Could you or a person you love be suffering from senior social anxiety?
Senior social anxiety disorder is among the most common mental health conditions among retirees. Roughly 10 to 20% of older adults suffer from anxiety, and the disorder can have a major impact on their quality of life.
Unfortunately, of those, 63% don’t receive treatment, and 34% aren’t receiving the right kind of treatment. Some sufferers simply assume they might only be introverted, shy, or quiet.
While others think they lack social skills. Interestingly though, women are 60% more likely to suffer from social anxiety than men. But fortunately, there are many ways to manage it. As we grow older, it’s normal to feel a little more nervous or anxious.
Yet, when these feelings start interfering with our daily lives, it could be an anxiety disorder. Let’s take an in-depth look at what you should watch out for, what it could mean, and what you can do about it!
…Here are 7 signs that what you’re dealing with could be senior social anxiety and not just shyness.
1. You Wonder What It Would Be Like If You Were More Confident
You start doubting yourself and start thinking everything is impossible for one reason or another. Individuals who suffer from social anxiety usually feel trapped in their own lives.
To them, everyone else seems unimaginably carefree. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and at times, even depression.
2. You Skip The Events You’re Interested In Because You Think You’ll Look Incompetent
Tap dancing sounds cool. But you recoil thinking about how foolish you’ll look doing it, so you just choose to not go. Even if other people might not know how to tap, you just assume they’ll look less ridiculous than you would.
If an event involves any part of performing in front of a public audience, you’re even more afraid to go. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you know that you might have fun, but you push the thought away, hiding behind sarcasm.
3. You Believed That Others Judging You Was Normal Growing Up
Social anxiety is inherited. And you can likewise learn it from other people. If your parents also had social anxiety, then it’s likely you grew up thinking that being afraid of social interactions, or masking that fear with disdain for socializing, was normal and not a cause for concern.
4. Whenever There’s A Slight Change In Your Appearance, You’re Terrified People Will See You
If you’ve had a bad dye job or your haircut was shorter than you would have liked, you automatically just assume that people will poke fun at you, especially behind your back.
5. You Behave Differently When Speaking Privately
If, for example, you write an online blog or are able to be unnamed in any capacity, you experience a level of comfort that’s out of character for you.
You believe that your true self will only be able to come out more easily in an intimate capacity. It’s only then that you can fully relax and not feel like people are judging you.
6. You’re Surprised When Anyone Befriends You
Entering any kind of new environment can be scary for anyone. But you tend to think that in new situations, you’ll be the one left standing on the sidelines while everyone else groups together and ignores you.
And guess what? You might be right sometimes. You assume this is because others thought you seemed weird rather than acknowledging that it might be because you never approach anyone.
7. You Think Your Peers Or Coworkers Secretly Look Down On You
Everyone in a group setting seems to get along with one another. But as soon as you walk in the room, you feel like all they do is roll their eyes or maybe even pity you. So you just end up avoiding these types of areas altogether to save yourself the trouble.
…All of these situations sound incredibly discouraging for seniors to go through. But there IS hope. Continue reading for some helpful tips on how seniors can cope with social anxiety.
Here Are 8 Ways Seniors Can Relieve Social Anxiety Feelings
Deep breathing is an excellent way of managing the physiological symptoms of social anxiety. When you inhale deeply, more carbon dioxide enters your blood, which can comfort the parts of the brain that are responsible for social anxiety.
Deep breathing also boosts your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps in making you relax and able to rest. Breathing exercises do take some practice to grasp. But they become more effective over time if you make them a regular habit.
Try breathing so that your stomach grows when you inhale and reduces when you exhale. One well-known breathing technique you can try is to breathe in for four counts, hold it for another four counts, and exhale on the last four counts.
A few minutes of practicing mindfulness each day can significantly impact your overall stress and social anxiety levels. Mindfulness is entirely focused on living in the present moment without having to worry about the past or future.
When you do this, you can examine your thoughts and feelings without any judgments. If an anxious idea goes into your mind, try owning it without letting it linger. You can even combine mindfulness with some of those deep breathing exercises we mentioned.
