Tips for Social Anxiety

Hi guys! Sorry it’s been awhile since my last blog post, as some of you already know I was away in Vegas 🙂 and when I came home I had so much work to catch up on. Today’s post is talking about social anxiety. I will be highlighting what social anxiety is and giving helpful tips to deal with social anxiety.

What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety is when someone has an intense nervousness of social situations. It can stem from a fear of being closely watched, judged, and criticised by others. This can affect starting or making conversations, asking a question, attending social activities, eating or writing in front of others and many more.

Physically it can result in people blushing, shaking or sweating in front of people. One in twenty teens suffer with social anxiety, it is a lot more common than people realise.

 

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However, there are a number of strategies that we can use to reduce our social anxiety. These include:

  • Learning how to challenge our unhelpful thoughts and see things in a more realistic light.
  • Reducing our tendency of focusing on ourselves during social interactions.
  • Removing the use of avoidance and safety behaviours and gradually confronting our fears.

Tip 1: Focused attention

A lot of the time, people who suffer social anxiety get anxious when they are in certain conversations. This can result in them becoming internal, which means they are in their own head a lot thinking thoughts such as, “what am I going to say next”, and did I sound really stupid saying that ”or“ what is wrong with me, she’s going to think I’m weird.

When this happens you are not being external, which means, you are not listening to the conversation which can make it even harder to contribute to it.

 

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When you are in a situation that makes you feel anxious you are hyperaware of the sensations in your body, like your heartbeat, sweating or blushing, or queasiness. If you put all of your attention on these things it amplifies (increases) their effect. By choosing to focus on things outside of your body you can reduce the anxious sensations you are feeling inside it.

By choosing to focus on other people you take the spotlight off yourself. You can decide to focus your attention on anything else around you bar yourself, but here are some techniques to help you get started:

  • The seeing game: Look around the room and find 5 things you can see that you never noticed before

 

  • The five senses exercise: Focus on your sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. Go through each one, for example, what can you smell? What can you hear? Etc. Another tip to keeping yourself present in the conversation, would be to touch whatever is around you, such as the table, sofa or pencil. This will help keep you present in the moment and not become internal.

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  • Focus your attention on the other person: Pay close attention to the other person’s hair and eye colour, what the other person was wearing, what the other person was saying etc.

 

  • Listen attentively: This is when you will be listening to the conversation in great detail. You will be putting extra effort to ensure you are listening carefully to what the other person is saying. If you find yourself thinking in your own head again, pinch yourself to stop and put your attention back into listening to the conversation.

 

Tips 2: Reducing internal focus

  • Remember anxiety is much less visible than you imagine.

 

  • Just because you feel anxious, it does not mean that you are performing poorly.

 

  • Remember – you are not the central focus of everyone’s attention. There are plenty of other things for people to think and talk about.

 

  • Really try to concentrate on the conversation you are involved in. Don’t think about how you appear or how well you are performing.

 

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  • Don’t replay parts of the conversation in your mind, instead just focus on what is being said in the present moment. Otherwise you will get lost in the conversation and will find it even harder to contribute to it.

 

  • We do not need to perform perfectly or brilliantly in every social interaction we have, no one can achieve such high standards.

 

  • Don’t worry too much if there are silences. Everyone has a responsibility to keep conversations going. Besides, silences are OK and do not always need be filled.

 

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I hope you found some of the tips above helpful. I will be doing another post with more tips for social anxiety very soon! Remember, social anxiety is not visible, just because you feel anxious, it doesn’t mean anyone knows your feeling anxious.

Niamh-Psychotherapist xx 

 

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