Whatever your views on Coronavirus, the lockdown restrictions have been easing and slowly our social lives are starting to return to levels before the pandemic. For some of us that is great, a welcome return. For others, the prospect of going out socially was extremely anxiety-provoking and filled them with dread. For some, this changing situation can induce social anxiety that may be new or could always have been present.
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is nervousness and fear in or around, social situations. It can also include a fear of being judged by others.
Some symptoms include:
Worrying about interacting with people
Low self-confidence and self-esteem
Avoiding eye Contact or physical contact
However, humans generally need connection with others, it is vital for our well-being and survival. Social connection can help with anxiety, negative thoughts, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and improve our immune systems.
So how can you overcome social anxiety? Here are 13 top tips to help you.
Think about when you feel most anxious. Are there particular social situations or places that you don’t feel comfortable in. If you can work this out, then it can help to find solutions. Keeping a journal of these situations and the physical symptoms that you experience during those situations can help you to look at them more objectively.
Try a small step to ease you into social situations. For example, start by meeting friends or family online before you meet them in person. You could also let your family know what you are trying to achieve so they can support you.
Challenge Negative thoughts
Instead of worrying about what could go wrong, start focusing on what could go right. When you feel overwhelmed by thoughts, try to challenge them and replace them with more realistic and logical thoughts.
Keep things in perspective and remember, even if you do make a social mistake, there is a big chance that people will offer empathy and compassion.
It’s ok to be nervous
It’s OK to say, “I am nervous” and let others know that you are struggling. Once people know they may surprise you with their kindness. And don’t forget, there will be other people who feel exactly the same way as you so be honest and tell people.
Write it down
Sometimes putting your thoughts down on paper can help clarify your thoughts. Write down all of the negative and fearful thoughts, feelings and behaviours that you have. Read them, at the same time imagine that a friend or loved one had written them. Then empathise and think about what you would say to the person who has fears. What kind words would you say and then imagine saying those words to yourself.
You can also reframe all of the fearful thoughts, feelings and behaviours by writing them down and then write positive statements and words on a separate piece of paper, then scrap the original fearful thoughts and feel your thoughts become lighter.
Perfect doesn’t exist
Everything that you say and do does not have to be perfect. Make a point of being imperfect and taking chances for a day.
Some people with social anxiety are natural introverts. Be comfortable with who you are and, if you enjoy spending time alone rather than in the company of others, continue to do this. However, rather than alone time being due to fear, make it an active, healthy, self-aware choice.
Work with your strengths
Putting yourself out there socially involves stepping out of your comfort zone. Start socialising through subject areas you are interested in, so there is still an element of comfort.
For example, if you like art, try and visit an art gallery.
It’s your future
There are often several contributing factors to social anxiety disorder, which include genetic predisposition, past events and environment. When you can accept full responsibility for your future, you start to notice what is in your control and what you can do. Don’t try to control anything, it’s impossible to control life
Set yourself outcomes and goals and hold yourself to account with someone. This can be great for motivation and checking how far you’ve come. Pick someone you trust and who can guide you. They can be a friend or a professional, for example, a Counsellor.
Join a support group
Whether you join a face to face or online group, belonging to a group can really help some of us. You can motivate and be kind to each other.
Keep on going
Keep trying and accept that it might not all work out first time around. However, if you keep trying, you will get there in the end, whatever your end goal is. Overcoming social anxiety is a new skill to learn and it might take a while to full master it. And don’t get disheartened by setbacks. It’s all perfectly normal to have a few bumps along the way.
Celebrate the wins
All too often, we don’t take time to celebrate our wins. Wins tell us we’ve achieved something and they can be as small or large as you want. For some of us, getting up and dressed is a win, for others, it’s singing in a West End show. It’s all about what is a win for you and only you. You might start with going to a shopping centre on your own and then build up to a meal in a restaurant. Find your own path and enjoy the journey.