You’re not alone if you feel out of practice when socializing after a few years of social isolation. If you feel more anxious than usual when leaving the house to socialize, that’s completely normal, as is occasionally feeling overwhelmed or out of your element in large crowds.
Many people may be suffering in silence because social anxiety disorder is frequently misunderstood. It’s more than just being shy and not wanting to speak up in large groups. It has the ability to seize control and obstruct your daily life. According to Anxiety Care UK, social anxiety is a common and distressing condition that affects up to 40% of the population.
Contrary to popular belief, being quiet in social situations or preferring to socialise in small groups does not indicate that you have social anxiety — and having this disorder does not imply that you are an introvert. Extroverts are generally outgoing and talkative, and they enjoy meeting new people. However, they can also feel nervous, anxious, or on edge when meeting new people and performing in front of groups.
Without much further ado, let’s delve into 5 ways to overcome social anxiety.
1. Explore specific situations that trigger anxiety
Social anxiety does not show itself in the same way for everyone.
You may feel anxious in any situation where you are concerned that others will judge you, such as ordering food at a restaurant or leaving for the restroom during a class lecture. On the other hand, simply being around others may make you feel mostly fine—as long as they don’t expect you to share your thoughts or speak up.
Identifying why and when you are most anxious can help you take the first steps toward overcoming those feelings.
Pro Tip: Begin by listing the situations that cause you the most distress, the ones that you are completely unable to face. These could include:
- Interviewing for a new job.
- Meeting with a professor
- To ask for assistance
- Introducing yourself to someone you like
2. Identify symptoms
Identifying what you start feeling when you’re anxious will help you deal with them more effectively.
- Feeling dizzy and lightheaded? Slow down your breathing.
- Are you concerned that everyone will notice your trembling hands or pounding heart? A grounding technique can assist you in refocusing and staying in the present moment.
3. Take baby steps
It’s fine to start small when it comes to dealing with social anxiety. You are not required to volunteer to lead a meeting or to engage in conversation with everyone you meet.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Skip the self-checkout and instead challenge yourself to make small talk with the cashier.
- Raise your hand to ask a question in class.
- Compliment the outfit of a classmate or coworker.
- Organise a small gathering for close friends and family—socialising in your own space can help you feel more at ease.
- Some people find it beneficial to rename their anxious feelings.
Instead of saying, “I’m so nervous about tonight!” Try saying, “I’m so excited to see what people are like outside of work!” It’s all about the mindset.
4. Try role playing with the people you trust
All of those negative outcomes you’re concerned about? Practising how to deal with them ahead of time can help you feel more prepared to deal with them if they arise during an interaction.
Request that a trusted friend or family member act out some everyday conversations with you.
Here are a few examples:
- You’re in the chemist looking for something and have to explain what you’re looking for to the clerk.
- You mispronounce your friend’s date’s name, and they correct you.
- During a work meeting, your boss asks you a question, and you respond incorrectly.
- You slip and fall in front of a large crowd.
- To become more acquainted with best-and worst-case scenarios, ask your conversation partner to offer various positive, negative, or neutral reactions.
5. Try relaxation techniques
Social anxiety, like general anxiety, can cause overwhelming and unpleasant physical symptoms, such as:
- a racing heart,
- difficulty breathing,
- and an upset stomach
Relaxation exercises can help to calm these physical reactions, making it easier to deal with worry, fear, and other emotional symptoms.
Consider the following:
4-7-8 breathing exercises:
- Inhale slowly for 4 seconds through your nose.
- For 7 seconds, hold your breath.
- Exhale slowly for eight seconds.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Beginning with your toes, slowly tense each group of muscles in your body.
- Maintain the tension for 5 seconds.
- Exhale slowly as you let go of the tension. For a count of 10 seconds, concentrate on the new looseness in your muscles while breathing slowly.
- Continue with the next muscle group.
Regular physical activity can also help improve your mood by reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation.
Feeling self-conscious in the presence of others and fearing their disapproval can make it difficult to connect with potential friends or romantic partners.
It’s perfectly acceptable to remain single or to have only a few friends. However, when social anxiety prevents you from forming new relationships, a few changes can make a significant difference.
True, some people you meet may dislike you, but that’s fine. It occurs. The more interactions you have, the more likely it is that you will meet people who truly understand you — and welcome you with open arms. Now that you’re close to overcoming social anxiety, let’s overcome stage fright.