Social anxiety can be crippling to your social life and limit what you do on a daily basis, but you can take steps to rid yourself of social anxiety and make a real difference. I’ve always been shy and suffered from mild social anxiety, but isolating yourself from people and situations which make you uncomfortable can definitely make the situation worse. Here are 11 steps to rid yourself of social anxiety – I hope some if not all of them will work for you and would love to hear how you get on!
1. Face Your Fear
This is my number one tip and top of my list of steps to rid yourself of social anxiety. If you don’t face your fears, they will always be present. Going out to social occasions such as parties and other events may seem scary, but the more you do it, the more accustomed to it you will become. It’s sort of like the first day in a new job – after you’ve been there a few weeks you feel comfortable! Start small and face the easiest fears first, such as going out alone to buy a coffee or striking up a conversation with a stranger at the bus stop. It will get easier!
2. Don’t Beat Yourself up
It’s tempting to let the negative voice in your head take over, and if you’ve cancelled yet another social occasion you might be beating yourself up over it. Don’t be so hard on yourself! You’ll face your fears at a time that’s right for you. Tell yourself it’s ok to stay in and spend time on your own, but that you’ll make the effort to go next time.
3. Break It into Stages
This is a really useful tip that my boyfriend taught me; break things up into manageable stages. If I’m going on a long tube journey across the city to an event, I break it up to make it easier. By doing this, I’m focusing on getting to my next destination rather than worrying about the whole journey, and you can apply this to anything – for example, break up attending a party into bite-size chunks. When you arrive, focus on getting a drink. Then focus on finding somewhere to sit or a place to stand. Then find a group to talk to. By breaking things down, they become much more manageable, and less scary!
4. Talk about Your Fears
Joining a social anxiety meetup group is a great idea, and if you live near a big city, there’s sure to be one in your area. Talking to people who are experiencing similar fears can help you to overcome your trepidation – you may actually find you are one of the less anxious people in the group!
5. Practice Meditation
Meditation is great for anxiety of any kind, and one-minute meditation can be used whenever you’re feeling anxious. Either close your eyes or focus on a spot in the distance and let everything float away for 60 seconds, concentrating on your breathing and emptying your mind. This is a great way to stop negative thoughts, slowing down your breathing and making you feel instantly calmer.
6. Try Something New
Many people feel anxious trying out new things, but taking up a new hobby can actually be good for those suffering from shyness and social anxiety. Either rope in a friend or go alone – an organized class such as rock climbing or crafts is a great way to meet new people who will usually be alone too, and you’ll have something in common to talk about.
7. Keep a Journal
I write in my diary whenever I’m feeling anxious as I find it helps me to focus on the cause of my anxiety. It also helps me to see that sometimes my anxiousness is irrational – for example, when I’m feeling anxious about getting the train as I worry everyone will be staring at me. Keeping a journal is also great as you can look back on it when you are feeling more confident and see how far you’ve come.
8. Push Yourself
Whilst it’s a good idea to take little steps towards feeling less anxious, it’s important to try and push yourself. If doing things alone scares you, try something simple like going to the corner shop, ordering a coffee at a nearby café or just taking a walk around the block. The more you do these things, the easier they will become, and you can gradually expand the things you do alone until even going to the cinema by yourself will be easy!
9. Recognize That Your Anxiety Doesn’t Control You
It might feel like you are your anxiety; remember that you’re not. You’re experiencing anxiety, you’re not controlled by it. You can choose to push yourself and overcome your anxiety, at a pace that suits you. Other people won’t judge you for being anxious or shy, and if they do, they’re not worth your time anyway. Don’t be afraid to tell friends or family that you’re feeling anxious, as they’ll usually rally around to support you.
10. Try Self-hypnosis
There are a number of self-hypnosis apps and YouTube videos available focusing on social anxiety and self-confidence. I tend to listen to these at night time as I drift off to sleep, and they do help with relaxation – I like to think they make me feel more confident too! You could even try a session with a qualified hypnotherapist.
11. Recognize That You’re Not Alone
Many people suffer from anxiety and shyness at some point in their lives and the triggers are different for everyone. If your social anxiety is out of control, it’s time to reassert some control and enjoy life again – one little step today could turn into a larger one tomorrow and before you know it you’re feeling happy and confident.
Social anxiety is still something that I struggle with and I'm often shy when it comes to meeting new people. I hope some of the above tips will help you, and I'd love to hear some of your ideas for coping with social anxiety and shyness!