Today we will be talking you through tips for overcoming social anxiety.
All of us have spent a big chunk of the last 18 months locked away inside, not seeing anybody outside of our household.
Even with the lockdowns now eased in July 2021, groups of people were still having to shield or isolate.
Although cases are on the rise again, restrictions have been eased and life has returned to some resemblance of normal (for now).
Are you even a little worried about how to cope with summer socialising now that we’re being offered a glimpse of freedom?
After a year of staying in, watching a lot more TV than usual, having the same conversations with the same people, do you feel the need to brush up on your conversation skills before meeting friends and family in person?
The glimpse of freedom brings with it excitement, it also brings with it anxiety, stress and worry.
We have compiled some tips to help us all deal with the social anxiety as lockdown eases and how to ease ourselves back into normal life.
Disclaimer: I am not in any way a certified councillor/therapist, therefore all advice given is from my own experience and should not be taken as medical advice.
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What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety disorder, sometimes referred to as social phobia, is a type of anxiety disorder that causes extreme fear in social settings.
People with this disorder have trouble talking to people, meeting new people, and attending social gatherings.
They fear being judged or scrutinized by others. They may understand that their fears are irrational or unreasonable, but feel powerless to overcome them.
Social anxiety is different from shyness. Shyness is usually short-term and doesn’t disrupt one’s life. Social anxiety is persistent and debilitating. It can affect one’s ability to:
- attend school
- develop close relationships with people outside of their family
Symptoms of social anxiety
Individuals with social anxiety can experience both physical and mental symptoms.
- Worrying about an upcoming social situation for weeks in advance.
- Distress or panic when faced with lots of people.
- Inability to think straight.
- A feeling of the mind going blank.
- Worrying about accidentally offending people.
- Overly criticising yourself after a conversation.
- heart palpitations
These physical symptoms heighten a person’s fear of judgement causing them further mental distress and thus are more likely to develop the physical symptoms. The combination can cause the individual to become stuck in a cycle of worry.
Tips for Overcoming Social Anxiety – Ultimate Guide!
Think about your boundaries
During the pandemic, a lot of people found themselves using language they weren’t used to saying, such as “no” or “I’m not doing this during the pandemic,” and that’s great. Practicing boundaries is essential for your well-being.
Knowing your limits is needed in order to keep you safe and protected. So just because the world around us is starting the process of transitioning back to certain pre-pandemic ways of being, doesn’t mean you have to go back to your old habits.
You still get to decide what you want to expose yourself to and what you don’t.
I suggest you think about what boundaries you want to implement within these three dimensions: time, physical, and emotional. Then start sharing them with your co-workers, friends, and families.
Learn how to say ‘no’
If you find it difficult to say ‘no’, learn how – now. Being able to say ‘no’ will be your saviour, especially if you have decided you’re going to continue with a quieter life.
Try this proven method. Ask yourself, if I say ‘yes’ to this meeting or event, what am I saying ‘no’ to.
For example, if you say ‘yes’ to two get-togethers in one day are you saying ‘no’ to your mindful walk or your precious reading time?
Which option nourishes you and your wellbeing? That’s the option you choose to say ‘yes’ to.
Self-regulate through self-soothing
If you’re someone who has been working remotely during the pandemic, it’s possible that you may find yourself in a position where you are being called back into the office, even if you’re not ready to go there.
There may not be a way to get out of that reality, but there are ways you can work through your difficult emotions around this by practicing self-soothing techniques to regulate your feelings.
When we are emotionally dysregulated, our executive functioning skills are compromised, which can lead to poor choices and an inability to effectively problem-solve.
To help combat this, when you feel emotionally overwhelmed and anxious, try to engage in practices that bring you back to your centre, such as the grounding techniques, meditation, mindfulness, and engaging with sensory items like a stress ball.
Avoid relying on drugs/alcohol to cope
There’s nothing wrong with having a drink or two if it helps you relax and feel more comfortable talking to people.
In fact, the confidence boost gained from alcohol is commonly called ‘Dutch courage’.
