Social anxiety is a common experience that is associated with a fear of social situations, specifically, a fear of being judged or laughed at. We all can feel nervous before public presentations or dates. However, for some people, social anxiety can become a constant presence that makes people less likely to do things they want to do, hurt their relationships, or make them isolated. So, how can you reduce social anxiety?
1. Take all the negative situations running in your head and think of the worst could happen
Our social anxiety often makes us feel as if we are facing a great danger. We feel that everything hinges on the situation, picturing the worst scenarios.
But a good solution is to engage with these scenarios. Rather than allowing the possibility of doom to run in the back of our minds as a vague fantasy, we need to take a moment and think about the worst case scenario. What is truly the worst thing that could happen?
Often, the consequences might be unpleasant but not actually as bad as we perceive them to be. The worst-case scenario is unlikely to actually ruin our lives or be as catastrophic as we perceive it to be.
2. Avoid building the situation up in your head
We often contribute to our own anxiety by hyping up the situation. We look at something as the be-all, end-all, like the event that will determine everything. Letting go of the importance we give certain things can make a huge change in how we feel.
Let yourself recognize that something might be just an event, just a situation, just a meeting. It will not necessarily have a huge effect, so you are allowed to be present without having to put in a tremendous effort into making things go well. It’s just an event, there will be other events and other opportunities.
3. Be proud of yourself
No matter what, find something to feel good about. Even if things were not perfect, find aspects that help you feel good about what you did. You tried, you challenged yourself, you left the comfort zone, you put in the work.
There is always something to celebrate, even if the gathering was not entirely pleasant or as you imagined it. Recognize the positives of your experience and find something to feel good about, rather than just putting yourself down. Feeling small is a way of making your anxiety stronger, so encourage yourself and be your number one supporter.
Reframing the situation in this way can also help you feel that others are less likely to judge you too. When you focus too much on your own flaws, it can feel like everyone is focused on them as well. Being more centered on the good aspects of yourself can reduce this feeling.
4. Challenge yourself
Rather than viewing each social situation in a negative way, you can reframe it as a challenge that helps you increase your skills. It can allow you to experiment and try new things, feeling more empowered and confident and building up this aspect of who you are. It helps you look at new situations as a way to improve your experience and your skills.
Allow yourself to see social situations as experiences that will involve some degree of challenge to feel motivated and interested in seeing how you might handle them.
5. Take it a step at a time
Consider which social situations make you the most anxious and build up to them. Start with smaller, less threatening experiences and see how you feel, how things turn out. Usually, you will end up feeling more confident than you expected and not get the negative experience you might have been worried about. Take it one step at a time and slowly experiment with different social interactions.
6. Sit back and relax
Sometimes, our anxiety is linked to the sense that we are responsible for the social event. We might feel like we have to act in a certain way or be engaged fully or fulfill a series of expectations. This weighs us down and makes it difficult to enjoy the event itself.
What if you tried sitting back for a change? This doesn’t mean you should just zone out but rather to allow yourself to let go of expectations. If you can relax physically and take deep breaths, it is likely to help you feel less tense and nervous. You don’t have to pay all your attention to every gathering or social situation; sometimes, you can just go with the flow.