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Social Anxiety: What to Do
Social Anxiety: Ways to Cope
Maybe you have had lifelong social anxiety. Or maybe this is new for you, especially since 2020. Either way, if you are familiar with social anxiety, then you might experience feelings of loneliness when it comes to social opportunities and have a hard time making meaningful connections with others.
It’s not abnormal to feel some nervousness when it comes to meeting new people, but how do you know if what you feel is social anxiety? What can you do to feel better and connect with others without fear? Today, you will learn more about social anxiety and how you can learn to cope. (Related article: 3 Principles of Emotional Health).
Some Anxiety is Natural
Unfortunately, as nice as it would be, you will never be able to fully eliminate stress and anxiety from your life. As it turns out, some of your social anxiety is expected and might be a perfectly natural response to your current situation.
For example, maybe you are feeling a lot of anxiety about a big meeting you have coming up at work. You have to speak and create a presentation. You might feel anxious about potential judgment from your coworkers or speaking in front of them. As frustrating as it is to have that sort of social anxiety, it’s also normal and expected. (Related article: Emotions 101). Despite what some may tell you, we will all inevitably experience social anxiety in some form or another.
For this reason, a good first step to overcoming social anxiety is to acknowledge and validate when your anxieties do make sense. If you force yourself to have shame and guilt about expected anxiety in a nerve-wracking situation, you will just add fuel to the fire! Validating your emotions can help you avoid the extra frustration of shame and embarrassment.
What’s the BEST that could happen?
While some situations where you have social anxiety will be logical and reasonable, there will also be situations where your social anxiety isn’t as realistic. (Related Article: Counseling for Anxiety). For instance, maybe you begin to have a recurring thought that you will arrive at your friend’s party tonight, and everyone will notice you are anxious about meeting new people. You imagine all of the people noticing how anxious you are, and every party guest stares at you and whispers to each other.
Now, there are parts of that which might be possible. However, it can be useful to question these thoughts and ideas. To continue with that example, you might begin by thinking about whether people will actually be noticing your anxiety at this party. Or, alternatively, are they worrying about their own anxieties (like you are doing at this very moment!)? How would every single guest notice that you are anxious? Is that possible? (Related article: Just Breathe! Reduce Anxiety with this Simple Exercise).
When it comes to social anxiety, you have probably noticed how easy it is to imagine the absolute worst that could happen. But, that’s where mindfulness can help. Instead, begin to explore the BEST that could happen. What if you walk into this party and everything goes right? You feel confident, and you even make new friends. It might even be fun! The possibility of at least one of these positive outcomes is very high, and might be even higher than your worst case scenarios. Sometimes exploring the best thing that can happen to you can help you avoid worsening anxiety and positively prepare for a stressful situation.
Finding the Reason to Celebrate
When it comes to social anxiety, you can think of yourself in the role of the boss providing constructive feedback. It doesn’t make sense to overwhelm someone with a laundry list of things they did badly. Consider doing the same for yourself after social interactions that make you nervous.
Instead of barraging yourself with a long list of complaints, consider leading with positivity. (Source). What did you do well? Is there something you did better this time, compared to previous interactions? Celebrate growth and things you did well. What were ways you used this experience to overcome fear, even if it was something small? A small step forward is still progress.
Therapy for Social Anxiety
Written by Lauren Adkins