5 Tips For Overcoming Social Anxiety
That overwhelming feeling of dread that bubbles up in the pit of your stomach, in certain situations, could well be a symptom of social anxiety (SAD). The mental health condition encompasses feelings of extreme anxiousness in everyday public situations.
To help you overcome the disorder – that’s affected celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian West and Adele – here are 5 practical tips…
1. Identify Your Social Anxiety Symptoms
Although not everyone experiences social anxiety disorder in quite the same way, there are a number of symptoms that are triggered by common stressful situations.
Signs of social anxiety include:
• Rapid heartbeat
• Excessive sweating
• Muscle tension
• Feeling dizzy
• A state of confusion
You may try to avoid eye contact, have negative thoughts, unfounded fears, and the desire to physically escape your surroundings. You may have a tendency to avoid social gatherings, as what may be a simple get together for others may appear like an momentous and fearful challenge for you. To compensate for a lack of interpersonal relationships, you probably have a tendency to use social media excessively.
Acknowledge your social anxiety symptoms, and notice if they occur before, during or after an event. Write down how you feel when it happens.
Use emotional coping strategies. Focus on breathing deeply and slowly for up to one minute. Release muscle tension as you exhale.
2. Check For Common Signs Of Social Anxiety
People with social anxiety often try to hide the signs by resorting to isolating behaviour and social withdrawal. But constantly running away to escape the feelings of shame, guilt and frustration can cause you to miss out on great opportunities in your career and personal life.
Not all feelings of discomfort are signs of SAD. Some people are naturally introvert and shy in certain situations, or around someone that they like, and this isn’t necessarily a sign that you’re someone who has anxiety of the social kind.
• Learn how to recognise and change negative thinking patterns by making lists of your feelings and triggers in a journal.
• Broaden your thinking by visualising yourself in someone else’s shoes. How does it feel to be the confident friend or celebrity that you admire? When you find yourself in situations that make you feel anxious, practice being them.
3. Take The Social Anxiety Test
The Social Anxiety Test is an assessment tool that is used to determine levels of anxiety.
• Do you feel anxious or panicky in social settings?
• Do you fear that you will be embarrassed, ridiculed, or worse, in social situations?
• Do you break into a sweat when you need to speak up in a group?
For peace of mind, take the online Social Anxiety Test, before seeking a diagnosis from a mental health professional.
4. Treat The Social Anxiety Causes
Many people with social anxiety disorder rely on pharmacological treatments to stabilise their mood and condition. Talking about your feelings, during psychotherapy or counseling appointments, can also be beneficial in alleviating your symptoms of anxiety.
You can develop the skills that you need to comfortably handle social situations by using cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques.
• Practice role-play with a friend that you can open up to about your social anxiety. Take turns playing ‘characters’ in an everyday scenario that makes you feel uncomfortable – like making small talk with a stranger, or a job interview.
Exposure therapy, to help you overcome anxiety in social situations, involves the gradual exposure to anxiety-producing stimuli. The treatment can be conducted alongside CBT, and incorporated into your lifestyle.
• If you’re anxious about interactions with other people, start to build up your confidence by trying something small, instead of jumping into a big event. Try chatting to a colleague while you’re on a tea break, and pick up where you left off in the conversation, in the cafeteria at lunchtime, later in the week.
5. Take It One Day At A Time
Your social anxiety isn’t going to vanish overnight. But by taking it one day at a time, you’ll be able to build a strong foundation of new beliefs, confidence and self-esteem that supports your social behaviours and personal interactions.
Projecting your anxiety, or reminiscing about times when you felt socially uncomfortable, is damaging to your wellbeing, work life and relationships.
• Make a list of your insecurities, and commit to stop projecting them. Understand what your anxiety is trying to teach you. Are you using anxiety as an excuse to maintain work/life balance? Or is it an identity crutch?
• Focus on the now, and use anxiety as a powerful motivator to improve your non-verbal communication skills. Relax your posture and use eye contact to let people know that you’re approachable.
Developing body confidence will help you manage social anxiety symptoms, and make you more open to engaging with other people.