Tackling social anxiety
“The moment of crisis had come, and I must face it. My old fears, my diffidence, my shyness, my hopeless sense of inferiority, must be conquered now and thrust aside. If I failed now I should fail forever.” - Daphne du Maurier
Such is the thought that goes through many of our heads as we face our anxiety, the fear that grips the heart as we meet someone new or enter the party or even the office doors. It can feel like a mountain to climb with your anxiety going at full tilt, heart racing, sweaty palms and a sense of panic. What will you say, what will they think about your dress, your stance, your voice - never mind your words or intelligence. Welcome to the world of social anxiety.
You long to be graceful and a conversationalist, accepted by your peers, yet that seems an impossibility. Yet the best kept secret is that very few do not suffer from some degree of fear of what others think and you can overcome, or at least control some of your anxiety with practice and by trying some of the methods below.
Give yourself breathing space, controlling your breathing is one of the most effective ways to control anxiety and panic. Taking deep and slow breaths will make a big difference to your mood. It may be that it helps to stand back from the situation, perhaps pause in the car before going in to calm yourself, but that allowing yourself to be as calm and relaxed as possible is key to helping you.
One of the most common things behind anxiety is expectation. This is often an expectation of perfection or at least the absence of any mistakes. This is not realistic, we are all human, we make mistakes, everyone does, life is messy and its learning from mistakes and being able to move on that makes us able to cope. Think of Thomas Edison who viewed his failures in electric light as “Well now I know another way not to make a light bulb”. Perhaps your mistake could become a story to tell or something to learn from, but having learned from it you can move on and stop re-visiting it (you are probably the only one who does anyway).
Remember that we tend to imagine that things will be much worse than they actually are, so we tend to believe that we will be laughed at by everyone in the room rather than be applauded by everyone in the room. The reality will be somewhere in the middle, and the fear will be worse than the reality.
Finally as you tackle your social anxiety do so in small easy to manage steps. Perhaps go out with friends first (rather than a huge party), try talking to one new person rather than a group, make it easy to succeed. While we are talking about success, don’t forget to reward yourself for trying for making inroads into your fear. It is important that it is the trying that you are rewarding not the succeeding for it’s the trying that counts.
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