Often people mix social anxiety disorder with shyness. Shyness is a short-term feeling that doesn’t disrupt one’s life but social anxiety is persistent and can cause hindrances in one’s day to day activities. It may affect one’s ability to develop relationships outside one’s family, attend school, go to work, sit in interviews, eat in public and much more. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, symptoms of this disorder may start to around 13 years of age.
Someone who has social anxiety disorder often wonders if there is a way to overcome it. If you want to know the answer to this question, this article is for you!
1. Take Small Steps
Social Anxiety doesn’t just disappear. You need to take small steps in order to manage it. Don’t feel pressured to start up conversations with strangers on the subway or anyone you meet. You can however start by talking to the people you have already interact with, even for small durations of time.
Try to strike up a conversation with the cashier at checkout, converse with the colleague you sit next to or the classmate you are paired up with at the lab. You should start socializing at your own pace.
2. Manage Your Breathing
When you are anxious, your body starts making you uncomfortable. You might find yourself sweating, breathing faster and shallower, feeling faint and an uneasiness in your own skin. All these are signs of anxiety.
Controlling your breathing can help your body calm down and manage the symptoms of anxiety. You need to breathe in slowly through your nose for 5 seconds, hold your breath for two seconds and then slowly exhale through your mouth for six seconds. Repeat this exercise for several times till you find yourself calming down.
If social situations make you nervous, you should plan ahead for them as you’ll feel more confident and sure of yourself then. You might want to avoid certain situations till the very last moment because they make you nervous and anxious, but in the long run, you will do better if you are prepared for what’s to come.
For example, if you are meeting someone for the first time, it’s nice to have a few questions prepared beforehand. So, you can truly engage in the conversation without worrying that you need to think of a question to keep the conversation going. And before you leave your house, do some breathing exercises to manager your nerves.
4. Refocus your attention
Here’s an excellent coping mechanism for the sudden wave of social anxiety that hits you when you are with someone. As soon as you recognize the signs of anxiety creeping on to you (increased heartrate, sweaty palms, etc.) you should try to refocus your attention. If you can excuse yourself for a moment then go and try relaxing exercises otherwise, you should try to focus attention on something outwards. So instead of focusing on your symptoms like the spike in your heart rate, you should try to focus on the conversation you are having. If that is proving to be too hard then focus on tangible things like the decoration of the restaurant you are at, the dark circles under your friends eyes, the way the tables are arranged, etc.
5. Talk to a Specialist
Therapy is one of the most effective methods to treat social anxiety. You’ll generally have 14-16 sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy which will include activities to boost your confidence, face your fears and get out in the world. Your therapist will work with you closely to identify the negative thoughts and feelings you go through, find out the root cause of your anxiety, and help you in coping with social anxiety.
Going to a therapist’s office is hard if you suffer from social anxiety disorder, but don’t worry, there’s a solution to that. You can talk to a therapist online and get on the road to wellness without any inconveniences.