Have you ever avoided a social situation by giving the worst of the worst excuses just because you dislike the crowd?
Have you experienced sweat, trembling, or a shaky voice in a performance-based situation?
Do you fear interacting with strangers?
Do you fear that others might notice you panic or your anxiety?
Have you ever turned down something big because of the fear that you aren’t good enough?
Have you avoided participating in school or college?
If you nod your head in any of those, then you are not alone.
We all know being nervous in a social situation. Maybe you clammed up before a meeting or felt sweaty before giving a presentation. Walking in a room full of strangers and public speaking, both can be thrilling for some while sending chills down the spine for others.
This could be due to social anxiety. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is the third most common mental health condition. According to statistics, about 5% to 10% of people have SAD.
If you have social anxiety, also known as social phobia, you might often feel as if the stress in these particular situations is too much to handle. You might avoid all social contacts because what others might consider “normal” like making eye contact or engaging in small talk, might make you uncomfortable.
What are the Different Types of Social Anxiety?
Yes, there are three types of social anxiety – mild, moderate, and extreme. Let’s understand them briefly:
Mild social anxiety – A person dealing with mild social anxiety may experience physical and psychological symptoms of social anxiety, but still engage in social situations. They may experience SAD symptoms in specific social situations.
Moderate social anxiety – A person dealing with moderate social anxiety may experience physical and physiological symptoms yet participate in certain social situations while avoiding other social situations.
Extreme social anxiety – A person dealing with extreme social anxiety experiences intense symptoms, like panic attacks. Due to this, they usually avoid social settings at all costs. A person with extreme social anxiety is likely to have symptoms in all or several types of social situations.
Dealing with social anxiety isn’t simple, however, it still can be achievable.
5 Tips to Overcome Social Anxiety
If you are seeking ways to enhance comfort in social settings and facilitate smooth interactions with others, here are five expert-recommended tactics that provide an excellent starting point.
Talking to a Therapist
One thing that you need to understand is social anxiety goes beyond shyness or feeling nervous around new people. Social anxiety disorder is a mental health condition, and getting professional support is always a good start.
A certified mental health professional can help you-
- identify your social anxiety triggers
- offer guidance, coping strategies, and relaxation techniques
- manage or refrain from negative thinking
- create a safe environment to practice navigating anxiety-provoking thoughts and situations
Finding Out Situations That Trigger Your Anxiety
Social anxiety isn’t the same for everyone. You might feel conscious even while ordering food at a restaurant or going to the restroom during a lecture. On the other hand, you might feel totally fine being around others as long as you don’t have to share your thoughts or speak up. This could be due to constant worrying about others judging you.
Understanding when and why you feel the most anxious can help you take the very first step. List the situations that cause the most discomfort to you. These can be:
- Job interview
- Meeting up someone
- Asking for help
- Introducing yourself to someone you are attracted to
Challenging Pessimistic Thoughts
Do you spend most of your time thinking about the potential negative outcomes of the social situations you just listed?
Do you worry about –
- Accidentally saying something offensive or rude?
- Spilling something or tripping on the road?
- Coughing or sneezing at the wrong time?
- Getting sick in front of people?
Sure, these situations can cause short-term discomfort. But try to keep things in perspective.
Understand that even if you commit a minute social blunder, it doesn’t mean that others will look down on you. Instead, people might remember the time when they found themselves to be in a similar position and offer you support.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed by anxious and stressful thoughts, try challenging them and replacing them with helpful thoughts through realistic thinking techniques. You can ask yourself certain basic questions regarding the situation that has been worrying you.
Performing Acts of Kindness
A recent study has found that performing acts of kindness improves and increases mental health symptoms and social connection, respectively. There’s a link between kindness and social anxiety which may not be clear to you right now.
Social anxiety generally involves fear of rejection or disapproval. However, acts done out of kindness, like helping out your coworkers when they are overwhelmed, offering your sick friend a bowl of their favorite soup, or helping your neighbors with groceries. The person you are helping is most likely to develop a positive feeling towards you rather than a negative one.
Performing acts of kindness and earning approvals each day can decrease your fears around any social situation. You might end up interacting with people which can gradually become easier.
A study published in the journal Emotion states that mindfulness-based stress reduction can help people with social anxiety disorder. Engaging in a breath-focused task showed improvement in symptoms of anxiety and depression and increased self-esteem.
Take slow and deep breaths. This aids in lowering stress hormones, which helps in feeling more calm. For this reason, you may have often heard people asking to take deep breaths in an anxiety-inducing social situation.
When To Seek Help
If the constant fear of social situations are stopping you from enjoying or simply living your life, it’s a good idea to take small steps and try out these exercises. If you find it difficult to focus or navigate through these methods seek help from a certified mental health professional. This hurdle can be cleared with their help. And with time, social situations may not seem dreadful to you. Someday you might even start to embrace them.
Do you know anyone with social anxiety? Share this article to help them.
Banner Image Courtesy MART PRODUCTION