Tag Archive | anxiety

How to overcome Social Anxiety

I have suffered from social anxiety for many years and I know how limiting and horrible it feels. So I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I overcame my social anxiety and how I can help other people that are suffering from it.

I have developed a few strategies that you can use to reduce your social anxiety. These are:

  1. Learning how to challenge your unhelpful thoughts and see things in a more realistic light.
  2. Reducing your tendency of focusing on yourself during social interactions.
  3. Removing the use o safety behaviors and gradually confronting your fears.

 Challenging unhelpful thoughts

The way that we think about things has an impact on our entire life. The root of a social anxiety are unhealthy beliefs which are just thoughts we have been thinking for too long. Many of these beliefs occur outside of our control, and can be negative and unhelpful. It is therefore important to remember that they are just thoughts, without any real basis, and are not necessarily facts. Even though we may believe a lot of our unhelpful thoughts when we are nervous, it is good to remember that they should be questioned as they are often based on wrong assumptions.

You might have unhelpful thoughts about all kinds of things. Here are some examples:

Before Social Situations

  • I’ll make a fool of myself
  • I’ll have nothing to say
  • I’ll go bright red / I’ll stammer

During Social Situations:

  • Everyone’s staring at me
  • I’m useless

After Social Situations

  • Everyone thought I was an idiot
  • I’d be better off not even bothering
  • I sounded like an idiot

About Yourself:

  • I’m weird
  • No-one likes me
  • I’m not very funny

First you need to be able to recognise an unhelpful thought. Then you can challenge it. Being aware of the common patterns that unhelpful thoughts follow can help you to recognise when you have them. Here are some of the common patterns that our unhelpful thoughts follow:

Predicting the Future:
When we are shy or socially anxious it is common for us to spend a lot of time thinking about the future and predicting what could go wrong, rather than just letting things be. In the end most of our predictions don’t happen and we have wasted time and energy being worried and upset about them. For example:

  • You worry that you will go red, stammer, and that everyone will dislike you.
  • You assume that you will be the centre of attention and everyone will stare at you.

These thoughts naturally make you anxious before you even arrive in a social situation.

Mind Reading:
This means that you make assumptions about others’ beliefs without having any real evidence to support them. For example:

  • He thinks I’m an idiot.
  • They think I look ugly.

Such ways of thinking can soon lower our mood and self-esteem.

Taking Things Personally:
When people are socially anxious or shy, they often take things to heart. For example:

  • You walk past a group who are laughing and assume the joke is at your expense.
Over Generalising:
Based on one isolated incident you assume that all others will follow a similar pattern in the future. For example:

  • Because you believe that one presentation went badly, you assume all others will follow the same pattern.
What If Statements:
Have you ever wondered “what if” something bad happens? For example:

  • What if nobody likes me?
  • What if I run out of things to say?

These thoughts also make you dread situations beforehand.

Focusing on the Negatives:
After a social gathering, you tend to focus on the parts of the evening that you believe didn’t go well. At the same time, you gloss over positive parts of the evening. For example:

  • You dwell on the one conversation which ran out of steam quickly, whilst forgetting the fact that you mingled well throughout the rest of the evening.
Labelling:
Do you label yourself with negative words? For example:

  • I’m boring.
  • I’m uninteresting.
  • I’m weird.
  • I’m unlovable.

These, often long held beliefs about yourself, ensure your confidence and self-esteem remains low.

Challenges to an unhelpful thought
Now you can challenge your unhelpful thoughts by asking these questions.
Is there any evidence that contradicts this thought?
I never run out of things to say to my friends, so why should this be different.
What would your friend say to you if they knew what you were thinking?
They would probably say – don’t be silly, you’re always good company.
How will you feel about this in 6 months time?
I probably won’t care. Even if it goes wrong I’ll have forgotten about it by then.
What are the costs and benefits of thinking in this way?
Costs: It’s making me nervous before I even go into the situation. It’s made me feel inadequate.
Benefits: I can’t really think of any.
Is there a another way of looking at this this situation?
Even if I don’t have anything to say, it’s not just up to me to keep conversations going. It’s everyone’s responsibility.

Reducing internal focus during social interactions

When we are socially anxious, we tend to spend a lot of time concentrating on our own bodily sensations during social interactions. This is because we fear that our anxiety is visible to others. For example, we may spend time trying to judge whether we are sweating, shaking, or blushing.

Although we do this in the hope being reassured that we are not visibly anxious, this strategy actually just makes things much worse. This is because we tend to overestimate how visible our anxiety is and this of course makes us feel even more self conscious. Also, by focusing on ourselves, we are prevented from fully concentrating on the conversations around us. This naturally makes it more difficult to join properly and we usually end up interacting less well than we could. This strengthens our beliefs that we are no good in such situations. The reality is that our anxiety is a lot less visible than we think. Often we have no idea if someone is anxious or not and it can help to remember this.

Similarly, when we feel socially anxious, we tend to spend time monitoring how well we are performing during social interactions. This too prevents us from paying proper attention to the conversations we are engaged in. For example, we may spend time trying to figure out if our voice sounds shaky, or go over and over the things we have said in our minds. Again, by doing so, we end up finding it hard to follow conversations which likely makes us perform worse. Given all of this, it is helpful to try to remove this tendency to focus on ourselves. Below you will find tips designed to help you during social interactions:

  • Try to spend less time focusing on your own physical symptoms in social situations.
  • Remember anxiety is much less visible than you imagine.
  • Even if you are visibly anxious, it does not necessarily mean that you will be thought badly of. Anxiety is something we all experience and it does not make you unusual.
  • Just because you feel anxious, it does not mean that you are performing poorly.
  • Remember – you are not the central focus of everyone’s attention. There are plenty of other things for people to think and talk about.
  • Really try to concentrate on the conversation you are involved in. Don’t think about how you appear or how well you are performing.
  • Don’t replay parts of the conversation in your mind, instead just focus on what is being said in the present moment.
  • We do not need to perform perfectly or brilliantly in every social interaction we have, no-one can achieve such high standards.
  • Don’t worry too much if there are silences. Everyone has a responsibility to keep conversations going. Besides, silences are ok and do not always need filled.
  • Just be yourself.’ Why bother when it is impossible for everyone to like us anyway.

