Feeling overwhelmed in social situations? 6 tips to calm your social anxiety
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Ashlie Smith - Psychotherapist, Hypnotherapist & Teacher
23rd May, 20180 Comments
Do you dread social gatherings?
Even with people you know, situations like that can make you feel panicked, right? You may experience racing thoughts, a rapid heart rate, upset stomach, a dry mouth and even trembling in your voice.
Feeling anxious about social situations is more than just simple shyness. Social anxiety can prevent you from enjoying others or experiencing new things in life. Furthermore, anxiety can really disrupt your life. Even in the weeks leading up to the social event.
If this sounds like you, here are six tips you can embrace to keep your calm in social situations.
Take your time getting there.
Running behind or feeling rushed can exacerbate the social anxiety you already feel. Instead of stressing out over punctuality, take your time getting there. It’s better to be in a positive mindset and arrive late to the party than to get there on time all flustered.
Even as you walk up to the gathering, walk slowly and deliberately. Be extra aware of your movements. The more aware you are, the more in control you are of your nervous system, which is where anxiety likes to hang out in the first place.
Breathe very deeply.
As well as moving deliberately, try to take a moment to focus on the way you’re breathing. Make it a point to breathe from your belly rather than your chest. Take long and slow breaths. Breathe right into your belly in a way that makes it expand. If it bulges out like after eating a big meal, then you’re doing it right.
Deep breathing sort of flips a switch in your nervous system to force it into a state of calm. The panic you may have felt will quickly dissipate so long as you stick to this breathing technique.
Pretend like they’re all good friends.
One of the biggest fears people with social anxiety face is the fear they won’t be accepted. You might be afraid you’ll make a fool of yourself and everyone will laugh at you. While such extreme embarrassments rarely play out in real life, the fear is still there.
To help you calm down, try to assume rapport with the people there. What this means is simply to pretend that you already know them and they already like you. When you trick your brain to switch gears like this, it automatically puts you more at ease.
Practice relaxing in social situations.
It probably sounds a little silly to practice relaxing, but it’s simply another way of reprogramming your mind to be okay in social situations.
Practicing doesn’t exactly mean to dive in head first and engulf yourself in one social situation after another. Rather, it means to purposefully think about social situations when you are already in a relaxed mood. Like when you’re watching a funny Netflix series.
This helps your brain to connect the feeling of calm to the act of being social. Though it’s subtle, it can be a very powerful tool.
Ask the right questions.
Sometimes asking the right questions can do wonders for alleviating your anxiety. When you are in the throes of a social situation, conversation topics might elude you. Anxiety has a funny way of making people forget even the most basic information. So, talking with others might prove to be a huge worry for you.
Put the pressure back on others. Avoid asking questions that merit a one-word answer. Instead, ask open-ended questions. That way, people will expound on their answers which takes the focus off of you and your social anxiety.
Focus on the external.
Another tip about refocusing is to zero in on your outward surroundings. Though it’s tempting to focus on what’s not perfect about you at that moment, try to shift your mind’s eye elsewhere.
Hone in on the external factors, like the decor in the room, people’s outfits or even the food. This prevents anxiety from enticing you into the downward spiral of perfectionism. It’s likely that you aren’t perfect at that very point in time. But, neither is anyone else. When you choose to focus on the external, internal thoughts don’t have as much chance to drown you out.
If you’d like help in overcoming social anxiety please contact a counsellor today!
About the author
"Although I live in the countryside, I still lead a busy and hectic life. However, when out walking with my dogs, the sounds, aromas and peace move me to take notice of my surroundings and live in the moment. Life is what you make it, so why not make it better?"
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