How To Overcome Social Anxiety Naturally—It Starts With You
Social anxiety is not an untreatable problem.
Treatment methods target at the individual making changes within themselves and therefore help them to respond better in a social situation. Before you begin to tackle your social anxiety, you need to understand how it is affecting you and also set some goals. Start by asking yourself:
- When do I experience social anxiety?
- How do I feel when I experience this anxiety? E.g. dizziness, panic attack.
- What am I doing and thinking when I am in a difficult situation? E.g. observe thinking and behavioral patterns.
- How has this condition affected me? E.g. make you avoid going to gatherings so you feel isolated & depressed.
- What would I like to achieve? - Think short and long term goals.
It is important to jot down the answers to these questions to help you come up with your self treatment plan.
You should also consistently record your progress so you can look back and keep track of how you are doing. This will help keep you motivated as people tend to give up easily when they think there is no change (i.e. because initial changes may be too small it becomes unnoticeable or forgotten) and also help you to identify trends (e.g. improving or certain methods are not working).
So how to overcome social anxiety naturally? There are generally 4 main areas to work on:
1) Change of Thinking Patterns
The way you think determines the way you feel so changing your thinking patterns is a very powerful method.
Generally this method involves 2 very simple steps. Identify your thinking patterns, followed by the conscious effort to change the way you think. Social anxiety is dependent on the perceptions of the mind. Your mind will tell you what social situations is perceived as risky or uncomfortable.
When trying to observe your thinking patterns, find recent events that you are able to remember clearly and go through what had happened and also how you felt. Ask key questions such as:
- What was the specific thing that started to trigger my social anxiety?
- How did I feel—embarrassed, uneasy, worried?
- What was I thinking when I was anxious?
Once you have an idea of how you think, you can work on changing any negative habits that you have. The key thing to do is to KEEP questioning your feelings and try to rationalize and find an alternative way of thinking/ opinion.
For example, you may have thought that you said something stupid and everyone is judging you - which makes you start to feel anxious and uncomfortable. However, you should rationalize the situation - the fact is that people are generally more interested in themselves than others so they may have already forgotten what you said. In addition, you are also not the only person in this world who have said a stupid thing or two at a social setting. Therefore, you have to convince yourself to stop harping on every mistake you made - learn and move on.
Have you tried Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
2) Change Your Behavior
When you are face to face with a situation that you fear, you may be inclined to protect yourself from the situation and try to avoid the problem. However, avoiding the problem will not get you anywhere. You need to take risks, be ready to make and learn from mistakes and change your behavior so you can overcome the issue. Otherwise you will be trapped and stuck at where you are.
You can approach the problem objectively by treating everything as an experiment. Experiment little changes in your behavior and observe what happens. Try new approaches and ways to handle a social situations. If a change in behavior managed to decrease your anxiety response, acknowledge it, jot it down and keep practicing.
For example, you may be scared to talk to new people because you keep thinking that you have nothing interesting to offer or fear you may say something silly. So every time you are put in a social setting with new faces all around (e.g. corporate events, wedding dinners), you hide in a corner and will the time away. However, you should change your behavior by making yourself talk to new people (at least 1 new person!).
If you are worried about what to say, you can check online for some examples of conversation starters.
Examples of Conversation Starters
1. How was your day?
2. How did you get to know the host of the party/dinner?
3. Have you heard the news on ____ (recent hot topic)?
4. What is your favourite book/TV show/food/place to hang out/sports/sports team/movie?
5. What do you do with your free time?
6. I am looking for something to do this coming weekend/day off. Are there anything interesting happenings/events lately?
7. Do you like to travel? What is your best holiday experience?
8. Have you been to ____ (place/event - e.g. new resturant, new museum, new event)?
9. Do you have any upcoming travel plans? If so, where? If none, where would you like to go?
10. Where are you from/grew up?
Besides helping you to start talking to others, conversation starters can help you to direct conversations to topics that you are more comfortable with (which is especially helpful if you are facing some social anxiety). Remember to also jot down your experience and how you felt while conversing with others, what could be improved, what you did correctly afters and then keep practicing.
Remember to take it slow - nobody is rushing you. It is also important to be free from self criticisms when experimenting different approaches.
A popular and effective method on how to overcome social anxiety, which is based on the principles of changing your thinking pattern and behavior, is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).
3) Increase Your Self Confidence
Confidence is determined by an individual's belief and experiences. Confidence is not inborn, but rather something that can be built up with time and experience.
You need to create your own opportunities to build your confidence - such as learning new skills, reading more, setting goals (be it big or small) and striving towards them, exposing yourself to new environments and information to learn and gain new perspectives. Being more knowledgeable (at a certain topic or just general knowledge) can help you to find conversation topics in a social setting and make you appear more interesting. You will also feel more relaxed when you are engaging in a discussion on a subject that you are familiar or have a passion for.
Once you are more comfortable with who you are, you will be able to better confront or face different situations.
4) Reducing Self-Consciousness
Being self conscious means that you are very focused and aware of yourself - what you are saying or doing. Being overly self conscious creates anxiety because you are constantly monitoring and judging your every move.
In order to reduce self consciousness, you need to divert your attention to things outside of yourself - the people around you, your environment. Tell yourself to consciously not think about any negative or dwell on uncomfortable experiences. Distract your mind away from such thoughts by focusing on other things.
Reducing self consciousness will put you more at ease and can help you behave more naturally and spontaneously in a social setting. Remember too, that people are generally more concerned about themselves and would not have the time of the day or effort to watch your every move and be aware or remember every social blunder that you think you may have made - so relax!
You have the power within yourself to make your life better and not be limited by social anxiety. Find ways on how to overcome social anxiety and act on it. Be focused on your goal, have a plan in place and you will be successful in tackling this problem.
If you want to find out more on the causes, you can check out my other article on social anxiety disorder.