Social anxiety stems from feeling extremely self-conscious and uncomfortable during social interactions. Many people mistake social anxiety as having a “shy” personality because of the way it manifests, but in reality, it’s much more. Social situations provoke feelings of intense anxiety that causes people to isolate during social engagements or avoid them altogether. If you think you’re struggling with social anxiety, these nine tips can help you overcome your phobia.
Social anxiety is a common disorder that can be treated with the right resources. Self-help worksheets, journals, and books are all readily available. These tools will help you learn more about your anxiety and equip you with tips to combat your fear.
2. Challenge your thoughts
The first step in overcoming anything is to become mindful of the problem. Once you create awareness around your phobia, try to rationalize it. Why is it that you’re so anxious about a particular upcoming event? Have you ever actually made a fool of yourself in a social engagement? Are other people really judging you for your anxiety? Do they even notice you have anxiety? Test your anxious thoughts and counter them with logical ones instead.
3. Practice deep breathing
It might sound too good to be true, but the simple act of breathing can do wonders for those who suffer from anxiety. Stress and anxiety elicit a range of experiences within our bodies that usually starts with quickened breath. When this happens, it’s especially important to hone in and hyper-focus on your breath. Breathe in deeply for four seconds, hold it for two and breathe out for six. This is good to not only practice during times of anxiety but on a daily basis as well. By engaging in deep breathing regularly, you’ll be prepared when anxiety strikes.
4. Exposure Hierarchy
Think about all the situations that cause you anxiety and write them down. After you’ve done so, rank them by which cause you the most severe feelings of anxiety to which cause you the least. By doing this you have a heightened sense of awareness and know which situations you may need to focus most on.
5. Go to Therapy
Social anxiety is a real phobia and it’s crucial that it be treated properly. Seeing a therapist in one-on-one sessions as well as in a group setting will help you combat your fear. Group therapy is especially beneficial for social anxiety. In group work, you get to relate to people who experience the same struggles; it’s also good practice for future social situations.
Maybe the last thing you want to do is go to a party or social outing, but the only way to overcome your fear is to do it. When you’re scared of attending an event and you make the decision not to go, you feel relief. You then reward yourself by not going, which in turn rewards the behavior, allowing your fear to feed off of it. But the more you avoid it, the scarier it will become.
7. Don’t give into negative coping
When situations make people uncomfortable, it can be tempting to find a negative vice. Oftentimes in social situations, people will consume drugs or alcohol in order to “take the edge off”. Doing this is dangerous because the root of the problem is still there. Your social anxiety will be just as present or even worse after the substances have worn off.
8. Reward yourself
Have you noticed yourself overthinking everything after leaving a social event? People with anxiety replay situations over and over again in their head, focusing on where things went wrong. Combat this by rewarding yourself for just showing up and conquering your fear. Practice positive self-talk instead of beating yourself up. Buy that book you’ve been wanting or treat yourself to Starbucks the next morning to reinforce your positive behavior.
9. Take it one step at a time
Once you’ve done all of the preparation work leading up to a social interaction, it may be tempting to tackle your biggest fear first. This isn’t necessary and might backfire in the long run. Start small with the situations that are lower on your exposure hierarchy and work your way up to your biggest fears. It will take time, but you’ll get there eventually!
Don’t let your social phobia prevent you from enjoying a fulfilling life. Get the help you deserve, and start conquering your fear today.
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