By Marina Bakker
Fear or avoidance of a social situation can often mean that you are experiencing ‘social anxiety’. As a result of the anxiety, you may tend to avoid situations where your fear embarrassment or judgement on your performance in a personal or work situation. Suffering from social anxiety can make you particularly fearful of unwanted or critical attention.
Any person can suffer from social anxiety occasionally. For example, public speaking or speaking to a large audience may cause you to feel more conscious of what other people are thinking about you. Social anxiety may can become a problem for you when it starts to impact on your social or work performance, which may result in you isolating yourself from others.
Below are six tips to overcome Social Anxiety
#1: Talk About It
Hiding or suppressing your anxiety, will produce more anxiety, so the most useful step is to share what you are going through with friends and family, or even put the question out there on an online forum, or have a chat to a close friend or mentor you trust. Remember what we resist will persist!
Learning how to anticipate what triggers a flare up of your anxiety means knowing the warning signs. For some this could be your body feeling tense and your mind feeling chaotic. When anxiety starts to come one, it is very important that you take action quickly. When you start to have these feelings, your breathing is very important in order to control the level of anxiety you are experiencing. For example, filling your lungs with air by taking deep breaths and taking a long exhale will help stop your heart from racing and calm the body.
#3: Is This True?
What you have been thinking about you will bring about. Social anxiety thrives on thoughts that emphasise danger and negativity. Thinking negatively is a bad habit, but the good news is you can change your thinking patterns and stop the habit in its tracks. One way you can start to do this is by challenging a negative thought as it happens. Ask yourself is this actually true? This helps to interrupt your negative thinking pattern and create an opportunity to refocus your attention on an activity that makes you feel more relaxed.
#4: Fear of Rejection
Social anxiety can make you believe that there is something wrong with you and that people are judging you for whatever reason. It can also make you think that others are seeing you in a negative light or rejecting you because of how you are interacting with them. To stop your fear of rejection, you will need to shift your focus by wanting to learn more about others in social situations. In performance situations for example, you could focus on what you can do and attend to one task at a time. It is important to take one success step at a time.
#5: Focus on What You Want
Avoiding social situations will only make feel better in the moment but won’t be of benefit to you in the long term and won’t help you to learn strategies to overcome your social anxiety. Focusing on what you want and taking small steps to overcome your social anxiety will allow you to develop effective coping skills to interact in social situations. If meeting new people makes you feel anxious, first take a friend with you for support until you have developed the confidence and feel ready to engage willingly. From little things big things grow.
#6: Accept Yourself
No one is perfect, not all people you meet will like you and mistakes are an inevitable part of life. Therefore, make a list of all the things that you can do and list all your achievements and identify two things you will do each day to overcome your social anxiety. This may be volunteering at a charity; starting or joining a meetup group; reaching out to a friend or inviting a group of people to dinner. Celebrate you and congratulate yourself on your daily achievements.