Imagine you are about to meet a colleague from work. Thinking of it makes your heart pound hard and fast, followed by a shaky, husky voice, dry mouth, and sweating, blushing, dry mouth and even worse, a stomach upset.
In reality, it is probably easier to just cancel the meeting altogether. Social anxiety is much more than just feeling shy, there is the aspect of panic creeping in and interacting with people feels like a task.
By definition, social anxiety is nervousness in anticipation of a social event or either before or after a social situation. This anxiety makes life unbearable. It deprives you of the excitement of meeting new people and interacting with others. But exactly how do you cope with social anxiety?
Coping with social anxiety
Probably not what anyone struggling with social phobia will want to hear but the best and only way to deal with social anxiety is learning how to remain calm and composed in social settings. When you become comfortable socially, you no longer have negative ‘panicky’ thoughts such as “What will I say?” You allow the conversation to take its natural course while you just go with it without necessarily feeling obliged to force it.
Feeling relaxed is the only way to beat social phobia and by following these 5 key steps, you will commence your journey to becoming a confident social-phobia free individual.
1. Stay relaxed and practice being that way
Although unknown to many, worrying is self-programmed. If you remain anxiously fixated about an imminent social situation, you continually link worry to it and in the end, you approach the situation feeling anxious-which is how you initially programmed yourself to feel.
To alter this response, take a time to think about an upcoming event in a relaxed mode; maybe while sitting comfortably in a chair or relaxing in a bath. Picture yourself relaxed in this event and in control of things looking all confident then repeatedly do this. Why? For both your mind and body to automatically register a better and positive link to the events.
2. Don’t retract or hide in your shell, instead approach every social situation
Imagine having lived in a home for a long period of time but having never gone to a particular section of the house or room. On finally going to this section/room, will you not feel a little nervous?
Every time we avoid something, the unconscious mind registers it as ‘dangerous’ and the mind in response slowly creates fear for whatever you are avoiding. Naturally, as a kid, you fear darkness because it may purportedly have ‘ghosts’.
To overcome this, however, expose yourself to some of these social settings; not just by attending but also by imagining your attendance which will create a sense of ‘normal’ or ‘safe’ in your sub-conscious mind.
3. Keep a rational outlook and cultivate an outward focus
Research has identified an interesting fact, individuals that credit themselves as shy tend to have a poor recollection of details in the external settings simply because they focus is more on their feelings (inward). This justifies that looking outwards will suppress anxiety.
In all social settings you attend, make a point of noting at least two aspects of the settings like ‘what people are wearing’, ‘color of particular items’ and so on.
It will divert you from focusing on yourself which in actuality is why there are social events.
One other strategy you can apply to promote outward focus is through asking questions. Rather than worrying about how people perceive you-which is what Social anxiety normally has its victims thinking of-shift your attention to other people. Be inquisitive, ask questions that inspire more than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. A bonus for you will be the many numbers of friends you form in the process.
4. Be cautious: don’t let your imagination run away with you
Applied in the right manner, the imagination can do wonders! Nonetheless, with social anxiety, your imagination can have you eliciting worry and panic. One of the things you do not want to be doing is trying to imagine how others perceive you. In such a scenario, tell the truth to yourself and as your confidence improves; you will worry less about perceptions anyway.
To alter a behavior, your mind needs to be fed with constructive instructions. Rather than ‘hoping’, you do not fall into the trap of getting anxious, focus on how you want to feel in these settings and make it a habit.
You can identify a ‘target feeling’ by referring back to instances where you were relaxed in a social situation and use them as a reference to how you would want your mind to act in similar situations.
All this, however, can only be done by mind rehearsals when in a relaxed mood, you can begin by closing your eyes to avoid distractions and promote optimal concentration and try to recollect the feeling of being around people and not panicking then over time, it can build your confidence and become a norm.
5. Establish objective behavior targets
Typically, every time people feel anxious, they are inclined to discrediting the positive. Although they may even perform better, their anxious feelings, however, make them view the performance as dismal which is why it is recommended for people to set behavioral targets. One example of a target would be making at least 2 comments in a group meeting.
The focus is not whether you felt anxious, but that you actually completed a behavior. With these objectives, you are well able to assess your progress. Forget people’s perception, the important thing is that you actually spoke up or asked a question; you did as you pleased, which is the first step to confidence in yourself.
No situation is too deep to recover from. If you are constantly worrying about making a wrong move or getting embarrassed, then you are not living life, but seeking perfection. Yes, perfection is fine but only if you are a surgeon and not when you are about to ask a question or attending a ceremony. Surprisingly, even the extremely confident people have occasions where they have acted weird or been unsure of themselves; the difference, however, is that even in such circumstances they are calm. Don’t let social anxiety deprive you of the joys of life, with these five strategies, you can easily cope and overcome social phobia.