By Aisling O’Connor
Everybody experiences anxiety to a certain degree. It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous meeting new people, doing presentations, trying new things etc. however when does it become too much? Social anxiety includes symptoms such as avoiding social situations, worrying for prolonged periods of time about oncoming events, dread of public speaking or speaking on the phone, self-consciousness, fear of embarrassment, feelings of being judged or irritating others, and physical symptoms such as shaking, difficulty breathing, and increased heart-rate, nausea, blushing, and sweating.
For someone experiencing social anxiety, even ordering food or going to a checkout in a shop is a difficult endeavour. The sufferer often isolates themselves and misses out on meeting new people and memories. However, like always, we have some tips for you:
- Challenge negative thoughts. Thoughts such as “No one will like me”, “I’m annoying” “I’ll do something stupid/embarrass myself” may arise, ask yourself where the logic and reasoning behind these thoughts is. Is there any solid proof of any of these things being true? Exactly.
- Breathe. The way we breathe can do wonders for our mental state. Make yourself aware of the state of your breathing, if you find yourself taking short sharp breathes change it by inhaling deeply into your abdomen and exhaling slowly.
- Face your fear. Step out of your comfort zone by answering a question in class, accepting that party invitation, talking to someone new etc. it sounds easier said than done but by repeatedly challenging yourself you’ll come to realise that it isn’t as terrifying as you thought.
- Focus on others and what’s going on as opposed to yourself. You are not the only person in this situation. What are other people doing or saying? What’s going on around you?
- Remember that everything passes. We all make mistakes or feel like we’ve said or done something wrong from time to time, but these moments pass. That time you slipped up ordering in Subway won’t haunt you forever.
- The problem with social anxiety is when a simple situation is over analysed it appears much more sinister than it is, when you find yourself over thinking tell yourself to stop and divert your attention to something else.
- Rationalize. While it’s easy to feel like embarrassment will be the end of the world when suffering with social anxiety keep in mind that feelings like this are catastrophizing. While, and I do not mean for this to come off as patronizing, you do feel extremely uncomfortable it won’t kill you.
- Take note of how you feel and what triggers the anxiety. What situations make you feel the most anxious and try to pinpoint why. If you know what makes you anxious you can develop a strategy for dealing with it.
- Confidence. Social anxiety tells you that you’re not a worthwhile or engaging person to be with, and tells you all sorts of horrible things about yourself but none of that is true. Compliment yourself, I’m sure you’re a lovely person to be around and have a ton of wonderful traits. Confidence goes a long way so believe in yourself.
- Like always, it’s always beneficial to consult others and professionals so be sure to chat to friends and family about how you feel, and if you think counseling or medication is the route for you then go for it.