21 May Five Self-Help Strategies for Social Anxiety
People usually feel anxious from time to time, especially when the demands of life pile up. Anxiety is usually normal and adaptive because it helps to prepare us for danger. However, it can become a problem when there is no real danger. One of the most common anxiety-related problems stems from social contexts. Here are some steps you can use when dealing with your day-to-day social anxiety.
Step 1: Learn about social anxiety
People with social anxiety tend to fear and avoid social situations in fear of doing something embarrassing or judgement from others. It is normal to feel anxious from time to time in social situations, such as when people have to perform in front of a large group. This form of social anxiety becomes a problem when it becomes distressful enough to interfere with your ability to function in life. Seek more information about social anxiety from your local providers of psychological services or university departments and learn more about what may be troubling you.
Step 2: Observe your social anxiety
An important step is to observe and understand your own social anxiety. People with social anxiety tend to fear different types of social situations (e.g. speaking in front of others, attending parties) and experience different physical symptoms of anxiety (e.g. sweating, increased heart rate, and blushing). It would be useful to take a couple of weeks to identify which situations cause you anxiety and what you experience physically when you are in those situations.
Step 3: Learn to relax
By learning to relax, you can mitigate the physical symptoms, which can help you face the social situations more easily. Try to incorporate the following two strategies to help to relax:
- Calm Breathing: Take slow, regular breaths through your nose can help you calm down quickly.
- Muscle Relaxing: Tense various muscles and then relaxing them can help lower overall tension and stress levels.
Step 4: Adopt realistic-thinking patterns
People with social anxiety tend to have negative thoughts about themselves and about what will happen in social situations. For example, they may feel that nobody likes them or that they will be judged needlessly. It is important to realize that these negative thoughts are merely guesses about what will happen, not actual facts. People with social anxiety tend to over-estimate the degree of danger in social situations. Therefore, developing more realistic ways of thinking is an important step in managing your anxiety.
Step 5: Eliminate Avoidance and Safety Behaviours
Some people engage in avoidance strategies or do things to feel safer and prevent their feared expectations from coming true. For example, they may avoid excessively social situations, hide visible signs of anxiety, or resort to substance abuse. Ask yourself what avoidance and safety behaviors you engage in and attempt gradual exposure to help you both cognitively and emotionally realize that these social situations are actually safe.
Social anxiety hits us from time to time. The good news is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE and that there are strategies you can use to help manage your social fears. If you find that even after applying these simple self-help strategies you are still unable to gain control of your symptoms, please feel free to contact me.