Social anxiety is a common issue. A person suffering from social anxiety tends to dread or altogether avoid certain social situations, like attending a dinner party, participating in a business meeting or even making casual conversation with your neighbor. Untreated, these symptoms can take on a life of their own. The socially anxious person may find his life “shrinking” over time, as more and more activities and situations wind up on the problematic list.
We’ve compiled three tips to help you overcome social anxiety and “re-grow” your life!
Have an escape plan
Rather than simply avoiding a socially stressful scenario, come up with a troubleshooting plan in advance. Decide that if you feel overwhelmed at the dinner party, you will step outside for a moment, take a quick drive while you regroup. Or decide that if you feel socially anxious when meeting someone new, you can go to a few “prepared” topics like the weather or city traffic patterns or your favorite TV show. Every time you try something socially challenging, despite it making you uncomfortable, you are forming new patterns. You are literally reshaping your brain. You are expanding your experience of life. If you need to go into certain situations with a safety net, at least you’re still going.
Look for larger pattern
Social anxiety is about the fear of getting “stuck” in an uncomfortable situation. For example, you may fear getting stuck in an elevator having to make conversation with a stranger. Once you have your practical escape plan, ask yourself a bigger question: Do you feel stuck in some larger way in your life? Are you stuck in an unhealthy relationship? An unsupportive family? A negative work environment? Sometimes the key to resolving social anxiety is to recognize how various specific situations reflect some deeper issue. In the long run, it may be less about dealing with an uncomfortable elevator moment than it is addressing an unhealthy relationship.
A counselor can help you generate practical strategies for dealing with social anxiety. He or she can also help you understand social anxiety within the bigger picture of your life. For instance, social anxiety often starts early in life. Your counselor may help you examine your earliest memories of social anxiety, such as delivering a book report in elementary school. By shining light on larger patterns, your therapist assists you in letting go old fears of not being good enough, or not fitting in with your peers. A counselor can help you consider various treatment strategies such as CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy), meditation/relaxation and social goal setting. In some cases, your counselor may refer you for a medication consultation.
Social anxiety can be treated! Meeting with a counselor is a good place to start.