Overcoming social anxiety

Many individuals are currently, or have previously struggled with social anxiety. From the information I have received, along with the research undertaken, social anxiety is related to being in social situations and experiencing high levels of anxiety including negative thoughts, physical reactions, and other symptoms.

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In the first instance, it is always a good idea to try to identify the root causes, for example:

  • Are you nervous being in a group because you're worried about people judging you?
  • Do you feel self-conscious about your appearance?
  • Do you struggle with what to say?
  • Does it make a difference whether you are alone or people are with you?

Once you understand the root cause, you can start to look at what factors you're in control of what factors are beyond your control.

Imagine that you have been invited to a work event or a family party. You may immediately start to worry about who will be there, what they will expect from you, whether you will be judged, or what they might ask you. If you can acknowledge those thoughts, the next step is to consider alternative thoughts or the best-case scenario.

What if you go to the party or work event and everyone tells you how great you look? What if you enjoy the experience of catching up with family members that you haven't seen in a while? If you can start to visualise the different possibilities rather than focusing on all of the things that are causing you to feel anxious then this is the first step.

The next step for managing social anxiety is to have a plan in place in advance. Anxiety comes from a place of being fearful and worrying about something that has happened in the past or something that could happen in the future. This means that most people with anxiety neglect the present. If you make a conscious decision that you are going to focus on the present moment and create a plan for dealing with your anxiety if it shows up. you have nothing to fear.

So, let's break it down further. Your biggest fear is that you will arrive at the party and everyone will be judging you on your appearance and you won't know what to say or when you do speak, you will bore everyone. OK, so select the clothes, hairstyle and makeup that you feel good about and focus on that. If you feel good, you won't need to be validated by others and their opinions will not have as much significance.

Secondly, when it comes to conversations, one mistake many people make is that they try to rehearse conversations in their head or 'try too hard' as opposed to engaging naturally in conversations and going with the flow if you want to talk about a conversation that interests you, or join in with other conversations that may not be your expertise. You may also decide that you are going to leave the location if things become too overwhelming for you, using breathing techniques, grounding exercises, and positive self-talk.

Another aspect of social anxiety is feeling awkward around people and, therefore, many people with social anxiety spend time alone. This makes them feel comfortable but it also makes things more difficult when they are around others. One way of tackling this issue is to work on feeling better about yourself so that you accept and love who you are regardless of where you are and who you are with. This puts you in a position where once again, you are focusing from within rather than assuming that everyone views you in a negative light.

There is no quick-fix for managing social anxiety but I hope that this article has given you some information that will be of benefit to you.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Birmingham, West Midlands, B1
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Written by Marian Hanson, Counsellor & Coach
Birmingham, West Midlands, B1

I am a counsellor with experience of providing counselling to individuals and couples since 2009. I specialise in working with low self-esteem, relationships and depression. I also have experience of providing counselling to children and women who have experienced domestic violence and I am a Confidence Coach.

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