How can I reduce my social anxiety?
One of the most commonly asked questions for people with social anxiety is “how can I reduce it?”.
The challenge here is that most people are seeking a quick fix, a simple strategy. Very rarely will a simple little trick you read online be enough to create the change the person is seeking.
Some people are at a different place where they're at the point when they realise that the social anxiety is really holding them back. From here, they are willing to do whatever it takes to overcome their social anxiety. These people - when they come into my anxiety clinic - make massive, profound changes.
So, how do you reduce your social anxiety?
Simply by learning strategies to be more comfortable within your own body and mind. Most anxiety comes from the body being in an inappropriate fight or flight response, so it’s important to address the Nervous system and to learn new strategies to reduce social anxiety.
A great technique to learn strategies in the body is what I use in my clinic - Network Spinal Analysis (READ MORE).
What is the root cause of social anxiety?
For some people, there are obvious events in life where social situations have been embarrassing, awkward or painful and the mind sets up a response and generalises from that experience.
For example, someone might stand up in front of the class at school to do a speech and other kids laugh at him/her - and from that day onwards, never feel the same.
I had a client in her 40’s come to see me who struggled since she was a little girl because she got hassled for having crooked teeth - even after braces with perfect teeth, years later. She was still hiding away from people not wanting to be fully seen, because being seen was linked to pain in her mind.
So she was trying to avoid pain.
Essentially, most social anxiety is the unconscious attempt to avoid pain.
Pain of being judged, not good enough, embarrassed, etc.
Why am I socially awkward?
This is not the best question because the mind works by answering questions, and if you ask a question like this you will not get answers that actually help - you will just get more stuck!
What I would rather you ask, is: ‘what can I do to feel more confident and happy in social situations?’.
Move forward in the direction you want to go. Learn skills and strategies in both body and mind to help you feel more at peace and more comfortable.
How does a person with social anxiety act?
There are many common traits in people with social anxiety.
Avoidance: People with social anxiety often avoid social situations or events that trigger their anxiety. This can include parties, public speaking, or even small gatherings.
Excessive self-consciousness: They tend to be overly self-conscious and concerned about how they are perceived by others. They may constantly worry about being judged or embarrassed in social situations.
Fear of scrutiny: They have an intense fear of being observed, evaluated, or criticised by others. This fear can make them feel extremely anxious and uncomfortable in social interactions.
Physical symptoms: Social anxiety can manifest in physical symptoms such as blushing, trembling, sweating, rapid heartbeat, nausea, or difficulty breathing. These symptoms can be distressing and may further contribute to anxiety in social situations.
Difficulty initiating or maintaining conversations: They often find it challenging to start conversations or keep them going. They may fear running out of things to say or worry about saying something embarrassing or inappropriate.
Limited eye contact: They may have difficulty maintaining eye contact during conversations. They may feel uncomfortable with prolonged eye contact and prefer to look away or focus on something else.
Overanalyzing past interactions: They tend to overanalyze and obsess over past social interactions. They may constantly replay conversations in their minds, looking for perceived mistakes or embarrassing moments.
Dependence on familiar people or routines: They may rely heavily on a trusted friend or family member to accompany them to social events. They may also prefer sticking to familiar routines or environments where they feel more comfortable.
Emotional distress: Social anxiety can cause significant emotional distress, including feelings of fear, embarrassment, shame, or low self-esteem. These emotions may persist even after the social interaction has ended.
Isolation: Social anxiety can lead to isolation and withdrawal from social activities or relationships. Individuals may limit their social circle and prefer to spend time alone to avoid triggering their anxiety.
Obviously, everyone is different so physical and mental symptoms will manifest in different ways for each individual.
Living with Social Anxiety: Tips for Navigating Social Situations
Focus more on how you would like to be - set that as a goal to work towards.
Focus on how you can move in that direction.
Get help to learn the strategies you need.
Find people to learn from / model their behaviour and try on their perspective.
Focus more on helping other people and how they are rather than on yourself.
Get help from someone who is amazing at helping people resolve their anxiety - remember, anxiety is a Nervous system response - so address your Nervous system. The best way to do this is through Network Spinal Analysis.
We do this in our anxiety clinic with a body and mind approach, teaching you new strategies to show up more in control and closer to how you socially wish to be - and for most people, it only takes 12 weeks.