Why Social Courage is needed now more than ever

Guest Blog

Angela Cox – Spear’s 500 Top Female Life Coach 2020

We’ve asked our good friend, Angela Cox, to write another insightful mindset article for our wonderful clients and professional connections.

Angela is a multi-award winning Behavioural Change Life Coach, who has the following accreditation’s:

  • Spear’s 500 Top Female Life Coach 2020
  • Leader’s in Law Behavioural Coach of the Year 2020
  • Innovation and Excellence – Behaviour Coach of the Year 2020

Her second article for Longhurst focuses you on SOCIAL COURAGE. We hope you find value in what you read.

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How are you feeling about integrating back into pre-COVID social rhythms and routines?

Is it like nothing has happened?

Or, are you finding yourself second-guessing your actions? Feeling a heightened level of dis-ease when it comes to how to navigate your way around a supermarket or eat out at a restaurant?

The new ways of working indeed provide a different experience and learning to recognise social distancing signage, steer our way through one-way shopping systems and getting used to breathing with a mask, has thrown us into the top of the change curve.

For some, this is a short learning journey that quickly becomes second nature, yet, for more people than we would think, it’s a challenge that is creating anxiety and the desire to retreat in its wake.

The time hauled up at home to protect our physical health has a lot to answer for when it comes to our mental well-being.

Being a behavioural change coach, I cannot help but observe people, and during my first overnight trip away since COVID began, I have been watching people and their reactions.  I noticed diners in a restaurant and how they reacted when the staff, who weren’t wearing masks, served the food.

You could visibly see the tension in people’s bodies as they tried to manoeuvre themselves as far away as possible while remaining seated and I overheard a woman in a socially distanced shopping queue, asking her partner if he would continue to queue as she needed to get back to the open air.

Add to this the umpteen conversations with my clients who, pre-COVID were in the thick of things socially, now saying they are struggling with the idea of going out again. Whilst known, introverts who have been cocooned in their comfort zone for several months and would gladly stay there, we may need to call on some social courage to get things back on track.

Research tells us that excessive social isolation can trigger social anxiety.

If you are experiencing this you may be dealing with quickened heart rate, sweating, nausea, light-headiness and brain fog. As well as emotional constraints, such feeling fear or uncertain and giving more attention to perceived threats to your well-being such as other people and how they are interacting with you.

You may be caring more about the judgement of others, and you could be scared about catching the virus itself and the impact this would have.

When anxiety is a new feature in your life, it can also be challenging to open up and share what you are experiencing with others. It’s important to understand that occasional anxiety is normal, anxious feelings around change is typical and that hiding how you feel may serve to exacerbate the situation.

If you are experiencing social anxiety, I will encourage you to do the following to build up your levels of social courage and help yourself feel comfortable again in situations that historically wouldn’t have phased you:

Take small steps

Moderate exposure to the world you once thrived in is vital.  If you try to go full-on back into society, you may find the level of stimulation overwhelming, bringing with it the physical symptoms of anxiety.  Limit exposure by taking a short trip to a coffee shop or a walk around a tourist spot, rather than a full day out.  Limit the time to half an hour to start with and then increase this by 15-minutes each time to venture out.

Practice wearing your mask

The last thing you need when your heart is racing and you feel anxious is to restrict your breathing further with a mask so allow yourself to become accustomed to wearing a mask by wearing it around the house for short intervals.  Breathing in a mask becomes more comfortable with practice.

Let people know

If you are meeting a friend or family member or you need to return to the office, and it’s invoking an anxious response, let people know so they can better support you.  None of us are mind-readers, and if a person doesn’t know you are struggling, they can’t help.

Anchor back to pre-COVID

Imagine observing a movie of yourself in a social situation, pre-COVID.  How did you show up and what can you notice about your body language?  How in control did you feel?  What can you take from that experience to lessen the anxiety you feel now?

Look for the evidence

Often when we feel anxious, we can create a narrative based on fiction.  We can get caught up in cognitive distortion and tell ourselves stories based on worst-case scenarios.  When you are feeling the pangs of anxiety, make yourself analyse the situation and separate the facts from the fiction.  Look for the evidence that proves your anxious thoughts to be a fallacy and use the evidence to assure yourself you are okay.

Follow your advice

Think about how you would help somebody who was in the same boat as you? What advice would you give them about how to move forward?  How can you take this advice and help yourself?

Interrupt the response

The fight/flight/freeze response is typical in anxiety fuelled moments and is preceded by a warning symptom such as a tightness in the chest or a sick feeling.

Look for these symptoms to stimulate your awareness of them.  When they happen, you are then better able to interrupt the pattern that, if left unchecked, would lead to the fight/flight/freeze outcome.

The way to intervene is to direct your attention to another task purposefully. You can do this by engaging in a mindfulness activity such as observing the colours in the garden, listening to the sounds around you, or something more practical such as counting backwards from 100 in 3’s.

These activities will switch on a different part of the brain and stop the emotional response.

Closing Summary

Finally, know that there is nothing wrong with you.  The feelings of doubt and fear accompany change, and this is change on a grand scale.

What you are experiencing can be managed and moved through and knowing it will pass and you can get beyond it is an important step.

Contact details for Angela:

Legal Notice & Links

Angela Cox operates under her own business, which you can find here.

Longhurst Limited does not accept any legal or financial responsibility for the services Angela Cox provides.

Behaviour Life coaching is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.