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If you’re struggling with anxiousness in social situations, I’d love to help you. In this article you’re going to learn how to deal with social anxiety using practical techniques that you can start applying today.
The other is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), though people struggling with GAD often experience social anxiety as well, and so it’s no wonder that social anxiety is prevalent worldwide.
What evidence do I have to back that up?
I can reel off some stats for you because there’s plenty, but I prefer to provide personal experiences whenever I can.
When I was first diagnosed with GAD, at the time my worst symptoms were excess worry and social anxiety. Back then I couldn’t cope being with my friends, family or close colleagues which are people I should have been most comfortable with. But the thought of seeing them used to throw me into panic.
More recently, as an anxiety blogger, I've also noticed that that most anxiety sufferers struggle with social anxiety to some extent.
If we consider the stats, according to the National Institute of Mental Health social anxiety is more common among women than men, and approximately 12.1% of U.S. adults experience a social anxiety disorder at some time in their lives. That means that 12 adults in every hundred, struggle with social anxiety, and these numbers are growing every year.
If you’re not sure whether you suffer from social anxiety, let me elaborate on a few of common symptoms to help you decide:
You’re likely to
•Avoid social situations and often cancel plans
•Feel guilty when canceling plans
•Wish you could participate in social situations but feel that you can’t
•Dread being invited to anything outside of your comfort zone
•Worry excessively about how others see you and what they think about of you
•Overthink the things you say and do, for the fear of how you’ll look to others
•Blush, sweat and have a fast heartbeat when with others
If you’re experiencing any of the above often, I get you completely because I’ve been there.
I used to feel these things every damn day! So, I know how much social anxiety sucks.
You feel as though all the fun has been stolen from your life.
But I’ve come a long way since then, and I want the same for you.
In this article, I will take you through a simple step-by-step process to help you deal with your social anxiety in a practical way.
How to Deal with Social Anxiety using a 5-Step Process?
The next time you feel social anxiety arising, follow the below 5-step process.
Step 1: Pause, Breathe and Write
The first step is to pause, take a few deep breaths, and grab a notepad and pen.
For example, the next time a friend or friends invite you out for drinks before you come up with an excuse and try to get out of it, PAUSE for a moment, breathe deeply for a couple of minutes and then get ready to write.
Preferably buy a journal that you love, which will encourage you to use it more often.
Step 2: Question Your Anxiety
The next step is to question your anxiety.
Your anxiety is your body and mind's way of signaling that you need to make a change in your life. And so, you can actually use your anxiety to help you figure out what you need to change to feel less anxious.
For example, in this step start with the following question:
Hi Anxiety, I know you’re here and I’m open to listening to what you have to say. Can you tell me why I feel anxious right now?
Once you ask this question, close your eyes and take a few more deep breaths.
Now write down whatever comes to your mind. Don’t think what you should be thinking, but just write down whatever thoughts are coming up for you.
If your thoughts don’t seem like an answer, write them down anyway, because the more you write, the more likely you're to get to an answer.
Step 3: Ask More Questions & Get Specific
The next step is to review your thoughts in step 2 and pose more questions to help you get specific about why you are experiencing an anxious reaction.
Start to analyze what is it about a place, person, groups of people, environment, job, family member, relationship, friendship, event, activity, country, city, neighborhood and so on that makes you feel more or less anxious. Be very specific and list your reasons.
So, for example, in step 2, you might have realized that you feel anxious about meeting a certain person.
If so, the next question would be,
What is it about this person(s) that makes me feel anxious?
Then begin to make a list of reasons that are very specific.
If nothing is coming up for you, close your eyes and take a few more deep breaths as this will help to center you and make you more present with the problem at hand.
You may write something like this,
I feel anxious about meeting Sarah because...
- She doesn’t ever ask anything about me and my life but only talks about herself
- Most of the time she is doing all the talking and I am doing all the listening
- We always have to do what she wants to do, and for an easy life I just do whatever makes her happy
- She often tells me to stop worrying and have fun instead even though I’ve told her I suffer from social anxiety
If for example, you feel anxious about a place you’re going to or the things that you’ll be doing, you can ask,
What is about this place (or this activity) that makes me feel anxious?
Then begin to make a list and again, be very specific.
In this case, you may write something like this:
I feel anxious about going out for drinks because I
•I don’t like loud places
•I always end up coming home late and feeling tired and drained the next day
•Having drinks is a waste of time for me. I'd rather be using my time for something more productive.
•I prefer going out in nature rather than being in closed places
•I don’t like being around drunk people
Step 4: Review Your Answers and Identify Goals
Now that you have a specific list or lists of why you feel anxious, it’s time to make new goals to relieve your anxiety going forward.
When setting your goals, also be specific, and give yourself a realistic deadline.
