Strategies to Reduce Your Social Anxietyhttps://mythrivecollective.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/istockphoto-1192071605-612x612-1.jpg612408Dr. MenonDr. Menonhttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/3ac11f0bdc2c97572fcefae554d85862?s=96&d=mm&r=g
Are you uncomfortable and self-conscious in everyday social interactions?
Does the thought of making conversation at a party make you nervous and tense?
Do you go out of your way to avoid meeting other people because you’re worried about what they will think and say about you?
If your answers are “Yes,” you may have social anxiety. Social anxiety is when you feel distressed in social situations because of fear that other people will judge you. Of course, almost everyone experiences some anxiety. It is normal to feel nervous about certain aspects of our lives, like speaking in public, dating, and going to job interviews. However, some people deal with social anxiety by avoiding the situation entirely, which negatively impacts their self-esteem and relationship with other people.
If you are experiencing occasional social anxiety, here are some things you can do to help you feel more comfortable in social situations and get through the day.
Learn to Control Your Breathing
Many uncomfortable changes happen in your body when you feel anxious. You begin to breathe rapidly and deeply, which leads to more physical symptoms of anxiety, like dizziness, suffocation, or stiffness. Try this breathing exercise to manage these symptoms and help you stay calm.
Sit down in a comfortable position with your back straight and your shoulders relaxed.
Put one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.
Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose for 4 seconds. The hand on your stomach will rise, while the one on your chest should move very little.
Hold your breath for 2 seconds. Then slowly let it out through your mouth for 6 seconds, pushing out as much air as possible.
Repeat this several times until you feel your breath slowing down to its normal rate.
Try Relaxation Exercises
Social anxiety can involve overwhelming and uncomfortable physical reactions, like increased heart rate, pounding chest, sweating, and even an upset stomach. Finding a relaxation exercise that works for you can be an effective way to help calm these reactions and manage your anxiety. Meditation and yoga involve deep breathing that can help lower your heart rate and improve your mood. Progressive muscle relaxation, wherein you slowly tenses and relaxes each muscle, can reduce stress and anxiety in your body. Even simple acts like maintaining good posture, relaxing your eyebrows, and smiling could help alter your mood and overcome your anxiety.
Place your feet on the floor. Gently direct your attention to the soles of your feet in contact with the ground. Then, press your feet firmly into the floor. Notice the difference between “knowing” that your feet are on the floor and being aware of your feet on the floor. Try this standing. Put weight on different areas of the feet: front, back, and sides. Bend your knees, move up and down. Notice the sensation of your muscles moving. Sense the ground through the feet and legs.
This is another simple exercise to center and ground yourself in your environment. Pause for a moment.
Look around and notice five things that you can see.
Listen carefully and notice five things that you can hear.
Notice five things you touch or are in contact with your body.
Make your observations simple and neutral. Notice what happens if you report them out loud.
Taking Internal Temperature
This is really a very brief, concrete body scan. Take a few moments to observe with neutrality anything that you notice in your internal experience. The key here is the quality of observation–short and neutral. For instance:
I feel my back against the chair.
I notice some tightness in my chest.
I feel a little hungry.
Brief and repetitive practice is the key.
Adopt a Healthier Lifestyle and Positive Attitude
How you treat your body can have a significant impact on your self-confidence and your ability to cope with anxiety symptoms. Eating well, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep can greatly affect your mood. Reducing the consumption of alcohol, caffeine, or energy drinks can help keep anxiety from getting worse. Making physical exercise a priority can help boost general well-being and bounce back from an anxiety flare-up.
If you have a habit of focusing on the negative, try shifting your attention to a more neutral and eventually more positive frame. For example, replace your negative thoughts with positive self-talk. You can also shift your focus to things or activities that you find comfort in, like listening to your favorite song, watching funny videos, or calling someone you trust when you feel anxious about a situation.
Challenge Sticky Anxious Thoughts
When you have social anxiety, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about the possible negative outcomes when you interact with other people or go through any social situation. You might be worried about being watched or evaluated by others, making a mistake, humiliating yourself, and boring other people. The more you think about these things, the more they will feel true for you even though they aren’t.
You can start by acknowledging these anxious thoughts. This way, you’ll have the opportunity to analyze, challenge, and replace them with more realistic and positive ways of looking at social situations. Have a logical evaluation of your negative thoughts by asking yourself some basic questions, like:
What is the evidence that this thought is true?
How many times has this happened before?
Is there anything good in this situation?
Will this matter in a few years and affect my future?
What can I do to solve the problem and cope with the situation?
It can help to write down your thoughts and the responses to the questions above, so you can clarify what you are thinking. This will also help you recognize when you are falling back into your negative-thinking patterns.
Start Small and Plan Ahead
Avoiding uncomfortable social situations may help you feel better for a short while but it will only keep your anxiety going. It will also prevent you from learning how to cope in any situation and from reaching your goals. One of the most helpful things you can do is to expose yourself to these situations, one small step at a time. You may feel overwhelmed if you go too fast so the key is to move gently and start with a situation that only slightly provokes your anxiety. It’s important to go at your pace. For instance, if you feel anxious while eating or drinking in public, start by ordering small meals or asking a close friend to accompany you until you’re comfortable with dining alone.
It is also critical to plan ahead as you work your way up to more challenging situations. If you have fear of attending any social event, research and rehearsal are key. You can learn more about the event, what to expect, and the people you’ll meet. Then, you can practice breathing and relaxation exercises to make them consistent habits. These will build your confidence and personal growth.
Challenging your fears
Once you’ve become more confident in dealing with everyday social interactions and scheduled activities, it’s time to make a conscious effort to be more social. Try to spend more time around supportive social environments that will make you feel good and help you overcome your fears. Some of the things you can do are:
Making eye contact and smiling more often
Asking follow-up questions when someone starts a conversation with you
Complimenting someone at school or work
Going to festivals, concerts, or group activities
Joining support groups
Be Truly Present
We tend to focus more on ourselves when we’re in a situation that makes us uncomfortable. Instead of paying attention to what is being said and what is happening in our surroundings, we become more self-conscious about what we are about to say, how our body moves, and what other people think of us. This is because having social anxiety makes us afraid of being scrutinized or judged by other people. We become vigilant about it as a way to protect ourselves from discomfort.
It is important to remind ourselves to focus our attention on other people and what’s happening around us instead of what’s inside our heads. Be present and interested by really listening to the conversation. Remember that making genuine connections is far more important than being perceived as perfect but inauthentic.
Social Anxiety vs. Social Anxiety Disorder
Overcoming social anxiety takes time, effort, and patience. You may experience setbacks along the way so just remember to be gentle with yourself. But if you’ve tried the strategies mentioned above and your anxiety has become frequent and intense, you may have a social anxiety disorder. This is when your fear of being judged by other people starts to cause problems in your everyday life and prevents you from achieving your goals. For instance, you stop attending classes because you’re anxious about what other people think of you or you avoid job interviews because you assume that you will fail. Even simple tasks like making a phone call or walking around the neighborhood become overwhelming for someone who has a social anxiety disorder.
If this happens, realize that it’s not always possible to work through symptoms yourself. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help to find the right solutions that will manage and treat your anxiety. Book a free consultation call today.
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