Almost everyone gets a little anxious or embarrassed in front of other people now and then, though some of us are more shy than others.
Sometimes, though, the anxiety can be so intense that it stops us from doing the things we enjoy, or starts interfering in our daily lives.
Social anxiety can be horrible, but there are strategies that can help you cope. The trick is to take the negative thoughts it feeds you, turn them around, dissect them and ask yourself what evidence there is to support them, because the likelihood is that there isn’t any.
More about Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is used to describe feelings of anxiety and fear that occur in response to social situations. Even the most confident of people can get a little anxious before a presentation, or when they’re meeting new people, but in social anxiety this distress can be so overwhelming that it feels as though it‘s difficult to cope.
Plan ahead for social situations that make you nervous can help you feel more confident. You might feel the urge to avoid some situations because they make you anxious. Instead, try to prepare for what’s to come. For example, if you’re going on a first date and you’re scared you’ll have nothing in common, try reading magazines and newspapers to find a few topics to talk about.
Use Your Senses
Using sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste can help calm you down in the moment when you’re feeling anxious. For some people, looking at a favourite photograph or smelling a certain scent can do the trick. The next time you start to feel anxious about a social situation, try listening to your favourite song and concentrate on your breathing
Be patient with yourself. It takes time and practice to tackle social anxiety. You don’t have to face your biggest fears right away. If you take on too much too soon, you can actually cause more anxiety. Take pride in the small victories and focus on these and build upon them, don’t be afraid to reach out for help if it gets too much.
Don't let negative thoughts control you
These thoughts might be about people or situations, and they may even be automatic. Most of the time, they’re wrong. But they can cause you to misread things like facial expressions. This could lead you to assume people are thinking things about you that they aren’t.
Don't increase the pressure on yourself
Try shifting your attention to what’s happening around you instead of what’s inside your head. You can do this by really listening to the conversation that’s happening or reminding yourself that other people probably can’t tell how anxious you are just by looking at you. People appreciate when others act genuine and interested, so focus on being present and a good listener.
Don't go too big too soon
Don’t jump into big social situations. Try going out of your way to make eye contact with people on the street or at the supermarket and say hello. If someone starts a conversation with you, ask them questions about their hobbies or favourite places to travel. You can build up to bigger activities as you get more comfortable.
Control Your Breathing
Anxiety can cause changes in your body that make you uncomfortable. For example, your breathing might get fast and shallow. This can make you even more anxious. You might feel tense, dizzy, or suffocated. Check out our breathing techniques in the self care section.