Whether you want it to or not, social anxiety can creep into every aspect of your life.
When you are at work, you struggle to connect with coworkers and clients. At home, you prefer to stay in your house, flat or room, rather than step out into the wider world.
The result is that you are always feeling stress, which takes a toll on both your emotional and physical health.
5 top-tips for overcoming social anxiety
However, you can better cope with social anxiety by using these five must-have self-help strategies.
1. Redirect your attention
Just like with many forms of anxiety, it is easy to become hyper-focused with social anxiety. Another way to describe this phenomenon is tunnel vision. When you start to feel anxious, you immediately, automatically, lock-in on the source of your stress. The more you focus on it, the more your anxiety grows. The more it grows, the more attention you focus on it. It soon becomes a vicious circle, spiralling out of control.
And, such anxieties don’t just occur with unexpected things. It’s often something that you are expecting to happen that triggers your social anxiety. For example, you have been invited to a party which requires you to interact with other people. You are dreading this moment, but you can’t get out of it.
Instead of hyper-focusing on it, try distracting yourself from this anticipatory anxiety by:
- Reading a book
- Taking a walk
- Playing a game
- Practising a craft, such as woodworking or knitting
Of course, such distraction techniques won’t make the problem go away. However, once you have diverted your focus, you will begin to feel less anxious. Then, you will be in a better place to address the problem and consider other ways to cope.
2. Learn breathing techniques
Mindful breathing techniques have received a lot of coverage for reducing stress and anxiety. That’s because conscious breathing is a very effective coping strategy.
When you practise focused breathing, you accomplish three things:
- You distract yourself from the anxiety by maintaining focus on your breath.
- By breathing slowly and intentionally, you lower your heart and respiratory rate.
- Slow, deep breathing changes your blood chemistry and sends safety signals to your body, reducing anxiety and feelings of panic.
Breathing exercises are easy to learn and can be applied just about anywhere at any time you feel anxious. One of the simplest is the 5-breath relaxation exercise.
5-breath relaxation exercise
- Sit comfortably, and bring your attention to your breath.
- Now inhale slowly, to a count of five.
- Hold the breath briefly, then breath out to a count of seven.
Repeat for five breaths.
This exercise takes less than a minute, yet it has an immediate effect which lasts a lot longer. Practice it now, when you’re not anxious, so you have it in your toolbox for when you are.
3. Acknowledge your anxiety
It is important when you do feel anxious to acknowledge what you are feeling.
Often, the feelings surrounding social anxiety are overwhelming. They make you want to get as far away from the situation as possible so that they cease. Because of this, you feel out of control.
Yet, you can begin to take back control by acknowledging you feel anxious, and that that’s OK.
The 5-breath relaxation above is a great way to stop and give yourself space to allow your feelings without them overwhelming you. Emotional Freedom Technique (tapping) is another fantastic tool to help you acknowledge your feelings and manage your anxiety.
4. Apply new labels to your thinking
When you become anxious, you identify and label the emotions you are experiencing. We all do this throughout the day, either consciously or not. This labelling helps us to navigate not just social situations, but everything else in life.
For example, if you are late for an appointment, you might feel jittery and rushed, which you recognise and label as feeling stressed.
However, many feelings are very similar to others, and anxiety is closely linked to excitement. Consider a thrill-ride at a fun-fair. Most people will approach a roller-coaster with a mixture of excitement and fear. They are two sides of the same coin, but the one you focus most upon tends to win. So, when you feel start to feel anxious, try using different a label to describe what you are experiencing. For instance, feeling “revved up” as opposed feeling “anxious.” You might be surprised how such a small change can have a big impact!
5. Be Compassionate with yourself and stay positive
Social anxiety can be so crippling, and it’s easy to give yourself a hard time over it. You might question why you feel this way while others do not, putting yourself down in the process. Such thinking often makes you feel inadequate, different, isolated, and alone.
However, it is important to be compassionate and kind to yourself. What would you say to a friend experiencing the same anxiety? Would you be so hard on them? Try to find some joy each day and keep a positive attitude. You can even give yourself permission to laugh and find the humour in having social anxiety.
It’s never easy getting through life with social anxiety. That’s why it’s important to use all the coping strategies listed above. Though, perhaps the most important strategy is to maintain a positive attitude. Doing so allows you to be more open and receptive to other coping strategies so that you can better deal with your social anxiety.
Getting further help
There are many other things that can help you overcome social anxiety, that we cannot cover in a short blog post. Mindfulness, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Lovingkindness can all play a significant role in helping you overcome social anxiety.
Social anxiety can be crippling, but you can overcome it. Call us today, and take the next step to freedom.