Social Anxiety is a form of anxiety that plagues the sufferer with feelings of loneliness, decreased self-esteem and worries over possible future social interactions. It is an extremely common disorder, affecting 18% of those living in the United States. Although social anxiety is a very treatable condition, only about a third of those afflicted seek treatment.
It takes time, patience and often the help of a psychotherapist to treat social anxiety. There are numerous treatment options, but here are some small steps someone with social anxiety can take today that will provide relief and the beginnings of a path toward recovery.
1. Talk to someone you trust
Often talking to someone about your social anxiety is a worry in itself, exposing yourself to the judgement of something that you fear others may view as trivial, but that’s unlikely to reflect the response you will actually receive when you do broach the subject. Even the seemingly most confident people regularly feel awkward and anxious.
Talking to someone about your anxiety is not only relieving for the sufferer but also for the person in whom you are confiding in, it’s likely that they have noticed something isn’t quite right and are actually glad you’re talking to them about it. The simple act of sharing your anxieties and getting things out in the open is a therapeutic process in itself and is an extremely important first step. What’s more is that this sharing is likely to increase the bond you have with your entrusted friend or family member, from now on you know someone understands how you feel and that you will have someone to talk to when needed.
Remember you are not alone in these feelings. If the anxiety is getting out a hand, don’t be afraid to talk to someone about it.
2. Write your feelings down
Journaling is something anyone can do at anytime. It’s a convenient, quick way to have a mini-therapy session without spending time or money on a trained therapist. All you need is a pen and paper.
For social anxiety sufferers, it’s easy to ruminate over thoughts hours after a social interaction. “What did he mean by that?” “Does she think I hate her?” “What were they saying when I walked by them.” By writing them down, you are breaking the thought cycle.
A good exercise is to start with a thought or incident that’s been bothering you and write a free form, letting whatever comes up to come up. It’s a very cathartic and therapeutic experience to be candid and open while journaling. The best part is it can be done in the comfort and privacy of your own home.
3. Practice meditation
When you are in a social situation with social anxiety, it can feel overwhelming. The world can feel like it’s spinning, you can feel you are being swept off your feet, you can also have trouble focusing. Meditation has been proven as an alternative therapy to help focus the mind. In a world where we communicate constantly, it’s essential to allocate time to let your mind wander and relax. Over time you’ll find your quality of conversation with others will improve, and you will feel calmer while in social situations as your new found focus strengthens.
With meditation it’s always best to start with small chunks of time, even 5 minutes a day is a great starting point, concentrating on nothing is more difficult than it sounds so aiming for much longer than 5 minutes per day, to begin with, may be too much. This amount of time can be increased over time as you feel necessary.
4. Give yourself a health MOT
Anxiety is largely connected to your physiological health – panic attacks can often be brought on by shallow breathing that increases the heart rate that can spiral into a physical and psychological knock-on effects that ultimately cause a panicked state. Doing a health check and making lifestyle changes will contribute to helping you recover from social anxiety. This is often an overlooked aspect of social anxiety but can be a big piece to the puzzle.
Ask yourself: How much water do you drink per day? Do you eat healthily? How much exercise are you getting per day? How is your quality of sleep? By paying attention to your physical health, you can adjust accordingly. Drink more water, try some healthy recipes, gluten and dairy diets have been linked to anxiety in some people, try a yoga class and go to bed and hour earlier.
This seems like a lot of work but if you are serious about overcoming your social anxiety be sure to consider how your health is impacting it. Treat it like an experiment to find out what works for you; you might find regular morning exercise gives you that boost you need not to feel so anxious.
5. Do something you love
This is the easiest step you can take but is sometimes hard to remember to do. Doing something you love like a hobby, visiting a friend/family member or even walking a dog can be overlooked in the treatment of anxiety. Social anxiety can often send the sufferer on thought spirals, and worry sessions that last hours. It’s often easier to stay indoors and just try to get through it.
The next time you find yourself worrying over something social related, use it as a cue to do something else you enjoy doing. It can be reading, writing, playing guitar, painting. It will relieve the anxiety you were feeling, and you will train yourself to deal with the worries in a better way.
You can even use things you love as a reward system, survived a social event that you were worried about attending? Reward yourself with a treat to reinforce the positive emotion that you feel from getting through the event.
Marcus regularly blogs at psysci.co a psychology, science and health blog that examines the latest research and explains how findings can impact and help individuals everyday lives. Except his website, you can connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.
My name is Silvia and I teach people how to turn their pain into power. My personal struggle inspired me to help people in living a powerful and fulfilling life which they create and control. You can find out more of my story by visiting my personal page www.silviaturon.com. Also, there is a FREE gift waiting for you. See you there!