Overcoming Social Anxiety
Author: Tia Evans
Publish date: 01/08/18
Your mind races, your words don't come out right and your palms sweat. Social anxiety sends people into a frenzy of over thinking and stress. The good news is we have all been there at some point, everyone gets nervous from time to time but for some it's a constant battle that we refer to as social anxiety.
Social anxiety seems to be one of the biggest fears people face when they come onto one of our courses. There is an obvious fear of meeting new people, speaking in public and being in an unfamiliar environment. I will admit, that even for us as trainers, we feel this fear every time we deliver a new course too because social anxiety is crippling no matter who you are or how old you may be.
The most common example of social anxiety does however, seem to be public speaking. The anxiousness of getting up in front of a group of people (strangers or friends) and having their undivided attention sends many people into a fit of nervous butterflies and sweat. Making small talk, eating in front of strangers and even answering the phone can cause others who suffer from this to feel uneasy.
Social anxiety can usually be characterised as fear of behaving in an embarrassing way which will ultimately lead to a complete withdrawal from social contact. Some others however, seem to have a fear of being themselves in public at all. It's not just negative attention that we may fear but also positive. This may result in nervous laughs and a severe lack of talking in any social situation. In other words, people with social anxiety simply don't want to stand out at all.
There is good news though. Social anxiety can be eased, helped or even fixed. It may take time and a whole lot of putting yourself into uncomfortable situations but with some useful tips you can relieve yourself from the stresses caused by being out in public and find yourself making new friends and thriving in a social circle. We had a look around and compiled our favourite tips to help overcome social anxiety:
1. Be Open
Our number one tip for any anxiety is to be open about it. Hiding or repressing anxiety just causes more anxiety! In order to improve, you should talk to those closest to you and help them understand your fears. Start a conversation with those you are around more frequently by saying "I actually find it really difficult to talk when we're in a group" or say "I really don't like eating in public", whatever it is, just saying it aloud will feel super relieving. Just remember that everyone struggles with something inside their head and the more we share the more accepting we shall all be.
2. Try A Self Help Book
I know, I know, these kinds of books can be like marmite - you either love them or you hate them. The truth is, it is a bit of trial and error but once you find an author you like, you will be hooked! Self-help books really give some guidance and insight into the minds of other people who struggle with similar issues as yourself. This helps you to realise you are not alone, discover how people have overcome it and find new coping mechanisms for you in the future. Head to your library and have a look at what they have to offer that way if you don't like a particular one, it won't end up costing you a ton of money.
3. Shift Your Focus
Anxiety has this incredible ability to render our minds useless and forces us to focus on the stress and panic we may feel in that specific moment. It may be difficult but if you find yourself starting to panic, try and focus on whatever it is you are doing. If you are speaking to someone, concentrate on the words that are coming out of your mouth or if you are eating in public, think about how nice the food tastes. This will help you relax and focus on exactly on what you are doing rather than the anxiety of not knowing what comes next or the attention you are getting.
4. Face Your Fears
I know that perhaps avoiding social situations will feel good at the moment but try to remember that this is just a temporary fix and that overcoming your anxiety will only happen through putting ourselves in what may feel like stressful circumstances. Try and reach out to your friends and see if you can attend some events with them. If for example you have a fear of meeting new people, go out to a party with a friend and aim to introduce yourself to at least five people. Having someone there you know will give you some security whilst still putting you under enough stress to help you combat your fears.
5. Practice Breathing
This is ultimately, the most important tip of all. Breathing deeply, filling your lungs and exhaling slowly will help your body to relax and enable you to gain that moment of clarity that you may need if you begin to have a panic attack. Whilst at home, when you're feeling a bit more secure practice your breathing and perhaps learn to find that thing that centres you. This will help you so much if you're in a social situation that begins to make you feel uncomfortable. Feeling calm and breathing steadily has a direct impact on your heart rate and, in turn, your thoughts - allow them your body to relax and clear thinking will follow.
Never forget that you are not alone in your struggle and that there are always people and resources out there that will help with your anxiety.