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.
Prepare A Social Strategy
Going into any social situation unprepared can be stressful for anyone. While youll want to avoid being in your head too much, some level of preparation is helpful.
Many psychotherapists recommend that having a strategy in mind is a key tool to combat anxiety. Its possible that everything likely wont go exactly according to plan. However, having a loose strategy in place will help you to feel more confident and in control of the situation.
Part of this plan should include finding a calming area as a go-to within a space to turn to if the environment feels too hectic. This area can be the patio or any other area inside a space that gives you a bit more breathing room.
Create An Exposure Hierarchy
Identify and rate how each social situation makes you feel in terms of anxiousness. For example, 0 would mean no anxiety and 10 would be a full-blown panic attack. Make a list and write down how you think you would feel for every situation, no matter how small or big. From walking into a room at a gathering to asking a stranger on the tube for the time. Its important to write down on a piece of paper your predictions so that when the times comes to experience it, you know how you thought you would feel.
The majority of the time the thought of doing something is scarier than actually doing it and we usually cope a bit better. Test your predictions and keep a record of social situations, your predictions and then how you actually felt. You might find that talking to your co-worker was actually a 4 instead of a 9. All this helps towards tracking and trying to ease social anxiety.
Recommended Reading: How To Stop Chronic Anxiety
What Are You Avoiding
The behavioral problem for people with social anxiety is the tendency to avoid anxiety-provoking situations. When a socially anxious individual anticipates going to a party, she becomes quite anxiousbut, then, decides not to go and the anxiety immediately decreases. This reduction of anxiety with the decision to avoid the party reinforces avoidance . This simple reward for avoidance maintains the fear of negative social evaluation even when the person does not experience humiliation. For example, if I feel anxious thinking about approaching someone and then I decide to avoid talking with them, my anxiety immediately drops. This immediate decrease in anxiety teaches me, In order to feel less anxious, avoid interacting with strangers.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Social Anxiety Disorder
When having to perform in front of or be around others, people with social anxiety disorder tend to:
- Blush, sweat, tremble, feel a rapid heart rate, or feel their mind going blank
- Feel nauseous or sick to their stomach
- Show a rigid body posture, make little eye contact, or speak with an overly soft voice
- Find it scary and difficult to be with other people, especially those they dont already know, and have a hard time talking to them even though they wish they could
- Be very self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed and awkward
- Be very afraid that other people will judge them
- Stay away from places where there are other people
Stay Up To Date On Current Events
Read up on current trends and news stories so you have something to talk about with people.
Try to avoid anything that is too controversial, such as politics, but do talk about other news stories that may be of interest.
It can be a great way to start a conversation and can help you stick to neutral subjects.
How Is Social Anxiety Disorder Treated
First, talk to your doctor or health care professional about your symptoms. Your doctor should do an exam and ask you about your health history to make sure that an unrelated physical problem is not causing your symptoms. Your doctor may refer you to a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical social worker, or counselor. The first step to effective treatment is to have a diagnosis made, usually by a mental health specialist.
Social anxiety disorder is generally treated with psychotherapy , medication, or both. Speak with your doctor or health care provider about the best treatment for you. If your health care provider cannot provide a referral, visit the NIMH Help for Mental Illnesses web page at www.nimh.nih.gov/findhelp for resources you may find helpful.
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.
Strategy : Focus On Your Breathing
First, lets just make it known that breathing strategies are not something you use only when you are anxious. Healthy breathing habits that are done all day every day will help reduce anxiety.
Lets Apply It:
Experiment 1: Get your smartphone out and set your timer to 3 minutes.
Slouch your posture and breath fast, shallow breaths into your upper chest.
After three minutes, reflect on how you feel.
Ask yourself how your emotional state changed.
Experiment 2: Now that you have gotten yourself all worked up, set your timer again to 3 minutes.
This time, take 4-3-4 breaths into and out of your stomach.
Focus your mind on something you find comforting and peaceful. At the end of this time, reflect on how you now feel.
How much change do you feel in only three minutes of breathing in a healthy way?
Adopt A Healthy Lifestyle
The food we eat, the drinks we consume, and the thoughts we have can impact our anxiety levels.
Research suggests that a poor lifestyle can impact your ability to manage anxiety symptoms. It can also hurt your self-confidence.
So, adopting a healthy lifestyle is one way to deal with social anxiety. By making a few of the following changes, you can begin to see improvements in your health and anxiety levels.
Links to Related Articles & Research
How To Practice Deep Breathing
When in social situations, make sure that you are breathing the way that you practiced. In time, this way of breathing will become automatic.
Strategy : Process The World From The Inside Out
People who struggle with social anxiety are often concerned about negative thoughts, judgments, comments, intentions of the people around them.
Trying to know what is inside of other peoples minds can lead to unhealthy patterns of thought like catastrophizing, personalizing, fortune-telling, and mind-reading.
