a little off-centered. Going back to work after such a dramatic change is bound to feel strange. It’s fine to feel that way when things become uncertain and you’re undoubtedly not alone in that.

Educate Yourself

What we mean here is that you should arm yourself with facts about how COVID-19 works and what your workplace is doing to keep you safe. With the proper knowledge, you can feel safer and more confident about what’s going on in the world around you. Knowing how the Coronavirus works can allow you to better help others feel less stressed, too. You can find common ground among others by helping spread correct information about the novel Coronavirus and what to do to mitigate its spread.

Look After Your Mental Health

If you’ve been seeing a mental health specialist of some kind before and during the stay-at-home order, then keep doing so. If there are any such resources being offered to help you manage your anxiety, then take advantage of them. Continuing or starting talks with a therapist can help your transition back to work.

It may not be easy for many to get back into the swing of things and that’s ok. Remember though, that the adjustment is possible. For all of those reading that have their own “back to work” tips or stories, you can share them with your fellow readers in the comments below. Keep your heads up and be safe guys – you got this.

SocialAnxietySupport.com

Social Anxiety and Video Conferencing

It might seem like this is the hour that people living with social anxiety would shine, but the truth is that everybody needs somebody sometimes. Even if you’re socially anxious, you probably need a little human interaction now and again. Living in social isolation can be pretty trying, which is why a lot of folks are trying video conferencing for the first time ever. Even with social anxiety, you can get in on this happening trend, too.

Some Points to Consider

We know social anxiety is caused by all sorts of reasons, so not all of these points may be useful to you, but hopefully, they’ll help someone be able to spend more time with the people in their lives that they really, truly miss. Video calls can be intimidating the first time, especially if you’re telephone adverse, but they’re totally doable if you take it a little bit at a time.

  1. Remember that most people are looking at their cameras, not at you. You might feel kind of awkward when someone stares right at you during a video call. Try to remember that they’re actually looking at their phone or computer’s camera, not at the screen where you’re located. That stare can feel judgmental, but it’s really just someone else trying to learn how to use a new technology.
  2. Start small and with people you know well. Pretty much every smartphone is capable of video calls these days, though we may not have been using them for that until social isolation was mandated. If you’ve not tried a video call before, start with someone you really trust, maybe someone you see regularly in person, so you can get the hang of it. Even a five-minute call can help ease you into the idea of a social situation using video conferencing.
  3. Look at the camera when you feel stressed. If you’re feeling really insecure, try to look at the camera. It gives the person on the other side of the phone the feeling that you’re looking at them directly, and it can help reduce distractions or stress caused by facial expressions that may be hard to interpret. The camera’s unblinking stare can be a blessing in disguise.

What About Video Conferences for Work?

Oh, boy. You will almost certainly be asked to attend some number of video meetings for your job or your child’s school, especially if you’re a worker that’s been sent home to work there. You thought you were getting off easy when they did that, didn’t you? Sorry. It’s video meetings with the boss on the regular now, which may be a lot more intimidating.

Before you have a video meeting, check your equipment and adjust the camera angle so you’re comfortable with how everything looks. People will want to see you, so you can’t just put a bit of tape over the camera. That would certainly be the easy way out, but here we are. Get really familiar with the software by trying it with friends or relatives before you have to log into a meeting, that’ll eliminate some trepidation. For the rest, just take it breath by breath. This is a brave new world for everyone.

What tips do you have for surviving (or even enjoying) video calls? Share them here in the comments!

SocialAnxietySupport.com

Handling Emotional Burdens During Trying Times

One day, when your grandkids ask what one of the most difficult world crises during your lifetime was, you very well might say “the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020”. The news, social media, and personal conversations are all filled with phrases like “economic depression”, “social isolation”, and “media hype” – all served with feelings of fear, anger, frustration, and uncertainty. When so many people are struggling against the same thing, it’s natural for friends and family members to talk nonstop about their problems and worries. They sometimes do this without realizing that what they say might become an additional emotional burden to others, particularly for those who are sensitive to emotions, like those with social anxiety often are.

If this is the case in your life, you might feel stressed and overwhelmed with everyone else’s problems, in addition to your own. Here are some helpful guidelines for how you can manage these types of situations, now and in the future.

Don’t feel as though you have to have the right answer

If friends and family start venting to you, your first reaction might be to offer advice, but the thought of telling them what to do may make you panic. What if they don’t agree with what you say? What if you’ve completely misunderstood their concerns? What if they think you’re naïve, inconsiderate, or stupid?

If these are your concerns, you are most likely worrying about the wrong thing. Most often, when someone complains about everything going wrong in their life, they don’t want you to give them a solution. You’ve probably felt that way yourself when you’ve been in a hard place. Sometimes you just need to vent your feelings so that you can let go of them. What most people want in trying times is a listening ear, a pat on the shoulder, and a voice of encouragement. In most cases, you only need to worry about saying, “That’s so hard. I really feel for you.” Or, “I wish you weren’t dealing with so many things right now. I know you can make it through this.” More often than not, that’s all anybody wants to hear! They just need to know that they have a friend and aren’t suffering alone.

If someone does ask you specifically, “What should I do?”, don’t feel like there’s one correct answer you have to give. Remember that your friend has to make a decision on their own, but if they do ask for advice, it’s because they respect your opinions. They might not agree with what you say, but they wouldn’t ask if they didn’t really want to hear it – so be honest. If you don’t have any idea, say you don’t know. But if you think you can offer real help, then do so, knowing that your friend trusts you and values what you say.

Disconnect

If you’re spending a lot of time on social media, you’re probably inundated with posts and messages about your friends’ struggles and frustrations. If scrolling through your newsfeed makes you feel anxious and upset, then stay away from it. It can be incredibly liberating to log out of your accounts and spend a day or more detached from notifications. You don’t have to turn your phone on airplane mode and hide on the couch, but you can challenge yourself to disconnect from social media and focus instead on filling your cup by doing something you enjoy doing.

Say no

If a specific friend or family member continues to dump their emotions on you, it is absolutely ok for you to ask them to stop. That conversation can be hard to have in person or on the phone, so you could send a message or ask a trusted friend to help you. If you need to, don’t feel as though you have to keep answering their calls. There’s nothing wrong with protecting your emotional health when someone else can’t respect your needs and boundaries.

Hopefully, these suggestions will help you navigate the current COVID-19 situation without adding the burdens of others on top of whatever you’re already dealing with. We’d love to hear from you. How do you cope when another person expects you to handle their emotional burden? Let us know in the comments!

SocialAnxietySupport.com