Social Anxiety vs. Social Distancing:...

Social Anxiety vs. Social Distancing: Tackling Them Both

by Elora Pharai
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It’s hard to believe that we are now heading into the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, but here we are. It’s been nearly two years of social distancing: online classes, working from home, and ordering in. Life without masks feels as though it was a million years ago! However, as restrictions are beginning to lift a little as things return to a sense of normalcy, we are now starting to see the many effects that social distancing has had on the mental health of all those involved. One thing that we never anticipated was the impact that social distancing would have on one’s social anxiety, and how it can play a part in worsening it.

If you didn’t know, social anxiety is an incessant fear of being embarrassed or humiliated. It can include many symptoms such as shaking, avoiding eye contact, overthinking, and intense feelings of loneliness (Caporuscio 2020). Oftentimes, a person with social anxiety will purposely avoid socializing altogether to ensure that their fears do not come true. That said, you can see how social distancing would appear as a godsend for someone with social anxiety. Even so, studies have shown that avoiding social interaction is a major component in prolonging and sustaining social anxiety.

Let’s make something clear: anxiety is not necessarily something that you can simply overcome. Sure, it’s fear and the way to get through fear is to overcome it, right? Not exactly – there’s more to it than that. Anxiety is not just feeling afraid, it’s the shaking, the overthinking, and persistent worrying. Personally, I struggle a lot with social anxiety. I was happy to be home for the first few weeks of the pandemic and take some time to myself, but it eventually took a toll on me. For instance, now I feel like I care more about people than I did before.

One of the only ways to communicate during COVID has been through text, and it’s extremely hard to get to know someone properly just through those elements. Plus, the stress of the pandemic has made talking to people just seem plain scary as I end up worrying about my own health and safety. Social anxiety while social distancing is difficult; you worry about being judged AND getting sick. Needless to say, it’s a heavy weight to carry all at once. But you should know that you’re not alone. If you are afraid of socializing, that does not make you weird. It’s completely normal to experience social anxiety, especially now. Below, I have included some tips on how you can cope with worsening social anxiety due to social distancing.

Keep Socializing. (Yes, you read that right.)

There’s a good reason why you aren’t on this Earth alone; socializing is a key factor of being human. Staying isolated can have an extremely negative affect on your mental health and well-being. It can give you a sense of belonging and reliability. However, remember to take it slow. Start by pushing yourself little by little; video chat with friends, or stay connected through phone or by text. When someone eventually asks you to hang out in person, make sure that it’s somewhere you feel secure. Even if you’re not ready to see anyone in person, you can stick to online communication. If you’re in online school, I’d recommend participating in the chats on your Zoom meetings or even just complimenting someone. Usually there are group chats and everyone includes their social media usernames, making a point of following them and getting to know people. Even if they’re small steps, every single one counts.

Take a Step Back.

Be gentle with yourself. Socializing when you have social anxiety and have been living in a pandemic is terrifying. Don’t be so hard on yourself if you’re feeling too anxious to leave the house, but also be careful not to let that become a habit. The hardest thing about anxiety is that it requires you to push yourself. But on those days when you know you’re unable to push yourself, take care to take a step back. As important as socializing is, make time for some self-care, whether it’s just watching a movie or applying a face mask. 

Remember, You Are Not Your Thoughts!

If there’s one thing that I know for sure about social anxiety, it’s that it can make you feel incredibly alone and isolated. It plants these ideas in your mind that people are judging you, and that no one likes you, when none of that is true. You must realize that anxiety is the biggest liar of all. You are anything but what it says you are.


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Caporuscio, Jessica. “How the COVID-19 Pandemic Affects People with Social Anxiety.” MedicalNewsToday, Healthline Media, 13 May 2020. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/social-anxiety-and-covid-19.

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