Telling Others About Your Social Anxiety
It’s likely your closest family and friends already have an idea of your social anxiety. If you want to tell someone specific, send a message that there is something you’d like to share and arrange a time at a quiet place to talk.
If you feel too nervous to explain your situation, write down a summary of what you’ve been feeling. It’s best to share your symptoms so that the other person can gain an understanding of what you are going through.
Remember that social anxiety disorder is still a little-understood condition and others may need some help to understand.
Use These Tips To Help You Get Through The Situation You Fear
· Remember, its OK to feel fear, its just a feeling. Let it be. Most importantly, do not try to hide it or fight it. Make peace with it. Everyone feels fear sometimes.
· Practice diaphragmatic breathing before or, if circumstances allow it, during the situation. Take a slow, deep breath, and slowly exhale. Make the exhale longer and slower than the inhale. Its definitely one of the best techniques to get instant relief. It will calm you down and help you focus on the situation.
· Focus on the present situation. Get out of self-consciousness and overthinking. Focus on peoples positive qualities and what you like about them without involving bitterness or jealousy in any way. Be engaged and curious about others. Everyone likes to feel they are an interesting person.
· Another thing that can help you get out of the overthinking state of mind is to observe social interaction and conversations mindfully: Take interactions as they are, without judgment or expectations. Socially confident people dont really think much about how a conversation will turn out. They are just focusing on the present and enjoying it.
· Do you know that the way your body processes fear or excitement is basically the same? To your nervous system, it doesnt make much difference. Which one of the two emotions you will experience is only a matter of psychological interpretation.
How Are You Socializing
The benefits of socializing are limitless. Socializing can help us to relieve stress, make new friends, and even improve our social skills. Socializing is as old as humans themselves. We maintain social networks which serve as the foundation for our society and culture.
Humans used to depend on each other for just survival now, we are dependent on a lot more than that. When we feel lonely or disconnected from those around us, this has a negative emotional and physical effect on us, so it’s essential to keep up with our family and friends by meeting their needs and making time for them in your life.
Sometimes saying “Yes” can be just as freeing as saying “No.” If you get invited to do something social, try to make a new habit out of accepting the invite.
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Initial Vs Maintaining Causes Of Social Anxiety
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make as they try to overcome social anxiety is getting fixated on the initial causes of their anxiety, and as a result, ignoring the maintaining causes.
But before we go on, let me clarify what I mean by initial vs maintaining causes
- Initial cause. The initial cause of social anxiety is one or more events in the past that initially set you on the path toward social anxiety. Its your social anxietys origin story. For example: some kind of childhood trauma or bullying as a kid may have been the thing that initially set your social anxiety in motion.
- Maintaining cause. The maintaining cause of social anxiety are your habits in the present that are feeding your social anxiety and causing it to stick around or even grow. Avoiding social situations with new people gives you temporary relief from your anxiety, but ultimately makes the social anxiety worse because it reinforces your brains mistaken belief that being judged by new people is dangerous.
I bring this distinction up because while it can be interesting and validating to understand the initial cause or origin of your social anxiety, it typically has relatively little value when it comes to overcoming your anxiety now.
In other words
Whatever caused your social anxiety in the past, its your habits and behaviors in the present that are keeping it alive.
Here are some of the most common maintaining causes of social anxiety:
Go With A Trusted Friend Or Family Member
If youre going to an unfamiliar place with people you dont know, it might help to bring a trusted friend or family member to calm your nerves. However, you should try to make sure you still talk to other people once youre there otherwise, you might find yourself relying solely on the person you came with.
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Focus On Other Things But Yourself
When we are in a social situation that makes you anxious, we tend to get caught up in our anxious thoughts and feelings. You are convincing yourself that all the people are looking at you and judging you.
Normally, our focus is on our bodily sensations, hoping that by paying extra close attention to them, we are controlling them. But nothing can be farther from the truth.
This excessive self-focus only makes us more aware of how nervous were feeling, thus triggering even more anxiety! And when we focus on our racing heartbeat and cold hands, we are preventing ourselves from fully concentrating on the conversations around us.
Here are some things you can do instead:
Spend More Time Around People Who Appreciate You
For some reason, people with social anxiety have this tendency to spend a lot of time with and around people they dont actually enjoy being around.
- You really dont enjoy the people you work with, but youve got it into your head that you should enjoy spending time with them.
- So youre constantly stuck in this push-pull dynamic of telling yourself you should go to these social events you dont actually want to go to, then feeling anxious about it, then berating yourself for not wanting to go, etc.
- And then, when you do hang out with these people, you dont enjoy it, it quickly gets awkward and you start feeling anxious, and then you start criticizing yourself for being anxious and internalizing the whole thing as all the fault of your damn social anxiety.
Look, overcoming social anxiety doesnt mean that you magically start loving to spend time with everyone on Earth. And its completely normal to simply not enjoy certain peoples company, and as a result, avoid spending more time with them than you have to!
Just because you want to overcome social anxiety doesnt mean you have to constantly push yourself to spend all your time in socially draining situations.
In fact, the opposite is often true: It can be very helpful to give yourself permission not to spend time with certain people. And instead, use that time to hang out with people you actually enjoy and people who appreciate you exactly for who you are.
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Replace Negativity With Positivity
Being positive is contagious. If you have a habit of seeing the world through a negative lens , try becoming an optimist, if only for a day at first. Replace any negative thoughts with more positive alternatives. See if that doesn’t help you start to climb out of your rut.
This Year Consider Giving Presence Instead Of Presents
“I’ll offer to help in the kitchen and ask if I can make myself useful,” Ebba says. Make coffee chop a few carrots wash a dish or two anything that helps the busy host. They’ll be grateful and you’ll soon forget your nerves.
