10 Ways to Overcome Social Anxiety
Posted Oct 30, 2019
Social anxiety is a lot like a monkey on your back. It’s a constant, distracting presence disrupting your social life. It makes the very important activity of connecting with others extremely challenging. If you, like many others, struggle with social anxiety, take the time to read the suggestions in this article carefully.
Many people struggle with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). Thankfully, recently developed treatments have been shown to reduce SAD. You can experience change, too. Change begins with becoming aware of what you are feeling, why you are feeling that way, and how that feeling affects your behavior and thinking. Below are steps to help you manage and even thrive in the face of social anxiety.
Awareness: It is imperative that you become aware of what you are feeling, why you are feeling that way, and what triggers that feeling. The following are good "starter" questions to help you gain an understanding of what causes your social anxiety, what are the triggers.
- What is it about social interaction that causes you anxiety?
- Are you better in big groups or one-on-one settings?
- When uncomfortable, how do you react to others?
Knowledge will empower positive change. Be honest with yourself about what triggers anxiety in social situations. Humble and honest self-awareness will help you problem where you struggle.
Oz Behind the Curtain: Believe it or not, but most other people are feeling anxious, too. You are not abnormal for feeling anxious. It's normal to feel apprehensive. It's normal to be nervous around new people. It's normal. We all feel it at times. Stop judging yourself that you are abnormal because you get anxious in social settings. It is normal to feel uncomfortable in social situations; you are not a freak, and you are not alone.
Attention: If others are consumed by their own anxiety just as you are, then their attention is absorbed by their own worries and insecurities. They're not scrutinizing your outfit, slip of the tongue, or time of arrival. They are focused on themselves, just as you are focused on yourself. So, relax. Take a load off your mind and try to enjoy the gathering.
Faux Pas Recovery: Saying the wrong thing, being inarticulate, being a klutz, or acting awkward is not an unforgivable sin in a social situation. You can recover from a social faux pas. It is your belief that faux pas are unforgivable that is the problem.
People flub all the time; it’s totally normal. Give yourself some grace and allow yourself the opportunity to recover from a social misstep. People are far more forgiving than you give them credit for, and for good reason because we've all erred socially.
Own It: If you are an awkward person who gets anxious in social settings, then own it! Embrace who you are. Stop running from it. Be your awkward, awesome self! Self-acceptance is a powerful and liberating mindset. Others will sense your self-acceptance, which may also free them up too. You could be a change agent!
Habit Building: Anxiety is not a death sentence. Change is possible. Every day people are able to change emotional and behavioral patterns. There are effective coping strategies and skills to manage anxiety. Your situation is not hopeless; you just need skills. Build these habits and practice them consistently.
- Self-Talk: Coach yourself through social interactions with encouragement and grace.
- Deep Breathing: Regulate your nervous system with slow and calm breathing.
- Social Skills: Learn people's names, make jokes, and show interest in others by asking questions. Use these social skills to become more effective and reduce your anxiety.
Don’t Drink That Hater-Ade: If you know someone who is comfortable in social situations, who doesn’t struggle with the anxiety you struggle with, don’t hate them. Be glad for them, and then focus on what you need to do in order to improve.
Start Small, Go Big: Challenge yourself to engage with your fears. Pick a small, risky social situation, and use emotional self-regulation skills to manage the discomfort. Once you overcome your fears at that level of risk, then take on a riskier situation until you’ve become comfortable in most social settings.
Don’t Give Up: Overcoming social discomfort can be hard. It can feel like two steps forward, three steps back. But don’t let this deter you. There’s a process that you must engage with. “Trust the process,” as they say. The process of trying new things, stumbling, getting back up, and trying again leads to good things.
Celebrate Your Victories: Don’t forget to celebrate your victories. It’s easy to develop a negative perspective. Take the high road; choose to give equal attention to the good and not just the bad. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small.
Overcoming social discomfort can be hard. It can feel like two steps forward, three steps back. But don’t let that kill your motivation, don't let the monkey on your back win. Embrace failure and learn from it.
Clark, D. M., Ehlers, A., Hackman, A., McManus, F., Fennell, M., Grey, N., Waddington, L., Wild, J. (2006). Cognitive therapy versus exposure and applied relaxation in social phobia: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74: 568-578.