These things often have one thing in common.
People with social anxiety think that if they knew for sure that the people around them really accepted them, their anxiety would go away.
But why would acceptance resolve anxiety?
Many times the anxious person believes that if they are accepted by others, they must be acceptable as a person.
This is to say that some people with anxiety look to other people to tell them who they are.
This is an unhelpful way of thinking.
When you look to others to tell you who you are, you are asking people on the outside to tell you who you are on the inside.
Well call this Outside-In Defining.
Outside-In Defining is a real problem because as soon as anyone decides they dont like you, you consider yourself an unlikeable person.
When someone thinks you failed at something, then you think you must be a failure.
According to this way of thinking, at any moment one persons negative assessment of you would forever make you a weirdo, a failure, worthless, or stupid.
No wonder social anxiety is out of control.
So whats the solution?
Accept the Motto: What other people think of me is none of my business
Lets Apply It:
Identify And Replace Negative Thoughts
If you have a lot of negative thoughts about your social interactions, it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
For example, a person who thinks, Im really awkward and I will embarrass myself, may sit in the corner at a party. As a result, he may leave the party thinking that he must be really awkward because no one talked to him.
Identify negative thoughts that are likely dragging you down. Replace them with more realistic thoughts such as, I can make conversation and I can meet new people.
Dont allow yourself to dwell on thoughts that arent productive! Find out How Not to Let Negative Thoughts Trump the Positive Vibes.
Good social skills are essential for effective communication. If you find socializing with others a challenge, start to take on my suggestions and practice each of them consistently.
Great social skills dont come easily, you need to practice yourself and really try these tips by talking with others.
Give Yourself A Pep Talk
Work anxiety is often rooted in fear the fear that you’ll mess up, embarrass yourself, or bother your coworkers. Though it can be easy to let those thoughts dominate your time in the office, Wind challenges you to kick any negativity to the curb. “Don’t fixate on thoughts that you’re going to fail your interview or bomb the presentation,” he explains. “Don’t let your inner critic tell you that you’re the only problem in this situation. The workplace is a stressful setting for everyone.”
Instead of worrying about that big presentation, remind yourself that you’re thoroughly prepared and know what you’re talking about. Or, if you’re nervous about meeting new coworkers, remember that all you have to do is be yourself .
If you want to keep that positivity going all day long, recite a mantra when you’re feeling a little tense. Not only can a mantra put your mind at ease, but it can also let you hit the fresh button on any anxious thoughts.
Tips For Tackling Social Situations
Socially anxious people tend to avoid interactions. Even when they do muster up the courage to attend a social gathering, they avoid speaking up. Here, a few tactics for making small talk.
Get out of your head. Socially anxious people tend to be very much in their own heads, says Cohen. It may be focusing on negative, self-critical thoughts or imagining that the people they’re interacting with are having critical thoughts of them. Or they may start desperately scripting their thoughts trying to figure out, What do I say next? instead of actually listening to what the other person is saying.
The irony is, when we’re overly concerned about how we’re coming off, we’re going to come off less well because we’re distracted, says Cohen. Be curious and ask questions. The secret to a good conversation is to make the other person feel interesting.
“And if you’re the one speaking, Cohen adds, get absorbed in what you’re saying as opposed to critiquing how you’re coming across.”
Another crafty way to cut things off while looking super-considerate: Simply say, I’ll let you go, a polite acknowledgment that you’d love nothing more than to hear all about the other person’s grandkids but don’t want to deprive the other guests of hearing their entertaining stories.
What Does Social Anxiety Look Like
Some individuals with social anxiety cant eat in front of other people, avoid public places where they may be forced into conversations with strangers, and loathe public speaking, Many teens and young adults with ADHD are susceptible to social anxiety due to executive functioning challenges that impair emotional control, working memory, and self-awareness . They may avoid specific triggering situations such as in-person classes or feel intensely nervous and uncomfortable in any social environment.
Strategy : Engage Your Fears
As we know, anxiety tells you to RUN AWAY. Anxiety wants you to think the more you avoid the thing you fear, the less fear you will experience.
This is not what actually happens.
In the short run, you feel less fear.
In the long run, the less you are exposed to the thing you are afraid of, the bigger it seems.
Over time, your fear can take over your life.
So what do you do about this?
You must engage your fear, little by little.
In counseling, this is called exposure therapy.
Begin by writing down the things you could do that would cause the least and most anxiety.
Once you have these anxiety causing behaviors in order from least to greatest, you begin by engaging with the least scary thing on the scale.
Right now, take a few moments to list some things that cause you anxiety using the diagram below.
I have filled in some examples to get you thinking.
1 Low Anxiety Behavior:__________
5 Moderate Anxiety Behaviors: _________
10 High Anxiety Behaviors:__
Once you have made your list of things that cause anxiety, dedicate yourself to mastering the low end of the scale.
You want to challenge yourself, but dont go too quickly either.