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coping with social anxiety

social Anxiety is a bitch! having suffered with it since i was little, i have definitely discovered what helps me manage it and what makes it worse. i thought it might be useful to share 15 tips which i find help me control my Social Anxiety as much as possible! these tips might not work for you, and they definitely don't 'solve' or 'fix' social anxiety, but they do stop social anxiety from completely ruining my attempt of a social life.

1) whenever i am going out, if that is to a party, a dinner or even just school, i find it useful to let someone know about my social anxiety. for some reason, i find it so overwhelming to even say 'i have social anxiety' but i feel a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders when that person becomes aware of the situation. that way, if i need them to order my food for me at a restaurant, or stand outside with me while i do deep breathing, it doesn't feel like such a big deal. if they are a good friend, they will want to do everything they can to help you and they won't judge you (which is my fear when it comes to anxiety- i am always paranoid they will think i am a baby for not being able to do simple things).

2)  have a friend come with you. even the presence of a friend next to you while you are ordering food at nandos, or having a phone on loudspeaker so your friend can hear, may make you feel more comfortable. it means that if you feel unable to continue the social interaction, they can pick up from where you left off. as time goes on, you won't need to rely on them and will be able to do it on your own.

3) determine if you having anxiety about a specific aspect of social situations. this can make it easier to deal with. if it is ordering food, or talking to people, i suggest practicing with a friend. it sounds stupid, but i used to have the biggest phobia of ordering food in a restaurant, so i practiced 'ordering food' with a friend. i still get an uneasy feeling in my tummy when i order food but it is nowhere near as bad. there is also nothing wrong with rehearsing a phone call before you make it, or maybe writing down key things you need to say on a piece of paper, that you can have in front of you.

4) realize that a certain amount of social anxiety is normal. everyone gets nerves before a big event, but that doesn't stop them from attending or having a good time. just because you feel more unease than others doesn't mean you don't deserve to enjoy yourself around others. often, i get anxiety about my social anxiety, and then i end up in a horrible circle of  just worrying about everything.

5) remember that people are paying much more attention to themselves and what they are doing, than you. no one will remember that you stumbled over your words, or did something that you deemed 'really embarrassing'.  do you remember everything that everyone says to you or everything they did? i highly doubt it. it's exactly the same for you. when you have anxiety, it's very easy to lose perspective and think that everyone is viewing you under a microscope.

6) have a list of steps in your head. for example, if you are going to the shop, make a list in your head of the various processes you will go through. entering the shop, finding what you need, queuing to pay, having your items scanned, packing your items, paying and then leaving the shop. this might sound a bit extreme, but this way you will feel less loss and dazed at what you have to do. the idea behind this technique is that the movements will become second nature after a while and you will feel secure and comfortable in that situation.

7) keep a journal and record your struggles with social anxiety. record what you struggled with but also record what you have achieved, no matter how small. even if it was saying hello to a stranger or going to a party for an hour, it is nothing to be ashamed of. that way, when you are really struggling you can look back at the difficulties you have overcome, giving you potential hope for the future. social anxiety is defeatable but it takes time.

8) try to connect with one person every day. when you are living with anxiety, it is so easy to isolate yourself away from your anxieties and people in general. this is a short term fix, it will prevent you from perhaps having a panic attack that day but the next time you have to enter a social situation, it will feel more daunting. when i am having extreme waves of social anxiety, i like to hide away and not communicate with anyone. this leads to me having extreme anxiety about things like sending a text or communicating with my own parents. if you can try to speak to one person everyday, or phone them. connections with the outside world are so beneficial!  they may feel scary but it will help you in the long run.

9) surround yourself with positive people you release nothing other than good vibes. try to spend time with people who have your best interests at heart and accept you for who you are. you shouldn't have to waste your time on people who don't want to make you happy, they aren't worth it.

10) before going out, make sure you eat and try to avoid coffee! caffeine will make you anxiety much worse, as will an empty stomach. it can be hard to eat when you are really anxious, but it will make a difference.

11) have a grounding technique. i always wear bracelets, so if i feel myself heading towards a panic attack, i can attempt to ground myself by touching my bracelets or focusing intensely on my surroundings to bring myself back to the room. pinging an elastic band can be very helpful in diverting your attention or bringing back a sense of control which can feel so lost when anxiety is present. i often find having a text conversation going useful, as it can be helpful to stop myself feeling awkward and out of place. if the conversation is about something other than the social situation you are currently in, that is even better.

12) therapy can be very useful for overcoming social anxiety. however, initial anxiety will most likely be there when you first meet with a therapist, so be sure to find someone you feel reasonably comfortable around, even if you have to have thirty trial therapy sessions before finding the ideal person. the therapist will be able to uncover the underlying reasons for your social anxieties and give you better techniques than me to cope with and solve your anxiety. i really recommend CBT, it doesn't work for everyone but i have really benefited from it in the past!

13) have an exit plan if you are struggling. it does not make you a failure if you have to leave a social event early, and it can be reassuring to know you have an exit plan ready. that way, you won't be worrying as much about wanting to leave, that your anxiety may subside quicker and you can enjoy yourself!

14)  go on a walk everyday, or spend half an hour outside. it helps you get some perspective. also, drink 6-8 glasses of water everyday and get a decent amount of sleep. your body is doing everything it can to keep you healthy and alive, so do what you can to help it! physical health and mental health cannot be complete if the other is imbalanced. listen to what your body wants and look after it. exercise will release endorphins which will make you feel better, and everyone benefits from a good night sleep!

15)  practice makes perfect! if you are trying to overcome your social phobias don't be disheartened if your first attempt doesn't go to plan. social anxieties can become habits, and your brain will get used to avoiding certain situations which create you anxiety. breaking the habit takes time and effort, it will not happen over night. having the notion of overcoming social anxiety is a step in the right direction and something to be proud of.

i hope this helps at least one person!! it's so important to remember that suffering from social anxiety does not make you incapable and it is much more common than people realize.

lots of love x x x x

This post first appeared on Sophie's Thoughts, please read the originial post: here

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coping with social anxiety


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