Do you feel out of control or unsafe in social situations? Do you experience fear of being judged by others? Do you avoid certain people or certain social situations? Do you feel shame in social situations? Are you afraid of being humiliated? Do you always avoid being the center of attention? Do you experience unpleasant bodily sensations in social situations such as sweating, rapid heart-beating, avoiding eye contact, etc.?
Then you might be struggling with social anxiety. As the intensity decreases and you gain more and more space to work with social anxiety, you slowly learn to understand and accept the emotions and bodily sensations behind it.
5 Simple Tips that can help you Decrease Social Anxiety
1. Awareness of the Problem on an Emotional and Mental Level
First, try to answer these questions, journal or just contemplate about the answers.
- What emotions do you feel when the social anxiety kicks in? Is it an intense shame? Do you feel unsafe? Are you ashamed of the shame? Do you feel unprotected? Are you too afraid of criticism or what people will think of you? Do you feel you can not be yourself and have to pretend? Are you afraid of loosing control? Or is there some other emotion?
- What do you believe about yourself? (for example: “I’m unlovable” “I’m unattractive” “I’m stupid” “I can never make things work”)
- What are you thinking when the social anxiety kicks in?
- Where in the body do you feel these emotions the most? What is the response of your body? (heart palpitations, redness, blushing…)
2. Take a Breath
When we’re stressed, the sympathetic half of the ANS is dominant, and when we’re relaxed, the parasympathetic part takes over. The nerves of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems connect with your heart, lungs, eyes, mouth, digestive system, liver, bladder, and reproductive organs. Therefore, the autonomous nervous system acts as the conductor of the symphony, telling your body’s systems what to do at any given moment.
When you’re relaxed, they say all-clear, and all your systems go into repair and rejuvenation mode. But, on the other hand, when you’re in a socially anxious situation, they communicate the alarm, and all your systems get ready for fight or flight. Breathing signals our parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for relaxation) to calm the body.
When exposed to a challenging social event, take a slow, deep breath through your nose and feel your body sensations such as a faster heartbeat, sweating, or discomfort. By simply taking a breath, you create a gap. You slow things down. It might be challenging at first, but pulling yourself out even if it’s for a few seconds helps immensely. It’s like a scared child you don’t abandon, but you hug him with your awareness instead.
3. Check With Your Inner Child
In the pastime social exclusion meant most times death. Social exclusion from a particular group can feel like life and death situation, even though it is not nowadays. Instincts take over, we want to run away or hide. Even though our life is not at stake, our subconscious is saying differently. Our conscious mind can objectively say there is no fear, but our body and nervous system can respond to a particular social situation as a life and death situation.
Exercise: Connect with your inner child before the challenging social occasion, during or after(depends how intense is the anxiety and when is it possible for you). Spend time with him/her. Express tell him/her what they need to hear; make it simple with statements such as: “It’s okay.” or “I am here for you.” Wait for their response and try to answer like the best parent would. Answer his/hers concerns, fears, and worries.
4. What Are My Qualities?
Most of the people dealing with social anxiety will have difficulties even writing down positive personality traits and what they appreciate about themselves. Can you connect to these qualities? When dealing with social anxiety, all we see is our imperfect self, the self we think we need to hide. The judge within us takes over. Every body has the parts of themselves that they feel less confident about, but some people are just more okay with those parts.
What are you good at? Write down your qualities on a piece of paper. I invite you to go beyond the official job interview qualities.
Social anxiety might refrain you from seeing your positive qualities and swipe them away like they don’t even exist (for example you might have potential to be good at public speaking but because of traumatic experience or series of traumatic experiences you will not be able to see it and every time you are about to give a speech you freeze or forget what you wanted to say and simply sabotage yourself).
Exercise: Make it a project for one week and do the following:
a) find small things you appreciate about yourself
b) let the anxiety be there but put more focus on your strengths
5. Calm Down Your Nervous System Naturally
If you struggle with social anxiety, consider natural remedies that have the potential to truly help you. Consider helping yourself with GABA, a calming amino acid that can ease anxiety (start with low doses – 25mg to max. 250 mg) or Tryptophan (this is also an amino acid that helps with low serotonin – start with max. 250 mg or less and build up if not sufficient) and evening primrose oil can also help. Also, quality Magnesium (ideally combining several types of Magnesium with good absorption such as Magnesium Citrate, Magnesium Bisglycinate, or Magnesium L-threonate), physical exercise or meditation practice can help immensely to calm down your nervous system and condition it to safety.
When shame runs our lives we are easily manipulated. So in my opinion we can use shame to show us where can be more ourselves, accept our emotions, befriend them and learn to work with it so it doesn’t influence our decisions, not against it. Follow your own truth, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. They are part of the journey. See social anxiety as an opportunity to shine your unique self, perhaps you were never meant to fit in and add more authenticity in your life. Step by Step, be kind to yourself.
If you wish to learn more about social anxiety check out my new e- Book: First Aid for Social Anxiety. In this e-Book you will learn practical tool you can utilise that will help you to understand and transform emotions, thoughts, and body responses in challenging social situations.
Know how to help yourself and regulate your nervous system in the moment when you can’t think clearly, your mind goes blank, your body is in visible distress, and all you can think of is running away from the social situation.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]