Do you dread going to social functions? Meeting new people? Worry you’re going to do something embarrassing? Have you got those uncomfortable butterflies squirming in your stomach, just thinking about being in these situations? Sounds like you might be living with social anxiety. Don’t be alarmed, you’re not alone, 1000’s of people around the world are living with the same fears, and everyone feels anxiety at some point in their lives.
Social anxiety is all about fear, fear of saying something wrong, fear of doing something wrong, fear about being judge, fear of not being accepted, but it doesn’t have to rule you, even if it never fully goes away.
When you are in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable or nervous it is important to remember that social anxiety won’t kill you, even if it does feel like the world is closing in on you. You have more than likely been through this many times before, you have probably even been in a worse situation, you made it through and you can make it through again.
But how you ask?
When you feel those uncomfortable butterflies come-a-knocking:
STOP what you’re doing, and find a quiet place. A bathroom, on a park bench or even under a tree is fine. Now look around you, establish that you are safe and there is no one there trying to hurt you. If you can, close your eyes. Breathe deeply and slowly, concentrate on your breath as it goes in and out, hold it for a count of three before releasing it. Or if that’s not enough; concentrate on something more challenging, count backwards from 100 by 7, name flowers in alphabetical order, think of all your favourite scenes from movies or books. Just find something that suits you, to take your mind off the situation for a few minutes until your heart has stopped pounding, your breathe is no longer rushing, until you no longer feel the desire to run, until you feel calmer. Why do this? Because fear causes our adrenaline hormone to spike and adrenaline makes your anxiety worse. Once you are no longer in ‘flight or fight’ mode you will be able to have more control of your actions and thoughts.
Now focus some positive and re-enforcing statements that you can say to yourself
I have done this before and I can do it again.
I have been in worse situations, and made it out, I can conquer this.
I won’t let this get the better of me.
I am the boss of me, I will control what I want to do and when I want to do it.
When this is over, I will be proud of myself for doing it.
I am not in danger, I will be okay.
I can do this.
So I feel some anxiety right now, SO WHAT? It’s not the first time. I am going to take some deep breaths and keep going.
Now that you have calmed down and can think about the situation logically. What do you want to do? Are you ready to go back and try again? Do you need some social support? Perhaps find someone who can help boost morale or help lessen the fear?
If your fear of public situations is so distressing that it’s affecting your life, it is important to seek help, to get control back for yourself. There are some proven therapies that can help with social anxiety, with CBT being the most renowned. Talk to a psychologist at the Counselling and Wellbeing Centre, step by step, they will support you in snatching back the steering wheel and let you decide where to take your life.