This is not an article about the symptoms or science behind social anxiety. There are plenty of good articles online about it. Plus, if you look hard enough you can no doubt find research that will suggest that it is caused by a chemical imbalance or difference in brain structure. While this is often the case in many mental health issues it can often lead to a justification in not making changes. After all it is not my fault, it is hereditary or a difference in brain chemistry.
There is a difference between enjoying a quiet life spent mainly at home and being housebound due to fear. I imagine if you have social anxiety you already know the difference and the effect it is having on your life. When it comes to mental health issues I am more interested in what can be helpful and can facilitate useful change. Whether you want to be more social overall or just want to be able to function better when out socially, hopefully the following tips can help.
One of the fundamental issues I hear from people who feel social anxiety is a worry that everyone is looking at them and/or that they may do something foolish. If you fit into this category, then I have some good news for you. The truth is most people are too busy with their own lives and what they need to get done to be worrying about anyone else. Dare I say most people are so self-absorbed they really don’t care what others are doing, so try to acknowledge that next time you are out and feeling like you are being watched.
Another helpful tip is to look for similarities in people when you are out socially. It sounds simplistic, but it really does help. It tends to have a twofold effect. Firstly, it draws your attention away from focusing on yourself and secondly it helps you to realise you are not unique. So how does this technique work? It works by looking for anything that helps you identify with those around you. It can be as simple as noticing that someone else is wearing the same style of clothing, someone has the same style or colour of hair, or no hair if you are bald. If shopping centres are a source of anxiety for you then just look around and notice how many people are buying from the same stores you like or buying the same type of groceries. It sounds almost childlike, but it really does work. Children tend to do this naturally so maybe we could learn a lot from them. If you focus on anything that makes you feel part of society rather than apart from society it can really take the edge of any anxious feelings.
While I have tried the above techniques for day to day activities I can personally vouch for this one in a party or social gathering. There is always, and I do mean always someone in a social gathering who feels uncomfortable. They are usually not hard to spot. Try engaging this person in conversation and ask them questions about themselves. Most people love to talk about themselves and once again focusing on someone else takes away any self-conscious feelings you may be experiencing. It not only makes your own experience more enjoyable, but you might just make someone else’s experience more enjoyable. I don’t think there is any down side to this, and it really does work.
Finally, it can be helpful to realise that most people have insecurities. Most people have a public persona that they use in social situations. So, while everyone is special and unique in their own way we are all very much the same. Looking for and appreciating our similarities can be very helpful in alleviating some of the symptoms of social anxiety. Like any technique it takes willingness and a little practice, but the results are well worth the effort. If you have any techniques that have worked for you let me know in the comments section below.
Wishing you all the best in your journey
Phil MirandaSocial Anxiety : Easy Daily Strategies for Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness, Build Successful Relationships, and Increase Happiness