Living Through A Global Pandemic With Social Anxiety

Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional, I am only speaking from my experience as a person who lives with Social Anxiety Disorder.

My social anxiety has been around for as long as I could remember. As a child, I remember hiding behind my father whenever we visited family members, hating eye contact, and  debating if I should skip out on my presentation, which would result in taking a thirty percent deduction of my final grade just so I wouldn’t have to present in front of the class. Initially, my social anxiety was easy to ignore, but as I grew up, it began to fill in the crevasses of every social interaction I ever had.

 With the help of therapy, self-care, and growing into my skin, I learned to cope with my social anxiety. Suddenly, the most unexpected change in our lives came earlier this year: COVID-19. It felt like every coping mechanism that I had learned had been thrown out the window. My social anxiety worsened, and my stress became related to catching or spreading COVID-19 and further extending the virus to those I love. I was fixated on maintaining a two-metre space around me, and I avoided eye contact to focus on this. I felt as if I was being judged for going out to get groceries or to my job.  Even when restrictions were put into effect, I avoided going outside at all costs, and if I had to, I was anxious from the beginning to end.

What changed? Well for starters, I went easier on myself. I gave myself sympathy on the days where my anxiety was the worst instead of being critical of my actions. I reminded myself that we were in the middle of a pandemic! It’s okay to feel scared or uncertain of what is going to happen next! Instead of pushing away those uneasy emotions that resulted in avoidance, I allowed myself to feel them. I allowed myself to feel embarrassed, scared, and fearful of being judged and told myself that these feelings will subside, and that everyone is doing their best to stay safe right now. Whenever I had the energy to, I remembered to stay social with a simple text, video call, or reaching out to friends on social media. Staying in touch with loved ones made me feel infinitely better.  Most importantly: I reminded myself that even as cases rise and fall, we will get past these uncertain times if we do all our part to stay safe.