Understanding the symptoms of social anxiety is the first step to overcoming it. There are some common symptoms or experiences of social anxiety that go along with the physical symptoms we may experience with Anxiety.
Excessive self-consciousness and anxiety in everyday social situations that generally others would not find overly stressful.
Extreme worry about social situations for days, weeks, or even months beforehand.
Intense fear of being watched or judged by others, especially people you do not know.
Avoiding social situations to a degree that limits your activities or disrupts or otherwise negatively impacts your life.
Fear of humiliation.
Fear that others will notice that you are nervous and react negatively.
Learn to recognize your triggers. Different people with social anxiety have different triggers, although many are pretty common. By knowing what causes you to react with anxiety, you can start to process these experiences in a more positive manner. It may be obvious, or sometimes seemingly random. Sometimes keeping a journal can help pinpoint common experiences. Do certain people, places or events trigger your anxiety?
Facing your Fears
It’s normal to want to avoid situations that cause you anxiety. Avoiding feared social situations is a very effective strategy because it reduces anxiety in the short-term. However, avoiding social situations increases your fear in the long-term because it prevents you from learning that your feared expectations are either unlikely to actually happen or aren’t as bad as you think. Therefore, an important step in managing your social anxiety is to face the situations that you have been avoiding because of social fears. Repeatedly facing those situations reduces distress in the long-term and helps build up confidence.
First, make a list of the social situations that you fear (e.g., saying “hi” to a co-worker, asking a stranger for directions, making a phone call, etc.). Refer back to the list you made when you spent some time observing your social anxiety and identifying the situations that cause you anxiety). Common types of feared social situations include public speaking, informal socializing, being assertive, dealing with conflict, being the center of attention, eating and drinking in front of others, speaking to authority figures, and interacting with unfamiliar people. Once you have a list, try and arrange them from the least scary to the scariest. Starting with the least scary situation, repeat that activity or enter that social situation (for example, saying “hi” to a co-worker every morning) until you start to feel less anxious doing it. Once you can enter that situation without experiencing much anxiety (on numerous occasions), move on to the next situation on the list.
Practice relaxation techniques. If you’re struggling to feel comfortable in new social situations, learn ways to relax. Meditation and exercises like yoga and tai chi are techniques you can use to calm down and prepare yourself to face your challenges calmly.
If you carry tension in your muscles, tighten your whole body for three seconds (including your hands, feet, jaw, neck, etc.), then release. Do this two more times and feel the tension leave your body.
Learn to recognize your body overreacting to feelings of anxiety and immediately practice calming yourself in those situations.
Use breathing techniques. People who suffer from social anxiety often find themselves in situations where their panic gets the better of them and they have difficulty breathing. In this situation, one of the best ways to regain control and calm your mind is just to focus on your breathing.
Inhale deeply through the nose for six seconds. Feel the breath moving down through your chest, into the pit of your stomach.
As you breathe focus solely on the movement of air in and out of your body.
Exhale slowly through your mouth for another six seconds. Repeat this exercise until you begin to feel calm again.
Find a word or phrase or song that inspires you, and adopt it as your mantra. Something you can come back to when you’re anxious.
Surround yourself with supportive friends who will help you accomplish your goals.
Karen is a great listener and a solid shoulder to lean on. She has a degree in History and English and a diploma in Counselling Skills. She struggles with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression. She understands the importance of having someone to talk to about your struggles. She loves singing, researching her genealogy, cheering for her favorite hockey teams, swimming, hiking and spending time with friends.
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