Eliciting positive emotions in yourself and others can help extinguish negative ones studies show that feelings such as kindness and happiness can encourage exploration and curiosity, which can foster self-acceptance, Hofmann says.
Talk to yourself, friend to friend
Even with a lot of prep, holiday parties have a way of getting the best of us all. Maybe everything feels under control until a friend puts you on the spot “Can you give a holiday toast?” If this happens and you feel uneasy, Hofmann recommends a deep breath and a quick technique called “cognitive reappraisal.”
“Ask yourself why you’re upset and whether or not it’s justified,” Hofmann suggests. Still gripped by fear? Try giving yourself a pep talk in the third person. In a 2017 study, researchers found this simple act could provide psychological distance from an unwanted upwelling of emotion and that can help you feel more in control of any stressful situation.
Recite a soothing mantra
Self-directed kindness can be an effective treatment, too, according to research by California psychologist Kelly Werner and her colleagues. “Be kind to yourself when you’re hurting or when you’ve made a mistake,” Werner tells her patients with social anxiety.
More ways friends can help
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Unhelpful Thinking Styles That Fuel Social Anxiety
Ask yourself if youre engaging in any of the following unhelpful thinking styles:
- Mind reading Assuming you know what other people are thinking, and that they see you in the same negative way that you see yourself.
- Fortune telling Predicting the future, usually while assuming the worst will happen. You just know that things will go horribly, so youre already anxious before youre even in the situation.
- Catastrophizing Blowing things out of proportion. For example, if people notice that youre nervous, it will be awful, terrible, or disastrous.
- Personalizing Assuming that people are focusing on you in a negative way or that whats going on with other people has to do with you.
Mental Health Treatment Program Locator
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides this online resource for locating mental health treatment facilities and programs. The Mental Health Treatment Locator section of the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator lists facilities providing mental health services to persons with mental illness. Find a facility in your state at www.nimh.nih.gov/findhelp.
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Be Accountable To Someone
You may stay in your rut forever if nobody knows you are trying to move past your social anxiety and you are not accountable to anyone. Choose someone you trust , and tell them about your plans to make changes in your life.
This works very much like having an exercise partner the other person keeps you honest and keeps you from giving up when the road seems to hard and long.
Tip : Face Your Fears
One of the most helpful things you can do to overcome social anxiety is to face the social situations you fear rather than avoid them. Avoidance keeps social anxiety disorder going. While avoiding nerve-wracking situations may help you feel better in the short term, it prevents you from becoming more comfortable in social situations and learning how to cope in the long term. In fact, the more you avoid a feared social situation, the more frightening it becomes.
Avoidance can also prevent you from doing things youd like to do or reaching certain goals. For example, a fear of speaking up may prevent you from sharing your ideas at work, standing out in the classroom, or making new friends.
While it may seem impossible to overcome a feared social situation, you can do it by taking it one small step at a time. The key is to start with a situation that you can handle and gradually work your way up to more challenging situations, building your confidence and coping skills as you move up the anxiety ladder.
For example, if socializing with strangers makes you anxious, you might start by accompanying an outgoing friend to a party. Once youre comfortable with that step, you might try introducing yourself to one new person, and so on. To work your way up a social anxiety ladder:
Dont try to face your biggest fear right away. Its never a good idea to move too fast, take on too much, or force things. This may backfire and reinforce your anxiety.
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Seek Support & References
You dont have to go through this alone. Believe it or not, social anxiety is the third largest mental health problem in the US and there are many highly effective support groups for people trying to understand it and overcome it. To find a meeting near you, check out The National Social Anxiety Center, Meetup, The Anxiety & Depression Association of America, or ask a therapeutic practice for references.
It really helps to know youre not alone and a supportive group is an affordable way to practice being around people you can relate to.
Volunteer In Your Community
Volunteering can be a good way to get involved in your community just attending community events so youre not cooped up at home can help create social momentum too.
When your brain sees people laughing, youll be surprised at how that energy can give you a boost of confidence. Even carrying on simple conversations with people can help you to stop fearing everyone so much. Take baby steps and dont overwhelm yourself.
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Visualize A Positive Outcome And Plan For It
One of the symptoms of social anxiety is imagining the worst thing possible happening in a social situationbeing humiliated or embarrassed, saying something that people dont like, or being the center of attention after making a faux pas of some kind. Hence, managing social anxiety involves shifting the way you think about future social scenarios. When negative thoughts and fears arise, practice reframing these patterns. Imagine the best possible outcome for a social situation, and make plans that increase the likelihood that things will go the way you envision them. For example, if youre going to a group gathering with people you dont know well, meet up with one good friend first and go together. Role-playing possible situations and conversations with a trusted friend or family beforehand can also help. In addition, remind yourself that others likely have similar anxieties, particularly right now the pandemics impact on mental health has been particularly harsh for young adults. You are not alone in creating strategies for overcoming social anxiety.
The Countering Anxiety Exercise
When we encounter social situations that may cause us anxiety, the first thoughts that pop into our heads are usually negative. The problem with those thoughts is that we never take the time to think about them rationally or prove them wrong. Instead, were too busy trying to figure out how to escape our social anxiety. Todays exercise will help you learn how to better respond to your thoughts by challenging their validity.
The Countering Anxiety Exercise allows you to rationally review your initial negative thoughts, and fact-check them without the stress or burden of being in a social situation. While this exercise calls for you to write or type out your answer, the practice of reviewing your thoughts objectively will eventually help you do the same in real-time. This will help you avoid the downward spiral of negative thoughts and increase your confidence.
Ive created both an electronic and printable worksheet for you to conduct this exercise. Click the links below to grab your copy.
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