Removing the use of avoidance and safety behaviors

When we are socially anxious, we tend to avoid social situations (parties, speaking in front of groups, going out). However if we keep avoiding the situations we fear, we never get the chance to prove to ourselves that we can cope in them and our confidence remains low. Similarly, whenever socially anxious people do enter the situations they fear, they tend to use safety behaviors (sticking besides a good friend at a party, staying silent when in a small group to avoid looking foolish…). Although these behaviors seem to help in the short term, they are actually unhelpful. This is because they stop people from learning that they could have coped fine without relying on such things. Therefore, like avoidance, safety behaviors stop us from learning that we can cope in such situations and our anxiety towards them continues.

Because of this, the best way to reduce our anxiety towards social situations is to gradually confront them, without relying on safety behaviors. Of course, confronting social situations can be horrifying, especially given that our anxiety levels often rise when we do it. If you repeatedly allow yourself to become involved in a short conversation, rather than avoid it, you can begin to prove that you can handle these scenarios much more effectively than you think and your confidence will soon rise.

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What is social anxiety

Social anxiety is the term used to describe a high level of shyness. Of course everyone feels shy or anxious in certain social situations, but for some people it can be a little more extreme. When this is the case it has a huge affect on their lives and stops them doing the things they would like to. For example it may affect their confidence to go to school or work and impact on their confidence to make friends and enjoy their hobbies.

Situations that people often experience social anxiety in include:

  • Public speaking
  • Talking to authority figures
  • Talking to a group of people or an individual
  • Eating in public
  • Any performance based situations

When in such situations, people can often experience many uncomfortable physical symptoms of anxiety.
These include:

  • A rapid heart beat
  • Blushing
  • Sweating
  • Butterflies in their stomach
They often worry that others will notice these symptoms and judge them negatively as a result.
Social Anxiety quotes

Socially anxious people often feel under the spotlight and believe that everyone is thinking badly of them.

Social Anxiety quotes

They often hold beliefs that they are no good socially, are boring, and that they have nothing interesting to contribute. After social events, they tend to pick out parts that they believe went poorly and beat themselves up over them.

Social Anxiety quotes

To cope with social anxiety, people tend to avoid social situations if possible (parties, pubs, canteens…). If they can’t avoid them, they tend to try and stay in the background and attract as little attention to themselves as possible (say very little).

How do you know if you suffer from social anxiety? Answer these following questions:

  • Do you feel anxious or self conscious during social situations (parties; eating in public; or one to one conversations)?
  • Do you find it hard to participate in the things you want to because of your shyness?
  • Do you tend to avoid speaking to people when you can?
  • Do you worry that people think badly of you in social settings?
  • Do you worry that you have nothing interesting to contribute to conversations?
  • Do you worry that you are the center of attention and everyone can see how anxious you are?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes,’ you may be experiencing symptoms of social anxiety and you may find my future article on how to overcome social anxiety helpful. 

Anxiety

Anxiety is one of those things that a LOT of people have, but nobody seems to know what causes it.

Anxiety is defined as: A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

I think we’ve all had an experience like this before. Whether it’s been in our relationships, in school, at work, or friends, wouldn’t you agree?

Sometimes it comes in the form of “I want them to like me and i’m afraid that they don’t.”

So, the moral of this story and article is that… it’s okay to admit that you get anxious, nervous, frustrated, stressed.

Regardless if you have really intense panic attacks and you’ve been going to doctors and psychologists for years, or if you just have frustrating and stressful days at work sometimes, maybe you hate doing homework! There’s nothing wrong with you.

When you google “What causes anxiety”, you’ll find something like this Anxiety disorders may be caused by environmental factors, medical factors, genetics, brain chemistry, substance abuse, or a combination of these. It is most commonly triggered by the stress in our lives.”

For most people, they see something like that and say “Yeah, stress, the environment, that’s why I have anxiety… Okay, I guess that’s it then”. That answer is satisfactory.

I’d like to take it a few steps deeper. This page says anxiety is “caused by environmental factors”…. what factors exactly would that be? It says that it’s “most commonly triggered by the stress in our lives”. Why do we have the stress in the first place? What are we doing collectively as a species that most people have anxiety?

What are we doing that’s created anxiety to be the most common mental illness? 

This is unnatural. Can you see another species in nature where almost half of the species is “mentally ill”?

And here’s another question… Why is it that we’ve labelled anxiety as a mental illness? By labeling it as one, we’ve made the problem about the individual person. It’s essentially saying “Hey, if you have anxiety, there is something wrong with you.” 

It’s actually pretty simple. As a species, we’ve created a perceived separation between all of us.

When we feel separate, isolated, and without anyone to back us up or give us love, we have panic attacks, anxiety, depression, all of it! There are now millions of people who are feeling this way, completely alone in the world, as if everyone around them is an enemy.

When everyone is your enemy, and you have no-one in your life to comfort you when your feeling down… and maybe you don’t even have anyone you can comfort, it’s very easy to feel alone and depressed.

The good news is, there is something you can do about it. It’s something we can all do. When we begin to create more intimate, real, and powerful connections with each other, we can begin to feel safe again around other people, and step back into who we really are. The return to innocence that we once were when we were born.

You can truly be, do, or have anything you want.