How Do You Overcome Social Anxiety?
For some people, social anxiety only attacks in specific environments, like a crowded gathering, while others experience this anxiety constantly. In either case, it’s a debilitating problem that must be dealt with. It’s something that can invade your life to the point where you can become crippled by it, even planning your life around avoiding the outside world.
For most people, speaking or performing in public can bring on anxiety. However, other less obvious triggers can be using a public restroom or just having a chat with someone. In an attempt to disguise the problem, some victims of social anxiety may hide in the kitchen during a large gathering.
The definition of social anxiety is anxiety that arises either when one is facing a social situation or anxiety during or after that situation. The root of the problem is fear of judgment or evaluation. It doesn’t have to be a negative evaluation that brings on worry. It also includes a positive one. Whether they do poorly or brilliantly, those with social anxiety perceive that any social situation equals negative consequences. For example, a student who shines on exams may worry that their peers will have a negative reaction to them.
They don’t want to stand out in the crowd. They’d prefer to be invisible or at least as inconspicuous as possible. And, although many of us suffer somewhat in social situations, the question is whether it is disrupting your life. How extreme is your social anxiety? On the one hand, you may desire to be more agile at interacting with others or want to be the life of the party. However, your stress isn’t strong enough to hold you back from the idea of interacting. It’s not interrupting your personal or academic goals.
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Someone with social anxiety may avoid attending college because it requires passing a public speaking course and socializing with new people. Worry of rejection may cause them to avoid a romantic relationship. It’s easier for them to avoid potential partners than to open themselves up to consideration.
Following are a few suggestions that may help to overcome social anxiety.
Make an Exposure Scale.
List situations that bring on anxiety in their order of severity. For example, think of ten situations you may find yourself in that bring on discomfort or stress. Give each one on the list a rating on a scale from zero to one hundred. (The anxiety increases with the number of how that situation makes you feel.)
Start with the most innocuous ones like paying the cashier at a check-out counter. Build your list up gradually so that the first ten are relatively mild social encounters. Then, challenge yourself to complete the ten activities with as little stress as possible.
Get a Self-Help Manual.
There is a manual called “Managing Social Anxiety” that comes with a workbook so that you can work on your own at your own pace. This can help you to gage your progress and maybe build your self-confidence so that you’ll want to engage in even more social interaction.
Deep breathing can calm the nerves and make you feel brave. It can really help to spend time in deep breathing when you’re anticipating a social situation. You can develop your own habit of practicing deep breathing. It’s also very healthy. Breathing is such an essential yet automatic process that we can change our entire outlook by focusing on it. Make sure you’re getting enough air.
Work Together with a Therapist.
When social anxiety starts to prevent you from doing what you need to or accomplishing what you want, it may be time to look for a good professional therapist. If you have tried unsuccessfully to solve your problem in this area, why not get help? You’ll want to find a therapist with a great track record who also specializes in anxiety disorders.
Set Some Goals.
When you set goals that you require of yourself, you tend to focus more on the goal than on your feelings of nervousness or hesitancy. It’s like following a road map. It’s subjective and unemotional. If you’re feeling anxious, you tend to dwell on the negative even if your performance is excellent. A good therapist would have you create objective behavioral goals to accomplish.
When accomplishing your goals, it doesn’t matter how you feel. That’s not the priority. For example, if you are in a group setting like a meeting, your goal may be to contribute three comments or opinions or ideas. With that in mind, you don’t need to assess the response or delivery, just the fact that the goal has been reached. Give yourself a pat on the back.
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Try not to worry about other people’s reactions or how your associates received your idea in the meeting. You spoke and that’s all that matters. In fact, it doesn’t even matter whether or not that person accepted your dinner invitation. You made huge progress by simply asking. You put yourself out there. It’s like a soccer player shooting on the goal. He’s not going to score every time, but the more he shoots, the more scores he’s going to win. You have more to gain by being assertive.
Don’t accept thoughts that pull you down and add fuel to your nervousness. They are probably unrealistic anyway. If you have done this before, tell yourself that. It’s up to you to set the stage by projecting positive images ahead of your performance or speech. Remember your preparation and trust yourself. Be realistic in what you hope to accomplish. You may not be able to do everything, but you can do something.
If you want to ask someone out, don’t build your hopes up for a letdown but take the middle road. You can tell yourself that there’s the possibility that they may accept, but if not, there are other people to ask out.
Don’t allow social anxiety to prevent you from living the life you want. This is a very treatable condition.