Social Anxiety and Baby Steps

In my last post I talked about realizing how unhealthy my lifestyle was prior to “retirement.”

One of the things that became very clear to me in my first few weeks of unemployment was that I suffered from a lot of anxiety. I’m not quite sure if this is new, or something that I have just been too busy to notice. I am used to to-do lists and running from here to there, crashing into bed and dragging myself up in the morning. Operating at full tilt doesn’t leave a lot of time to examine your mental state—and any observations I did make were usually chalked up to “just being so busy.”

The past few weeks have been the exact opposite: reading, naps, projects, taking time to carefully follow up on unfinished tasks, exercising, journaling…all of those practices that had long been abandoned.

To be honest, I haven’t left the house much, because the thought of social interaction brings about more anxiety than anything else. The phone rings and I just stare at it, unsure of what to do. I have been “too busy to be a good friend” for so long that I don’t know how to right the situation. I would rather stay home and think, process, pray.

Before my grandma gets all worried about me, I have to say that I think this is partially a good thing. THIS is the Joy of Nothing that I was so looking forward to. God is revealing areas of weakness to me so that I can break through them and become stronger. I don’t want to run out and overwhelm myself again by filling my calendar with social engagements, volunteer opportunities, and other good but distracting items. Not yet. There is a time for everything.

But I also know that I could easily turn into a hermit and forever stay in my “safe place” if left unchallenged. Thankfully, after recognizing this social anxiety I talked to my husband and he encouraged me to take some baby steps–first I accompanied him to a family BBQ for one of the organizations he belongs to, and next I answered the phone and scheduled a coffee date. I put aside my fears revolving around what we would talk about, how I would handle awkward silences, and all of those things (because apparently I am in middle school again), and I showed up. And it turned out to be the BEST thing I could have done. I was energized (also caffeinated) by our conversation and inspired to invest in others again, even if it happens slowly.

The only way you can grow is to get outside of your comfort zone, and I am thankful for people who encourage me to do so, and who take the baby steps with me. Is there something that you’ve been putting off because of fear? Can I take a baby step with you?

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