Coping Strategies for Social Anxiety
You just “know” that things will go horribly, so you’re already anxious before you’re even in the situation.
Catrophising – Blowing things out of proportion. For example, if people notice that you’re nervous, it will be “awful”, “terrible”, or “disastrous.”
• Personalising- Assuming that people are focusing on you in a negative way or that what’s going on with other people has to do with you.
Focus on others, not yourself
When we’re in a social situation that makes us nervous, we tend to get caught up in our anxious thoughts and feelings. We monitor our bodily sensations and do our best to control them—all the while fearing that the people around us can tell we’re nervous and are judging us for it.
The hope is that by paying extra close attention we can better manage the situation. But this excessive self-focus just makes us more aware of how horrible we’re feeling, triggering worse anxiety! What’s more, it prevents us from fully concentrating on the conversations around us or the performance we’re giving.
How can I stop thinking that everyone is looking at me?
Switching from an internal to an external focus can go a long way toward reducing social anxiety. This is easier said than done, but you can’t pay attention to two things at once. The more you concentrate on what’s happening around you, the less you’ll be affected by anxiety.
Focus your attention on other people—but not on what they’re thinking of you! Instead, do your best to engage them and make a genuine connection.
Remember that anxiety isn’t as visible as you think. And even if someone notices that you’re nervous, that doesn’t mean they’ll think badly of you.
Really listen to what is being said—not to your own negative thoughts.
Focus on the present moment, rather than worrying about what you’re going to say or beating yourself up for a flub that’s already passed.
Release the pressure to be perfect. Instead, focus on being genuine and attentive—qualities that other people will appreciate.
Learn to control your breath
Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder: (/articles/anxiety/panic-attacks-and-panic- disorders.htm) Symptoms, Treatment, and Tips
Many changes happen in your body when you become anxious. One of the first changes is that you begin to breathe quickly. Overbreathing throws off the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body—leading to more physical symptoms of anxiety, such as dizziness, a feeling of suffocation, increased heart rate, and muscle tension.
Learning to slow your breathing down can help you bring your physical symptoms of anxiety back under control. Practicing the following breathing exercise will help you stay calm when you’re the center of attention.
A breathing exercise to help you stay calm in social situations
Sit comfortably with your back straight and your shoulders relaxed. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose for 4 seconds. The hand on your stomach should rise, while the hand on your chest should move very little.
Hold the breath for 2 seconds.
Exhale slowly through your mouth for 6 seconds, pushing out at much air as you can. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus on
keeping a slow and steady breathing pattern of 4-in, 2-hold, and 6-out.
Face your fears
One of the most helpful things you can do to overcome social anxiety is to face the social situations you fear rather than avoid them. Avoidance keeps social anxiety disorder going. It is okay to have feelings that cause you anxiety, but if these feelings are not addressed it will be increasingly difficult to move past them.
Avoidance leads to more problems
While avoiding nerve-wracking situations may help you feel better in the short term, it prevents you from becoming more comfortable in social situations and learning how to cope in the long term. In fact, the more you avoid a feared social situation, the more frightening it becomes.
Avoidance may also prevent you from doing things you’d like to do or reaching certain goals. For example, a fear of speaking up may prevent you from sharing your ideas at work, standing out in the classroom, or making new friends.
Challenging social anxiety one step at a time
While it may seem impossible to overcome a feared social situation, you can do it by taking it one small step at a time. The key is to start with a situation that you can handle and gradually work your way up to more challenging situations.