Post-COVID social anxiety is real and is affecting students from around the world.
In our blog post called the ‘Impact of COVID-19 on the Learning and Development of Kids: The Road to Recovery’, we discussed how self-isolation, school closures, and mask-wearing has impacted students’ academic performance, social skills, and other developmental milestones. Although restrictions have since eased up, there are plenty of problems awaiting undergraduates who are about to become young professionals in a post-COVID period. Learning purely online has minimized opportunities for college students to grow, in the absence of internships, extracurricular activities, and other initiatives.
Another major issue is the mental and emotional toll that has come with the pandemic, which has led to social anxiety. For college students, distancing and isolation may have made them feel uncomfortable going outside, turning normal socializing activities into anxiety-provoking ones. In this article, we’ll look at ways college students can overcome post-COVID social anxiety:
Check on mental well-being
Before anything else, it’s important for young adults to seek diagnosis and treatment for mental health issues by a qualified professional. It’s one thing to feel slightly uncomfortable with the idea of going out into the world again, and another thing to have a medical condition that needs appropriate interventions. Unfortunately, a report on provider shortage by the nonprofit California Health Care Foundation notes that patients in underserved, rural communities struggle to meet physicians. However, many states are looking into allowing nurse practitioners to see patients independently to address this gap.
If you’re struggling to schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist due to the current shortage, you can opt to meet with a nurse practitioner (NPs) instead. According to insights on remote nurse practitioner jobs in Texas, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) undergo specializations in their fieldwork, degree, and examinations so they are licensed to provide mental health care. Some even take additional training for better telehealth services. PMHNPs can treat mental illnesses, prescribe necessary medications, and offer advice to manage social anxiety.
Actively try to talk to others
One interesting outcome of the pandemic is that the virus can disrupt speaking skills. According to an article on COVID side effects from the science magazine Scientific American, there has been an increase in cases of stuttering, as people with existing stutters worsened while other childhood stutters returned. The inflammatory response of the virus to synaptic connections managed to change brain functions, including speech — which may aggravate nervousness in socializing.
Whether or not you’ve developed a stutter, the pandemic has likely stunted your confidence when it comes to socializing. You may feel rusty when it comes to talking to people, so you tend to avoid conversations. The treatment often prescribed for social anxiety includes experimenting with interactions, even if it’s uncomfortable. You need to expose yourself to your fears so you can prove the situation is not as threatening as you originally thought. By actively trying to talk to others, even just through video calls, you can better re-adjust before heading back to normal university life.
Take time to practice speaking
Many extroverted undergraduate students likely miss avenues for self-expression like theater roles, singing gigs, and the like. This is a problem for shyer, more socially anxious students as well. When they’re not required to participate in class presentations or other forms of public speaking, it’s difficult for them to build the confidence necessary for class discussions and job interviews. Most students know the solution to this problem, however.
In a study on public speaking fears from the University of the West of England, researchers found that many undergraduates want practical support for oral communication. Around 89% are interested in workshops or training sessions and would appreciate these in their curriculum. If you’re a socially anxious college student, you can take this post-pandemic time to study and practice public speaking so you can overcome your fears. Prepare ahead by reading aloud or recording yourself talking on a video camera. This way, you can polish your skills and feel ready the next time you meet someone.
One tool that can support you here is Forbrain, a learning device for improving voice quality, stuttering, reading ability, and more. Check out Forbrain to see how we can help you gain confidence in speaking and socializing.