Simple Tips for Coping with Social Anxiety
You enter a party where you don’t know many people and you end up standing by the snack table, clutching your drink like a safety net. You see a group of people chatting casually and you’d like to join their conversation. As you approach, your heart starts beating fast, your breath feels shallow and you have difficulty forming coherent thoughts on what you want to say.
“What if I say the wrong thing? What if what I say is boring? What if people think I have no idea what I’m talking about?”
By the time you’re ready to jump in with a contribution, the conversation has moved on to a new topic and the loop of your internal dialogue starts all over again!
Does this sound like you? Welcome to the “Social Anxiety Club”!
Social Anxiety, as described above, is more common than you might think! Typically, social situations almost always provoke fear or anxiety for those with symptoms. Considering that life is a social place and searching for the feeling of belonging is in our human DNA, someone who feels the fear and anxiety during these social situations might be at a loss for how to handle the anxiety they feel…
Here are some suggestions for strategies to deal with these symptoms:
1) Deep Breathing – Focus your mind on breathing long, nourishing deep breaths. Try to breath in for a count of 3, hold for a count of 3, then exhale for a count of 3. Practicing deep breathing techniques when you are calm, before you head to the party or social gathering, will help your brain to associate the feelings of safety and calm with the deep breathing exercise, allowing your mind to recreate these feelings in the moment that you’re feeling anxious.
2) Positive Self-Talk – Being able to call up a positive thought about yourself when you feel anxious can be really useful. Typically, social anxiety causes you to focus on the idea that others will judge you negatively. If you can remind yourself of a positive thought in the moment, focusing on the positive rather than allowing your mind to spiral into the negative, it can help to alleviate some of the fear and anxiety.
3) Exit Strategy – Have a pre-existing reason to leave in your mind (e.g., homework, studying, etc.). Setting up a plan in your mind before you attend a social situation may help alleviate the symptoms of Social Anxiety. If you know there is a way out, there is less stress on you to figure one out in the moment if your symptoms become too overwhelming. The best part of this tip is that you may not even end up using it! Simply having an “Plan B” exit strategy sometimes makes us feel comfortable enough to stick around and enjoy the party, since it allows our mind to counteract the irrational thought that we are “trapped” in the social situation.
These are just a few options for dealing with the many social stressors that exist while adulting. I hope you will find encouragement in these options and discover that you are not alone in struggling to deal with your symptoms of Social Anxiety.