By Abbey Zabielo (UWS Psychology Student)
Struggling with social anxiety can make you feel like a prisoner in your own body. You can feel trapped. You can feel like you don’t belong. You want to have social interactions. You want to go out, conversate and make friends. But it feels nearly impossible.
You sweat. You overthink. You’re constantly having limiting beliefs and thinking negative affirmations to yourself. You’ve spent so many years believing bad things about yourself and thinking that they were true.
You have sat back. You have watched people. You have listened to people and said to yourself; ‘Why is it so easy for them”. You’ve thought you would never find good friendships, a healthy relationship or be able to overcome your social anxiety.
But, life doesn’t have to be this way.
Social anxiety can be intense and can be beyond your control.
For some people, this fear may stop you from going to work, attending school, raising your hand in class or even just speaking to people. Other people may be able to accomplish these activities, but experience a great deal of fear or anxiety when they do.
People with this disorder, may also worry about engaging in social situations for weeks before they happen. They may overthink and panic. Their heart rate might accelerated when the thought of it comes to mind. They may constantly check to see who will be attending to a social event and who is not. Sometimes, avoiding places or events that cause distress or generate negative feelings is the easiest way to cope.
But again, life doesn’t have to be this way.
There are various ways to help support yourself and others who may experience social anxiety. Coping mechanisms and strategies can include:
- Controlling your breathing
Sit down in a comfortable position with your back straight. Relax your shoulders and breathe in slowly through your nose. Repeat this several times until you feel relaxed.
- Try Exercise or Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Research shows that certain physical activities like jogging, walking, yoga and stretching can help lower your anxiety and improve mood.
Plan ahead for social situations that make you nervous. This can help you feel more confident. You might feel the urge to avoid some situations because they make you anxious. Instead, try to prepare for what’s to come.
- Start Small
Don’t jump into big social situations. Schedule restaurant meals with friends or family members so you can get used to eating in public. Try going out of your way to make eye contact with people on the street or at the grocery store and say hello.
- Take the Focus Off Yourself
Try shifting your attention to what’s happening around you instead of what’s inside your head. You can do this by really listening to the conversation that’s happening.
- Talk Back to Negative Thoughts
These thoughts may be automatic. They might be about people or situations. Most of the time, they’re wrong. You can use a pen and paper to write all of the negative thoughts down. You then can write down the positive thoughts that challenge the negative ones. This technique will help.
- Use Your Senses
Your senses can help calm you down in the moment when you’re feeling anxious. For example, looking at a favourite photograph, listening to your favourite song, cuddling your pet, reading a book or smelling a certain scent can help.
Remember, you’re not alone.
Psychologists can provide effective, evidence-based interventions and supports to help individuals diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. Our Solutions in Mind team can help.
If you would like support in this please give us a call (02) 4722 9097.