Social anxiety is more common than you may think, and it shows up in many tumultuous and irritating forms. It can range from having a few nerves about interacting with others to being downright fearful that something traumatic or disastrous will happen if you attend a certain event.
You might wonder whether you’ll know anyone at the event, if they’ll like you, if you’ll say something strange, if you’ll be left alone the whole time… Or your brain might go into the worry territory of stressing about something seriously awful happening, like a terrible attack or even tripping down the stairs and getting injured in front of a bunch of strangers.
Social anxiety is highly normal
Before you know it, your mind might spiral into a hundred different, variably bad scenarios. It seems like the only way to overcome the anxiety is to hope the event is canceled or just opt to stay home, anyway. Have gone through this before? If you have, I want to reassure you that you are not alone. Social anxiety disorder affects 15 million adults in the U.S., and it is totally normal to feel some nerves before entering a new situation.
In truth, most people feel some sense of nervousness about attending social events, even the people who seem loudest and most confident! The biggest myth about social anxiety is that it’s abnormal.
But with that said, I also want you to feel supported to find techniques that help make social interactions and scenarios feel less all-consuming. Whether you experience a few butterflies and a racing mind or full-blown headaches, nausea, or shaky, sweaty palms--you deserve the help and guidance to feel better about walking into social interactions with confidence and self-assurance.
3 techniques for coping with social anxiety
These three tips are wonderful methods for starting to conquer your social anxiety in a productive manner.
1. Embrace the normalcy of social anxiety.
This may seem counterintuitive--embrace your anxiety? But actually, the best way to cope with social anxiety is meeting it head on and acknowledging that it is totally normal. Calmly and kindly tell yourself that you are not alone in your feelings of worry or doubt. Many people carry a level of anxiety with them and feel just as nervous, or more, than you do.
Studies show that people who cope with their social anxiety through acceptance methods do start to improve over time. This mindset allows individuals to be more understanding and kind toward their anxiety and themselves, rather than judging and beating themselves up for feeling anxious.
2. Self talk your way through it.
By shifting from the critical self-talk of “I’m defective, awkward, socially inept, or unworthy” to “It is okay that I’m anxious, this is completely normal, and I am not alone,” you can begin coping from a place of non-judgment. Taking a few deep breaths and reminding yourself that everyone feels this way at times will also allow your nerves to calm.
Self-talk can be tremendously powerful. It’s also one of those “fake it ‘til you make it” things, in that you may need to self-talk positively and supportively, even if your brain doesn’t fully believe the kind and uplifting things you’re saying. You can even keep a journal of self-talk mantras that you want yourself to believe and rely on: I am enough, I am worthy, I am confident. Over time, it will become a habit to speak reassuringly to yourself, rather than disapprovingly.
3. Seek out help from a caring professional.
There is absolutely nothing wrong from seeking out support and guidance from a trained professional. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) are two methods that are widely accepted and productive practices for dealing with social anxiety.
CBT focuses on challenging unproductive thoughts and facing situations that you may fear, while ACT helps you accept your feelings, thoughts, and experiences while finding techniques to improve your life. Both can help anxious people make strides forward and find beneficial coping practices, and licensed therapists and mental health counselors are sort of like the coaches and mentors to walk you through it all.
If you’re ready to take the next step and talk to a counselor, I’d love to be a resource for you. I am licensed to practice with citizens in Florida and the United Kingdom. For more information and to schedule your free initial consultation, let’s get connected and start the conversation.