But relying on alcohol and drugs to get through social interactions can become problematic if it’s done irresponsibly or develops into an unhealthy dependence or addiction.
The misuse of substances can be damaging for you and the people around you.
Becoming intoxicated at a party or social event can also cause what’s called ‘hangxiety’.
Ever woken up after a night of drinking and feel anxious and panicked about what you might have said and done?
That’s hangxiety – and it can make your social anxiety worse. So always drink responsibly.
Accept how you feel. It’s normal to feel a level of social anxiety after a year of being apart from others – go easy on yourself.
Start slowly. Be honest with family and friends, let them know what’s going on for you. Meet a close friend or family member first.
Close connections are beneficial for mental health, so if you can’t cope with too many get-togethers right now, going at a pace you can handle is crucial for your wellbeing.
Focus on what others are saying
During conversation those who struggle with social anxiety can be distracted by their negative thoughts or fears about what the other person is thinking about them.
Instead, truly listen to what is being said and do your best to remain authentic, engaged and attentive.
Focusing on what others contribute to the conversation will also help you stay in the moment, instead of worrying about what you’re going to say next or giving yourself a difficult time for an awkward moment that has already passed.
Journaling, writing down your worries and how you feel about them brings you clarity on why exactly you’re feeling anxious.
Use your notebook or journal to write – just begin to write about what exactly you’re worried about.
Why are you concerned? Is it because you have no stories to tell? Is it because you have come to enjoy the habit of solitude and you’re unsure how to ‘be’ with people you haven’t seen for so long?
Write about how these thoughts make you feel. Dig deep and write about what it is exactly bothers you about socialising again.
What’s the worst that can happen? How likely is it that the worst will happen? Even if it does happen, how bad will this really be? What are your options to cope?
Gratitude journaling takes your mind off what’s bothering you, brings you to a more positive place where you feel less anxious about many aspects of life.
When your mind is more positive, use this as a springboard for taking action.
Prepare (a little)
Some people find it helpful to prepare in advance because it decreases their anxiety somewhat.
Questions are good – when you ask questions, others will be delighted to open-up to you – always a great recipe for successful socialising.
Don’t go over the top with planning however, as you may end up stressing yourself even more. Go with the flow as much as you can.
Find a different perspective
Worried about meeting someone with whom you don’t have a great relationship, either alone or in a group?
Give some thought to how you’ll be; what you’ll say – and what you won’t say or do. Take into account that the other person may be feeling tense about the situation too.
This will give you a different perspective. Have an exit plan – and be prepared to action your exit plan if, and when you need to.
People rarely judge others for being nervous in social situations
Depending on the severity of your anxiety, shaky hands or a tremble in one’s voice might cause your social anxiety to feel additionally obvious to those around you.
Although these too often go unnoticed, it can be useful in these situations to remember that the majority of people have experienced anxiety at a point in their lives, and it’s unlikely that they will form a negative impression of you for it.
Remind yourself of positive social interactions
Remember all those times you caught up with friends, presented in front of a group, or made an important phone call and everything went just fine?
We tend to focus on the negatives and forget all the successful social interactions we’ve had over the years.
If you’re nervous or anxious before a social event, try to think of a few recent cases where you had a positive experience.
Choose activities you enjoy
If you’re worried about socialising indoors, organise to meet people outside for walks, swims, picnics. Write a list of things you like to do, then take steps to include others in your activities.
Consider how others are feeling. Think about how you can help others to feel at ease when you meet. Reassuring others will automatically take you out of your own head and calm your thoughts.
Tips for Overcoming Social Anxiety – Final thought
A journal can be your therapist and your friend. Reading various articles can give you ideas on how to cope.
If your anxiety becomes overwhelming however, and you need further professional help, now is a great time to reach out coaches, counsellors and therapists are trained, ready and willing to help.
I would love to hear your thoughts on what you are doing to change your life in the coming days and years!
If you have any questions please reach out to me via firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!
I really hope you found inspiration in this article.
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Hello! My name is Adam and welcome to my space on the internet. Here you can find me writing about topics such as self-care, self-development and all things wellness. Connect with me on my journey and come and join the community!