While doing this, focus on how your body feels with every inhale and exhale. Keep focusing on your breath, gently shifting your mind to your breathing whenever it seems to wander.
The sad truth is that most elderly individuals don’t often get the exercise they need. But doing some sort of physical activity is one of the most fantastic ways of improving their mental health.
Here are some of the best forms of exercise for elderly adults trying to cope with social anxiety:
- Bodyweight exercises
- Walking or hiking
- Chair yoga
- Swimming or water aerobics
…And don’t forget! There are many online resources and exercise videos designed especially for seniors. Just be sure sure to speak with a medical professional before starting any kind of new workout plan, especially if you have any pre-existing health concerns.
Eat A Healthy Diet
Proper nutrition is absolutely vital for your mental AND physical health. The food we eat fuels our brains. So getting the right balance of healthy fats, protein, and carbs will aid you in managing your anxious thoughts.
Be sure to eat various healthy foods at each meal you have and munch on your favorite snacks in moderation. Some substances are directly related to an increase in not just social anxiety but all forms of this condition.
For instance, nicotine and caffeine are stimulants that may make you jittery or nervous. You should avoid smoking and drinking large doses of caffeine to help soothe your mind and body.
This is probably one of the most important tips we can offer you! Many older individuals go through loneliness, mainly if they can’t go out into the community often or have limited mobility.
Helping seniors manage social isolation could be an incredible way to relieve social anxiety and many other mental health challenges. Family is also a significant source of social support.
Regular visits with your grandchildren, children, or other family members can distract you from stressful ideas and boost your mood. If you can’t visit with your loved ones in person, you can try face timing with them.
You could also find ways for social support in your community at the local senior center.
Follow A Routine
For many aged adults, a lack of structure or routine can be a big source of social anxiety and feeling helpless. This is especially true in seniors dealing with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Following a specific routine could reduce stress and add more predictability to your life.
You can try both daily and weekly routines. For instance, you can try planning a visit each week to your local senior center for an event every Tuesday, and you could choose to do your grocery shopping on Monday.
A daily routine could implicate eating at the same time each day, doing chores around your home in the same order, or calling someone you care about each night.
A terrible sleep schedule can worsen feelings of anxiety in senior adults. But SOCIAL anxiety can also make falling and staying asleep more difficult. So let’s look at some ways you can enhance your sleeping environment and habits to boost your mental health:
- Go to sleep and set an alarm to wake up at around the same time each day.
- Unwind by reading or listening to music before bed.
- Use a white noise machine to rid yourself of any distracting sounds.
- Don’t consume caffeine after 1 pm.
- Have a friend, family member, or medical alert system to contact at night in case of an emergency.
Consult A Professional
A mental health condition can sometimes signify a physical health concern. For instance, nutritional deficiencies, hyperthyroidism, Lyme disease, and various other medical issues are linked to social anxiety.
Visiting your doctor could help you find any physical health conditions that would be causing your symptoms, which could reduce or even entirely eliminate the problem.
Therapy is highly effective for treating social anxiety, and people of all ages can benefit from working with a professional. Many seniors find it more comfortable to speak with an unbiased person about their concerns than with friends or other loved ones.
During your sessions, you and your therapist can figure out what triggers your social anxiety. And finally, you can work together to make a plan to manage these feelings as they come up.
The more you practice the skills you learn, the easier it will be to dismiss those unpleasant thoughts and enjoy your life worry-free.
Some Final Thoughts
You might need to find help for social anxiety when you feel like it’s stopping you from living a healthy day-to-day life.
For instance, you might feel like social anxiety might be holding you back from taking an important step in retirement or creating new and meaningful friendships.
A mental health professional could be a pivotal source of support in navigating your social anxiety disorder. You can work together to hatch up a plan that manages specific concerns and symptoms related to the way you feel.
We hope you found this article helpful. And please feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.
In the meantime, our site has many more articles full of insightful information. We highly recommend you also read: Feeling Lonely? Here Are 8 Genius Ways to Combat Isolation in Retirement