Start Staying Hi To A Neighbor
Do you scurry for your door every time your neighbor appears? Next time, try to make a concerted effort to say hello, wave, and be friendly. Although this might feel out of character and anxiety-provoking at first, over time this new habit will become second nature.
If you are feeling really bold, try a behavioral experiment: Invite your neighbor over for coffee at a time when she is clearly busy. Seek out rejection and learn that it is not so bad! At some point down the road, you might even find you have made a friend out of a neighbor.
What Are The Causes Of Social Anxiety
There doesnt seem to be one cause of problems with anxiety, but there are several factors that might play a part in developing anxiety in social situations.
- A specific incident or event if you experienced shame or humiliation in a particular situation, you may develop anxiety about similar situations or experiences that you associate with that event.
- Family environment parents who were very worried or anxious when you were growing up can have an effect on the way you cope with anxiety in later life, and you may even develop the same anxiety as a parent or older sibling.
- Genetics some people appear to be born with a tendency to be more anxious than others, which can develop into an anxiety disorder.
- Long-term stress this can cause feelings of anxiety and depression, and reduce your perceived ability to cope in particular situations. This can make you feel more fearful or anxious about being in those situations again, and over a long period, may increase your anxiety about those situations.
When To Worry About Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety
Social anxiety disorders can also lead to physical symptoms. You might experience blushing, sweating, or a subjective sensation of feeling suddenly cold or warm, says Dr. Potter. You might also have physical tension, which could cause aches and pains, like a stomachache. You can also experience symptoms associated with panic, even if you dont have a full-blown panic attack. Panic symptoms are your heart beating fast, shortness of breath, a subjective feeling of losing control or a fear of sudden, impending doom, says Dr. Potter. People with social anxiety will typically experience some of these symptoms, including at a lower threshold, too.
Determining whether these symptoms are from anxiety, or a more serious medical condition can be difficult. If the pain goes away quickly after the anxiety-provoking situation has stopped, and if you have a subjective sense of knowing that you are currently afraid of something, then its more likely what you are feeling is probably anxiety, says Dr. Potter. But if youre in doubt, you should definitely talk to a doctor about it and get advice on specific signs to look out for and what your risk factors are. If you have a known heart condition, this advice is even more important. You want to be much more careful about seeking medical care for any of these types of symptoms, she says. And if you have cardiac conditions and you have anxiety, you should talk to your doctor about how to differentiate the two.
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How Is It Ever Possible To Feel Comfortable Or Natural Under These Circumstances
To the person with social anxiety, going to a job interview is pure torture: you know your excessive anxiety will give you away. Youll look funny, youll be hesitant, maybe youll even blush, and you wont be able to find the right words to answer all the questions. Maybe this is the worst part of all: You know that you are going to say the wrong thing. You just know it. It is especially frustrating because you know you could do the job well if you could just get past this terrifying and intimidating interview.
Create Your Own Structure
Our anxieties can heighten in situations where theres a lot of uncertainty. Case in point: office parties. I personally dread them because Im always unsure of how to initiate conversations beyond my work life and be interesting at that. This lack of structure or predictability can feel unnerving, especially with big social groups.
The advice here is to make a simple structure for yourself ahead of these situations. Pick three to four people that youd like to talk to. For instance, it could include your direct report, your boss, and the receptionist. A little structure can help you overthink less throughout the event.
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Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator
This online resource, provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration , helps you locate mental health treatment facilities and programs. Find a facility in your state by searching SAMHSAs online Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator. For additional resources, visit NIMH’s Help for Mental Illnesses webpage.
Do A Daily Or Routine Meditation
While this takes some practice to do successfully, mindful meditation, when done regularly, can eventually help you train your brain to dismiss anxious thoughts when they arise.
If sitting still and concentrating is difficult, try starting with yoga, or walking meditation. There are many free guided meditations on apps like InsightTimer that can help you get started.