For example, rather than going out for drinks you may prefer to do other things, and so you may set goals something like this:
- GOAL 1: I'm going to join a walking community this week to meet new people whom I can be with in nature.
- GOAL 2: I'm going to ask Jane each week if she would like to go for a walk as I know she loves walking too
- GOAL 3: I'm going to search for 5 FB community groups that I can join to help me deal with my anxiety and connect with other people who can understand me better.
- GOAL 4: I'm going to call Emily once a week as I always feel so happy after I speak to her
- GOAL 5: I'm going to join my local yoga studio / gym and attend one yoga class each week
- GOAL 6: I'm going to listen to my favorite empowering audiobook for 30 minutes each day during my morning walk to help me feel calmer
Step 5: Stick to Your Goals and Keep a Track of Anxiety Levels
Completing the first 4 steps is an amazing start. These stages are necessary to help you identify what you need to do to feel less socially anxious.
But to notice a positive change in your social anxiety, you need to also implement your goals in your daily/weekly life. And this is what the final step is all about.
So, once you’ve set your goal(s), I highly recommend that you
- Stick to your goal(s) for the next 30 days
- Keep a track of your anxiety before and after you engage in the activity that is part of your goal. [You can use a scale from 1- 10 (1 being the least anxious)]
So, now that I have given you my social anxiety relief process,
How has this 5-step process helped me with my anxiety?
The whole idea behind this 5-step process, which I’ve both developed and used on my own anxiety healing journey, is to use anxiety to your advantage.
Your anxiety is not your enemy, rather it is a signal that’s nudging you to change something in your life. Basically, your body and mind are creating anxious feelings to keep reminding you that you need to take action.
So, each time you feel anxious, you can use this as an opportunity to question what you need to change.
The moment I started questioning my anxiousness, setting goals, and committing to fulfilling those goals, my life began to change in extraordinary ways.
I learned that I prefer:
•Being outside in nature and parks rather than in dark, noisy, and closed spaces
•Spending time with friends 1 on 1 rather than in big groups
•Talking to my friends and family about deep and meaningful topics rather than making small talk
I also learned that I love:
•Taking long walks
•Listening to empowering audiobooks
•Connecting with highly sensitive people
•Talking about my emotions
•Helping gentle anxious individuals
Basically, once I identified what makes me happier and calmer, and started doing more of those things and less of the stuff that made me feel more anxious, my mental and physical health started improving by the day.
That said, of course I didn't manage to eliminate everything in my life that triggered more anxiety, and that's normal.
But the more effort I put into implementing activities in my daily life that calmed my anxiety, the more I lifted my soul and frequency.
My consistent commitment and practice to this process helped me to eventually overcome chronic anxiety and change my life. I changed my job, career, relationships, books, friends, cities, countries, home and more.
And I want you to know that you can do this too.
Once You Start Please Take Your Time
Dear heart, once you start doing this process, please take your time to implement your goals. There is no rush and you don't need to have 10 goals at once.
It took me a few years of consistent anxiety questioning and goal setting to create an anti-anxiety lifestyle that’s perfect for me.
Take it slow, be gentle with yourself and take one step at a time.
For example, if you set one new goal each month, and stick to it for the full 30/31 days, that’s 12 completed goals in one year, which is both realistic and incredible.
One final note
I need to highlight one important point before we depart.
Each time you start questioning your anxiety, please note that one conclusive statement is not enough information to help you understand what you need to change.
So, for example, if you conclude,
“I prefer to stay at home on my own and away from everyone as that makes me feel less anxious”.
All this tells is you that there are things about your home that make you feel less anxious. But now you need to know what things?
So, the next step is to ask yourself, “Why do I feel less anxious at home?” Make a list of specific.
Then, when you make your list of reasons, you can also go through each of those and ask yourself again "why does this particular condition make me feel less anxious? Make another list reasons.
So, do you see? You need to keep asking and digging to get very specific.
It is only by getting specific that you'll be able to finetune your life in a way that makes you feel amazing every day.
In summary, your step 2 and 3 look like this:
Step 2: Start with a bold question
"Why Do I feel anxious?"
Step 3: Get specific,
"What is it about a place, person, groups of people, environment, job, family member, relationship, friendship, event, activity, country, city, neighborhood and so on that makes me feel more/less anxious." Make a list
Then go through each reason in 2 and ask yourself again
"Why does this particular condition make me feel more/less anxious?" Make a list
Dear heart, once questioning your anxiety, setting and implementing goals becomes a habit, you can achieve a state of contentment and happiness that you never thought possible.
- Sandra Glavan
Latest posts by Sandra Glavan, Life Coach for Gentle Anxiety Sufferers (see all)
- How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others (and Why)? - 15th November 2022
- Why taking baby steps is the key to achieving healing? - 27th October 2022
- Social Anxiety at its Worst & 4 Steps to Overcoming it? - 23rd December 2021