For anyone who suffers from anxiety, socializing is probably the last thing you want to do when feeling anxious. However, isolation can increase those uneasy feelings of anxiety, depression, and aggression.
In fact, it is often the anticipation of socializing that causes anxiety, rather than socializing itself. The build up of emotions, scenarios, and negative self-talk beforehand is proving to be the difficult part. Isolation only amplifies this, whereas talking it out with others is known to be therapeutic.
Effects of Isolation on Mental Health
When you’re alone for too long, this can create chronic loneliness symptoms, which puts a greater risk on developing a medical or psychological problem. Stress caused by loneliness leads to higher cortisol levels, which increases inflammation, insulin resistance, and the inability to regulate eating and sleep.
Isolation, especially indoors, leads to lack of Vitamin D. Deficiencies in Vitamin D are known to cause fatigue, mood swings, muscle weakness, and joint pain. These symptoms make a person want to lie down all day, which only increases stiff joints and problems concentrating.
Trouble with concentration, mood, food, and sleep all come from the frontal lobes of the brain.
Research also shows that the cerebellum, at the back of the brain, plays a part in calibrating social brain circuits. If there is a disruption or lack of stimulation in these circuits, social skills become weaker.
As the saying goes: if you don’t use it, you lose it.
How do you become socialized?
Use this step-by-step guide when feeling anxious and lonely. Learn how to get yourself calm, centered, focused, and motivated to get out there or call a friend.
Breathwork: Deep breathing calms the chatter of the mind, moves past it, and provides a boost of clarity and then performance. You will feel much better after a few minutes of deep breathing.
Cold exposure: A cold shower effectively goes into the depths of your body. It teaches you to focus solely on breathing through the cold. The more you get into the cold and control your body’s response to it, the more you will be able to control stress.
Stretching: If you’re mostly indoors and sedentary, you will want to start activating and stimulating your body parts before getting out there. Some light stretches or just a few minutes of yoga will help to get the body and mind centered and motivated.
Drink water: A well-hydrated brain is a well-functioning brain. Make sure to drink at least 1 – 1.5L per day. If this is an increase for you, then you will notice the difference immediately in your circulation, mood, and focus when you increase your water intake.
Have a wholesome snack: Go out with proper fuel in you. Wholesome foods mean non-processed foods. Reach for some vegetable sticks, a fruit, Greek yogurt, or some pumpkin seeds, rather than chips or cookies. The wholesome foods will provide the body and mind with vitamins and nutrients, allowing you to feel vital!
Dress accordingly: Changing out of your joggers, or pj’s, provides a boost of confidence to get out of the house. Dressing well is a form of self-respect.
Start small: Your social encounter can be a phone call, a one-on-one at a park, meet one or two people at a time for a coffee or tea. Small groups provide more intimacy and less anxiety. If you never feel like being in a big group again, that’s ok. Split up the groups of people you know so that you can manage all the different energies in small quantities. You still get to see everyone overtime rather than in one big overwhelming event.
Finally, the simple act of leaving your house and being outside creates a tremendous sensation of freedom and relief. Realizing that once you’re outside, you’re safe.
If leaving the house still feels uneasy, try to call a friend or family member who is a good listener. Having an interaction with another person is the important part! It engages the social aspect of the brain and increases its receptivity. Therefore, the more socializing you do, the more receptive that part of the brain becomes, making it easier to continue being around others.