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How Can Social Anxiety Be Treated
Many therapeutic methods have been studied, but cognitive-behavioral techniques have been shown to work the best. In fact, treatment of social anxiety through these cognitive-behavioral methods produces long-lasting, permanent relief from the anxiety-laden world of social anxiety.
Don’t let semantics and terminology about therapy throw you off. While it is correct and best to say we use “cognitive-behavioral” therapy, this includes a mindfulness approach to overcoming it, and it most definitely includes an acceptance of things as we continue to get better.
Engage In Breathing Exercises To Refocus On The Present Moment
Once Ive identified Im having a panic attack, concentrating on my breathing is the first thing I do. True, sometimes its not easy to recognize Im having one. But feeling extreme distress and overwhelming emotions is usually a great indicator. Ill notice Im holding my breath, which can often make the pain feel worse or more intense. Taking a moment to simply breathe slowly really helps me think and attempt to calm myself.
Although there are many breathing exercises out there, I just take in a long, deep breath, and then let it out. Completely fill your lungs until they expand, and then let it all out. Continue to do this as you work through some of the other steps below, and there will be a significant difference. The worst thing we can do in this situation would be to continue to hold tension .
Deep breathing has been shown to alleviate acute stress, and breathing exercises also give our mind something to focus on instead of our panic. It can be a simple goal that brings us back to the present moment and makes us feel accomplished once we do it.
So give yourself that grace and allow the breaths to bring you some peace. Once youve got the breathing down, you can move on to any other tactic below .
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Find Ways To Make Use Of Any Insight They Have Into Their Anxiety
If your loved one has insight into their anxiety, you can help them spot when their anxiety-driven patterns are occurring. I find it helpful when my spouse notices that Im expressing my anxiety about work by being irritable with her or by being too fussy. Because we know each others patterns so well and have a trusting relationship, we can point out each others habits. Not that this is always met with grace, but the message sinks in anyway.
Offer Support But Dont Take Over
Avoidance is a core feature of anxiety, so sometimes we may feel pulled to help out by doing things for our avoidant loved ones and inadvertently feed their avoidance. For instance, if your anxious roommate finds making phone calls incredibly stressful and you end up doing this for them, they never push through their avoidance.
More on Anxiety
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A good general principle to keep in mind is that support means helping someone to help themselves, not doing things for them, which includes virtually anything that stops short of actually doing it yourself. For example, you might offer to attend a first therapy session with your loved one if they set up the appointment. Or, if theyre not sure how to choose a therapist, you might brainstorm ways of doing that, but let them choose.
An exception might be when someones anxiety is accompanied by severe depression. If they cant get themselves out of bed, they may be so shut down that they temporarily need people to do whatever is needed to help them stay alive. Also, sometimes loved ones are so gripped by an anxiety disorder that theyre in pure survival mode and need more hands-on help to get things done. In less extreme circumstances, however, its best to offer support without taking over or overdoing the reassurance.
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What Is Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety is a type of anxiety condition that makes people feel anxious or fearful in social settings.
People who have social anxiety disorder might have a hard time meeting new people, talking to them, and possibly attending social events. Though they may know these are feelings of anxiety, they may still have difficulty overcoming them.
This type of disorder can be debilitating on a persistent basis and affect ones ability to work, study, and create close relationships with non-family members.
Overcoming Social Anxiety And Dating
It’s a challenge to date when you have social anxiety, since meeting people with anxiety can be so difficult. But it’s also not necessarily the right idea to date when you’re this anxious either. Instead, you should commit yourself to overcoming your social anxiety and then worry about dating if it happens in the interim.
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You Really Need To Pull Yourself Together
A colleague said this to me when she found me crying in the staff toilets at an event. She thought the tough love approach would help me snap out of it. However, not only did it not help, it made me feel more embarrassed and exposed. It confirmed that I was a freak and therefore needed to hide my condition.
When faced with anxiety, the natural response from observers seems to be to encourage the person to calm down. Ironically, this only makes it worse. The sufferer is desperate to calm down, but is unable to do so.
Socially Interacting With Co
Step 1: Say hello to your co-workers.
