How to Overcome Social Anxiety – Tips for Defeating Your Social Anxiety
Anna Jackson and Eric Patterson offer their tips and advice on how to overcome social anxiety.
You witness other people interacting with a deep sense of sadness or frustration — their conversations seem so natural, seamless, and enjoyable. Meanwhile, your socialization is an exhibition of discomfort, anxiety, and disappointment.
More times than not, though, you find yourself avoiding all contact entirely. Why start an interaction when it will certainly end badly?
If social situations and relationships create large amounts of stress, worry, and fear, it could mean that you have social anxiety. If left alone, social anxiety will grow and intensify. Your best option is to resist and battle the enemy.
What Is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is the fear of social situations, interacting with other people and the fear of being negatively judged by others.
Some of the most common triggers of social anxiety are:
- Meeting new people
- Being the center of attention
- Being watched closely
- Public speaking
- Making phone calls
- Being criticized
- Attending social gatherings
Social anxiety is more than just shyness. The fear and self-consciousness felt by those with social anxiety can be incredibly overwhelming.
Symptoms of social anxiety may include:
- Racing heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
Anna's Experience With Social Anxiety
I can speak from experience when it comes to social anxiety and I can sympathize deeply with those affected by it because I know what anxiety feels like.
I remember vividly, being at a party for a friend, surrounded by people I knew and had talked with countless times before and yet I was struggling to utter even the most simple of greetings.
It felt like I had lost the ability to speak, instead of letting myself flow with the conversation, I was second-guessing everything I wanted to say out of fear that I would sound stupid or what I had to say wasn’t interesting or intelligent enough.
Another thing I started to worry about was my appearance. I’d been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease nine months earlier and had been on an intense course of corticosteroids, which had some physical side effects.
My Social Anxiety Worsened
I was convinced that everyone was looking at me and judging me negatively. I left that party early, and I started to avoid all forms of social interactions.
Avoiding social situations didn’t help at all; in fact, it only made my social anxiety worse and only amplified the fears that I felt over time. Along with all the mental stresses, I was going through, physical symptoms also began to present themselves.
For me, one of the worst physical symptoms was a racing heart. This would not only happen before a social situation but also alone in the comfort of my own home. Concerned with the effects my anxiety was having on my physical health, I made the decision to go and see my doctor.
There are many different treatments for social anxiety, and I believe the most important thing to remember is to find the right treatment that works for you. Discuss all treatment options with your doctor, you have a say in what you choose to try and what you are comfortable with.
14 Tips on How to Overcome Social Anxiety in Any Situation
1. Acknowledge and Assess the Problem
To begin to overcome social anxiety, you must have a solid understanding of your current status.
What situations make you anxious? Is it challenging to speak to people, meet new people, or even be out in public? How long has your social anxiety been an issue? Was there a significant event that sparked your anxiety symptoms?
The answers to these questions will illustrate just how good or bad your social anxiety is. Before treating your anxiety, it is worthwhile to consult with your doctor for physical factors contributing to your stress.
For cases of extreme anxiety or symptoms triggered by a traumatic event, the greatest tip will be to seek out professional mental health treatment from a psychiatrist or counselor. If your anxiety seems manageable, move on to step two.
2. Plan Your Goal
Now that you have an appreciation of your anxiety, you can begin planning your goal. Frequently, people make the mistake of setting overly general goals for themselves like, “I want to be completely comfortable speaking to people.”
That might seem like a good goal, but it is impractical and impossible to measure. The majority of people experience some stress when meeting new people or speaking in groups.
You don’t have to be exceptional. You just have to improve from your present standing. Consider setting goals focused on changing your behaviors like completing a certain amount of practice each week.
3. Believe In Yourself
You have a goal — do you believe you can achieve it? Do you think change is possible? As long as you think your goal is realistic, you must trust in your ability to accomplish it.
Without a high level of confidence, the change you desire will never happen. The best way to build confidence is by adjusting your thinking patterns.
Rather than being negative and having thoughts full of self-doubt, interject thoughts that are hopeful and optimistic. Remind yourself that you are a powerful, determined person who is capable of great things. Good self-esteem is related to low social anxiety.
With your changing thoughts, you can now begin changing your behaviors to reduce your resting anxiety. Relaxation techniques are effective in most anxiety-provoking situations, especially with social anxiety.
Use relaxation in two ways: first, before your social event, practice relaxing your body with deep breathing, guided imagery, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and other proven strategies to drop your overall anxiety level.
When the situation ends, perform the same techniques or others as a method of damage control. With social anxiety, your stress levels will spike. Relaxation techniques give you the power to bring them back down.