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Mercy psychiatrist offers tips for those experiencing social anxiety as capacities change, more people return to work

Published: May. 7, 2021 at 8:13 PM CDT|Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 9:26 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - More people are going back to the office or out in public as COVID-19 restrictions ease. The return to “normal” can cause some anxiety after more than a year of isolation.

Mercy psychiatrist Dr. Kyle John says it’s common for people to experience the anticipatory anxiety as they plan to go back to societal norms.

”That old adage of getting back on the horse or the bike if you fall off,” Dr. John says. “We’ve all fallen on a little bit because of COVID.”

Jillian Thomlinson counts herself as one of those who is nervous to get back into some social settings. She’s immunocompromised and has anxiety.

“Social anxiety is real. After a year of isolation, it’s scary to come back and trying to socialize with people after not doing it for so long,” Thomlison says. “It’s really going to be hard for some people, especially those who truly have been isolating themselves completely.”

Thomlison says people do want to socialize again, but there’s still a fear of the virus.

“I think it’s for the best if people try to push themselves and if they want a sense of normalcy again. It’s in their best interest to break out of their comfort zone,” Thomlison says.

There are some steps you can take if you’re nervous to get back out there.

Dr. John says it’s important to express your feelings and have an open conversation with your peers.

“Does anybody else feel a little anxious to be back together again after such a long time,” Dr. John says. “Normalize it a little bit. Maybe that’s a mini group therapy done in a very safe way.”

There are other ways to ease anxiety. Dr. John says take slow, deep breaths to get your heart rate under control. He says positive thoughts will also help calm you down.

“It could be a short prayer, a positive affirmation,” Dr. John says. “It could be a picture of your child or your spouse, whatever. But you have that positive mental picture. You have a smile on your face and it’s harder to kind of be panicking when you’re smiling.”

Thomlison says she makes her boundaries clear with what she’s comfortable doing.

“There’s gonna be pressure to say yes to things, but I think it’s okay to say no if you’re just not comfortable and have to ease yourself back into those situations,” Thomlison says.

Dr. John says, if your anxiety continues and doesn’t get better over time, you may need to seek professional help or get medication.

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