Step 2: Ask a co-worker a work-related question.
Step 3: Ask a co-worker what they did over the weekend.
Step 4: Sit in the break room with co-workers during your coffee break.
Step 5: Eat lunch in the break room with your co-workers.
Step 6: Eat lunch in the break room and make small talk with one or more of your coworkers, such as talking about the weather, sports, or current events.
Step 7: Ask a co-worker to go for a coffee or drink after work.
Step 8: Go out for lunch with a group of co-workers.
Step 9: Share personal information about yourself with one or more co-workers.
Step 10: Attend a staff party with your co-workers.
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Help Someone Who Is Anxious To Temper Their Thinking
Youll be a more useful support person if you educate yourself about cognitive-behavioral models of anxiety, which you can do by reading or attending a therapy session with your loved one. But, in lieu of that, you might try using some techniques that can be helpful to people suffering from anxiety.
Typically, anxious people have a natural bias towards thinking about worst-case scenarios. To help them get some perspective on this, you can use a cognitive therapy technique where you ask them to consider three questions:
- Whats the worst that could happen?
- Whats the best that could happen?
- Whats most realistic or likely?
So, if your loved one is anxious that they were supposed to hear from their parents hours ago but havent, you can suggest they consider the worst, best, and most likely explanations for the lack of contact.
Take care not to overly reassure your loved one that their fears wont come to pass. Its more useful to emphasize their coping ability. For example, if theyre worried about having a panic attack on a plane, you could say, That would be extremely unpleasant and scary, but youd deal with it. And, if your loved one is feeling anxious that someone else is angry with them or disappointed in them, its often useful to remind them that you can only ever choose your own actions and not completely control other peoples responses.
Work With Your Strengths
In order to get yourself out of a social anxiety rut, you dont need to have an end goal of becoming a stand-up comedian or accomplished concert pianist.
If you love books, maybe joining a book club or even leading a book club would be your thing. Think about your interests and talents, and how you can bring more sociability into those areas in your life.
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Tip : Learning To Breathe Better
Most of the physical symptoms of severe social anxiety are due to a problem known as hyperventilation. Hyperventilation is the act of breathing too quickly, although contrary to popular belief, hyperventilation is caused by too much oxygen and too little carbon dioxide, not the other way around.
Hyperventilation causes issues like:
The adrenaline from anxiety leads to many of these symptoms as well, but hyperventilation is often the biggest culprit, especially for those with severe anxiety symptoms. That’s why it’s important to try to control your breathing when you have severe anxiety so that these symptoms dissipate.
To reduce hyperventilation symptoms, you’re going to need to fight the urge to breathe too deeply. Hyperventilation causes people to feel as though they’re not getting enough air, even though the opposite is true. Try the following:
- Breathe in very slowly through your nose take as much as 5 seconds or more.
- Hold for 3 seconds.
- Breathe out through your mouth like you’re whistling for 7 seconds.
Continue for a few minutes. Once hyperventilation symptoms start they do not go away that quickly. But this type of breathing will make it easier to reduce the severity of the symptoms, and possibly stop your panic attack.
Its Just Easier To Avoid Social Situations
In public places, such as work, meetings, or shopping, people with social anxiety feel that everyone is watching and staring at them . The socially anxious person cant relax, “take it easy”, and enjoy themselves in public. In fact, they can never relax when other people are around. It always feels like others are evaluating them, being critical of them, or “judging” them in some way. The person with social anxiety knows that people dont do this openly, of course, but they still feel the self-consciousness and the judgment while they are in the other persons presence. Its sometimes impossible to let go, relax, and focus on anything else except the anxiety. Because the anxiety is so very painful, its much easier just to stay away from social situations and avoid other people.
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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.
How To Manage Your Social Anxiety
Having social anxiety doesnt have to keep you from making friends, trying new things, and reaching your full potential. You can develop new habits and coping skills to help you identify your feelings, find a more positive perspective, and overcome your social anxiety. Here are a number of techniques you can try to manage social anxiety:
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