How do I overcome social anxiety?

Some background, some drama

You want to meet people, make friends and share yourself with the world, but social interactions can be especially intimidating for people who struggle with social anxiety. While many people feel nervous before an important event, social anxiety interferes with your normal routine and causes tremendous distress on a regular basis. You may constantly doubt your social adequacy and worry about receiving a negative evaluation. Social phobia can spoil one’s life unless appropriate steps are not taken to get it under control.

Do’s and Don’ts

Social anxiety gets in the way of what should be fun opportunities to meet and connect with others. Crippling self-consciousness, nervousness or not knowing what to say: all add to the disagreeable mix. The “How Do I" series tries to list down a few Do’s and don’ts to guide and help you to overcome social anxiety.

Do’s

  • Understand the symptoms of social anxiety, such as self-consciousness, extreme worry, intense fear, etc. as well as the physical symptoms, such as nausea, blushing, shortness of breath, shaky voice, excessive sweating, etc.
  • Pay attention to situations you avoid. Start to process these experiences in a more positive manner.
  • Face your fears. Although, difficult this is something you must do to overcome your anxiety.
  • Write down a list of situations that trigger social anxiety and make a goal to tackle each one in the list.
  • Practice relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercises.
  • Change your diet. Stimulants, such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine can increase anxiety symptoms.
  • Identify and challenge negative thoughts so that you can tackle them to avoid social anxiety. Use positive affirmations.
  • Be well prepared for social situations and interactions.
  • Ask friends or family members for help if need be. Expand your social circle. The more you meet, the more you will overcome social anxiety.
  • Make an appointment with a therapist if you need help.
  • Practice anxiety and stress management techniques. Do join a support group if required.
  • Do take appropriate medications if required.

Dont’s

  • Don’t fear being judged. Anxiety comes from feelings of being judged. Assign less value to the responses of others.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no. Agreeing to something you can't or don't really want to do can cause stress and resentment.
  • Don’t focus only on your flaws. Feel confident and express your good qualities.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek help: friends, family, colleagues or even a counsellor or therapist.
  • Don’t be overly dependent on medications. Medicine is generally used alongside therapy and self-help techniques.
  • Don’t let fear control your life.
  • Don’t force yourself into fighting the fear overnight. Excessive anxiety will not disappear overnight.
  • Don’t turn to bad habits to relieve the stress, tension, and anxiety. They will only relieve the stress and fear temporarily, but not help in overcoming anxiety.

Last words

If social anxiety is sabotaging your goals and stopping you from living the life you want, seek help. Social anxiety is highly treatable. You can get better and grow in the process. Yes, most people sometimes get a little self-conscious or feel somewhat shy around others, but social phobia significantly worsens the quality of life. Once you become more socially confident, you open the door to so much – new job opportunities, new friendships and, basically, more fun.

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