How to Overcome Social Anxiety
What is happening?
Initially the first step to support overcoming social anxiety is to understand what is happening when the person is feeling uncomfortable in social situations. A fact to help start this motion is anxiety is normal and adaptive because it helps us prepare for danger, for example the heart beats faster to pump blood to our muscles so we have the ability to run away or fight off danger. Therefore we need anxiety to survive but the goal is to manage anxiety not get rid of it.
By having this fear within different types of social situations, such as talking to co-workers, speaking in a meeting, going to supermarkets and so forth provides an experience of different physical symptoms of anxiety, such as sweating and increased heart rate. Getting to know your own personal social anxiety helps provide understanding and structure to feelings. Weeks (2013) suggests’ a top tip is to initially take a couple of opportunities to notice which situations cause you anxiety and what you experience physically when you are in those situations. It can help to write these notes down. It is a lot easier to manage your anxiety when you have a better understanding of it. This can enable the person to use this chart to help track social situations that cause anxiety and what is being experienced in those situations.
A further fact states that anxiety can become a problem when our body tells us that there is danger when there is no real danger. Weeks claim that at the heart of social anxiety is the fear of evaluation, not just negative evaluation but positive evaluation too. For example, when creating objective goals people tend to disqualify the positive when they feel anxious. In an interview setting the person may perform well but because of present anxious feelings, they see their performance as poor. Overcoming this social anxiety therapists’ encourage clients to create objective behavioural goals, in this case for example, asking 3 questions within the interview. This goal setting clarification gives a good opportunity for judging progress. The person is not focusing on whether they felt nervous or suffered anxious traits, but now focussing on how they performed the actual behaviour, or reached their goal. What matters in this example is that the 3 questions were asked and the goal was reached, as Weeks (2013) pleasantly puts it “you did what you wanted to in a situation. We can’t control what another person is going to do”. This is a personal achievement.
Learning about social anxiety is a key to overcoming it.
People with social anxiety tend to fear and avoid social situations. Or, for example, they don’t avoid the party; but they will provide ‘covert avoidance’ and stay out of the way, in the kitchen and so forth. It is normal to feel anxious in social situations from time to time. Social anxiety becomes a problem when it becomes quite distressing and gets in the way of ability or performance to function and enjoy life. It is important to note that everybody suffers with anxiety; it is how it is dealt with and managed that can cause an issue. Social anxiety is one of the most common anxiety disorders and there are many strategies to help manage social fears.
Markway (2013) suggests building a toolbox to equip yourself with strategies to deal with anxiety, you will feel anxious, but now you will have the tools to deal with it. Social anxiety is there to be overcome, however unhelpful thoughts, avoidance and using safety behaviours stop us from doing so. An individual can start to build their toolbox by learning to relax, this enables you to ‘tone down’ the physical symptoms of anxiety, which can make it a little easier to face social situations. Such techniques include muscle relaxation and calm breathing or ‘conscious’ breathing. A further tool is adapting realistic thoughts as people with social anxiety disorder tend to have negative thoughts about themselves and about what will happen in social situations. If a person believes that a social situation is threatening or dangerous, then they are more likely to feel anxious. However, it is important to realise that these are indeed thoughts and guesses about what will happen, not actual facts. This can be discovered in more depth and support can be provided to help challenge negative thinking.
If social anxiety is in place sabotaging goals and preventing enjoyment seeking support in this area is beneficial. The above strategies are certainly not exhaustive and individuals will benefit from different variations that suit them, which can include medication and Clinical Hypnotherapy, EMDR, EFT, NLP and many other amazing techniques. However social anxiety is highly treatable, getting better is an option and also gives the ability to grow in the process.
Markway. B, Dr.(2013) Decreased Social Anxiety in Just Minutes a Day Ph.D. on Sep 16, in Shyness Is Nice
Weeks, JW. (2013)Assistant Professor of Psychology and Director, Centre for Evaluation and Treatment of Anxiety