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3 Fear Busting Self Help Strategies for Social Anxiety

Social Anxiety

How to Overcome Social Anxiety

In modern society, it can often be challenging to cope with a variety of situations, and social anxiety is an increasingly common issue that often starts in the teenage years.

There is so much pressure on people that it’s no surprise that many of us actually do develop a fear of social situations. This problem usually gets easier in later life as we become more experienced, but for some, it doesn’t, and this can have a profound impact on mental health and well-being.

Social anxiety is more than simply being shy in the company. It can be a dread of everyday activities such as meeting people, constant worry about getting things wrong, and often shows in symptoms such as being physically sick when faced with social situations.

With social anxiety disorder (a.k.a social phobia) you desperately want to avoid any situation that would lead to judgment and embarrassment.

Plus, you're worried that you'll be found lacking. The fear of being judged is so intense that you avoid people and situations that trigger this anxiety.

Signs and Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder

Just because you feel shy about being around others doesn't mean that you have social anxiety disorder.

Emotional Symptoms
  • You're very self-conscious and anxious during everyday social situations
  • You worry for days, weeks, or sometimes even months before an upcoming social event
  • You can't stop worrying about things that make you anxious
  • You're horrified of being watched and judged by others, especially by strangers
  • You're scared of doing something "stupid" and embarrassing yourself in front of others
  • You're afraid that others can tell you are anxious
Physical Symptoms
  • Blushing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Digestive issues such as an upset stomach and nausea
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Tightness in your chest or a racing heart rate
  • You break out in a sweat, or you may have hot flashes
  • You feel faint and lightheaded
Behavioral Symptoms
  • Avoiding social situations that trigger anxiety to the point where doing so disrupts your life
  • Hiding during social events to escape being noticed and potentially being embarrassed
  • A strong need to always have someone along with you anywhere you go
  • Consuming alcohol before social events to calm your nerves

Common Social Anxiety Triggers

To overcome social anxiety, it's important to understand the triggers associated with this type of phobia.

When I think of social anxiety, I think of performing in public.
 - Giving speeches
 - Performing on stage
 - Going on dates
 - Being called on in class
 - Speaking in a meeting
 - Meeting new people
 - Speaking with "important" people
 - Eating and/or drinking in public
 - Attending parties and other social gatherings

Another social anxiety trigger is talking on the phone. You may not be around other people during a phone call. But you may still feel like you are being judged by the person on the other end of the line.

When to Seek Help to Overcome Social Anxiety

If you are avoiding situations because of your social anxiety, and it has to have an impact on your life, you need to find support to help you navigate the way forward. While asking for help can be challenging in itself, it’s important to do something positive in this respect. 

Social anxiety usually gets worse if it is ignored. While avoiding social situations can make you feel immediate relief, this kind of behavior, unfortunately, makes the next event even more difficult to deal with.

Overcoming Social Anxiety

For someone suffering from social anxiety, solving the problem can seem insurmountable, but there are actually plenty of things you can do to take back control. The first is to identify the negative thoughts that you get when faced with any particular social situation.

This might include not wanting to make a fool of yourself, a feeling of inferiority, or simply believing that people think you are boring. You may well be reading actions or thoughts into other people that are simply not there, predicting that something will go wrong when there is no evidence or simply blowing things out of proportion.

When we are in a social situation and suffering from anxiety, it’s all too easy to focus on our own feelings and become detached from the real world. It’s important to move our attention more to other people, what is actually happening at the moment, and not being too concerned about yourself.

Yes, for someone with a social anxiety disorder, this can be challenging in itself and takes a lot of practice to overcome.

Learning to control your breathing is likely to help, and meditation has been shown to improve anxiety levels in a wide range of people. The first thing that happens when we get anxious is our breathing becomes shorter and faster. Learning to slow your breathing in difficult situations can certainly help.

It’s important not to try and avoid social situations, as this can help reinforce your anxiety. However difficult it may be, it’s essential to face your fear. Taking small steps will help. For example, attending small social events with a friend you trust can put you more at ease.

If your anxiety disorder seems insurmountable, you may also like to try Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT. This involves challenging the premise on which your social anxiety is based on talking things through with a therapist.

If you want to overcome social anxiety, the last thing you should do is avoid the issue. Facing up to your problem and developing ways to cope are all necessary. Finding a local social anxiety group is also important if you are having difficulty and can be a tremendous resource for advice and support.

3 Self Help Strategies for Social Anxiety

Are you hiding from the world? These social anxiety self-help tips are designed to help you close the door on social phobia.

1. Stand Up to Your Fears

It's perfectly natural to avoid the things that make us anxious and afraid. But avoidance feeds anxiety. The more you avoid social situations, the worse the anxiety will become.

You've got to face your fears if you want to get better. You don't have to make a massive attempt to conquer your phobia in a single bound.

Instead take baby steps.

Remember success isn't achieved in a day... or even a week. It takes tons of hard work, planning, and perseverance. Stay focused and chip away at your social anxiety bit by bit.

2. Stop Making Everything About You

When you're in a social situation, do you tend to focus more on yourself, your anxious feelings and the belief that others are studying you?

Here's a trick that may come in handy to ease your social phobia. Instead of focusing on yourself, focus on the person(s) around you.

Our minds are brilliantly made, but we humans can only truly focus on one thing at a time. So turn ALL of your attention towards the other person. What is he or she saying or wearing?

Just put all of your attention onto them. Don't think about what you can say next or beat yourself up for something that happened in the past.

Oh, and please don't try to be what you think others want you to be.

Trust me. Being anything less than yourself is guaranteed to go sideways fast.

Being yourself will attract the people you feel most comfortable being around anyway. You wouldn't feel like you have to perform or feel like you're are being judged.

3. Challenge Negative Thinking and Unrealistic Expectations

Much like depression, anxiety has a way of drilling negative, untrue, and unrealistic thoughts into our minds.

With social anxiety, your fears are centered around embarrassing yourself in front of other people and/or being negatively judged by others.

This fear will most likely cause your mind to feed on negative made up scenarios.

But cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a truly effective technique that empowers you to control negative anxiety producing thought patterns which is a key factor to overcoming social phobia.

Commonly Unhelpful Thinking Patterns

Here are some thinking patterns you may want to be aware of as you practice the social anxiety self-help techniques listed above.

Anxiety sufferers are absolute pros at negative thinking. Hey, I'm not judging. I know what it's like.

Psychic Thinking –You "know" what others are thinking about you and assume it's all negative.

Example: You're not happy with your weight gain. You then assume that everyone else thinks negatively about you because of your weight gain.

Fortune Telling –You see the future. And... It's all bad.

The worst will happen no matter what. You're so convinced that you work yourself into a ball of anxiety. You worry about what hasn't happened, and probably wouldn't happen anyway.

Personalizing –You're somehow involved with whatever is going on with other people.

Example: You see two people talking and automatically assume they are speaking negatively about you.

Catastrophizing – What I like to call "apocalyptic" thinking. You blowing things out of proportion.

There is no middle ground. If things don't go perfectly, the outcome is always "terrible" or "awful."

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