3 Ways to Reduce Social Anxiety
Even though you feel lonely, the thought of drinks with friends or meeting up for a coffee is just too awful to consider. With thoughts spiralling round all the things that could/will go wrong, you’re torn between wanting a social life and avoiding the embarrassment you know is just one mistake away. The panic sets in and social anxiety wins again. If only you could find ways to reduce social anxiety
Whilst you consider whether therapy might be a good route for you to explore, here are 3 practical ways to reduce social anxiety.
What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety (also called social phobia) is more than just a normal cautiousness about social interactions. As highly social creatures, we humans are naturally wary of making social errors. Social anxiety takes this several steps further. The Royal College of Psychiatrists describe it like this: “If you have a social phobia, you get very anxious when you are with other people, usually because you worry that:
- they may be critical of you;
- you may do something embarrassing.
This can be so bad that you can’t enjoy being with people or speaking in front of them. You avoid social situations altogether.”
Social Anxiety falls into two broad categories; anxiety around specific social situations and a general anxiety around all social situations.
Either way, it’s a tricky place to find yourself.
What does social anxiety feel like?
It varies for each person but usually people experience these types of symptoms
- worrying excessively about making a fool of yourself in front of other people
- getting more anxious as social situations get closer, especially the ones that worry you.
- pre-living everything that could go wrong especially if it could be embarrassing
- finding it difficult to do or say the things you want to (even if you’ve planned it out beforehand)
- repeatedly going over how you could’ve said or done things differently (usually ‘if only I’d said…” or “why did I do…”)
Many people get physical symptoms too:
- heart pounding / palpitations
- dry mouth / hoarse voice
- feeling like you have to go the loo
- breathing too quickly & feeling lightheaded or ‘tingly’ as a result
3 practical ways to reduce Social Anxiety
Therapy is a really useful way to get past social anxiety or social phobia often getting rid of it entirely. In the meantime, however, here are 3 things you can do to help you manage life with social anxiety.
- Controlled breathing is a very effective tool for keeping calm and reducing rising anxiety. Here’s how:
- Breathe through your nose
- Breathe in for a count of 7
- Then breathe out for a count of 11
- Use diaphragm (belly) breathing
- When you breathe out your belly moves in, pushing air out of your lungs
- when you breathe in, your belly moves out pulling air into your lungs
- If counting to 7 & 11 is too difficult, use counts of 3 & 4 instead
- It only takes a few minutes help
- Use meditation – mindfulness is best. I’ve produced a mindfulness mp3 especially designed for anxiety sufferers. (see the ‘What’s next’ section)
- As little as 10 minutes a day will make a surprising difference
- Keep going for at least 2 weeks to notice a real difference
- Most social anxiety sufferers have become very skilled at tuning in to their inner critic. Often there will be negative thought patterns that keep coming back. It can be difficult to tune them out.
- You can learn to ignore negative thought patterns by focussing on something else.
- A simple way to do this is to deliberately listen to whoever’s speaking
- You don’t need to try to join in (as it could increase your anxiety)
- Simply noticing someone else’s words distracts your brain from listening to its inner critic.
- (You know how it’s really hard to keep track of two conversations at once – by listening to an external conversation, it’s much harder to hear your inner critic)
These steps take a little practice but it’s worth the time & effort. They’re effective at taking the edge of social situations. Usually that’s all you need to keep anxiety under control.
If you do suffer with social anxiety or social phobia, I’d suggest that you seriously consider finding a suitable therapist to work with. (As I specialise in anxieties, I’d be delighted to help).
You can get in touch with me here: Contact Tony
You can try the Mindfulness for Anxiety mp3 by clicking here: Mindfulness hypnotherapy mp3