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  • Writer's pictureAcelli Crippen-Kok

Tips to Overcoming Social Anxiety in the Moment

A couple of years ago, as people everywhere were in lockdowns and complaining they couldn’t enjoy time with friends, family, and co-workers, there were just as many breathing a collective sigh of relief.

Hard to believe, but lockdowns were a blessing for many people. What? How is that possible? Why would that be the case? Well, frankly, the simple truth: they didn’t have to socialize, and didn’t need to make any kind of excuse to avoid social gatherings or situations. When you live with social anxiety, the lockdowns were a blessing not a curse.

overcoming social anxiety

Overwhelmed by Anxiety

Not everyone enjoys attending parties, dinners, or even small one-on-one in-person meet-ups. There are many individuals who hear “come to my…..” and immediately a blanket of dread covers them from head to toe. It’s absolutely common for social situations and interactions to make people feel out of sorts, and cause unsurmountable anxiety.

Why does social anxiety happen to some people, but not to others? More than likely, those negatively affected by social situations are attributed to a history of abuse, or bullying. Ask enough people about their childhood, and many socially anxious teens and adults have controlling, often overbearing parents. There’s also an unhealthy belief that we must be PERFECT at all times from what we wear, to what we say, or we’ll be “canceled” or berated in front of others. No one enjoys being embarrassed, or feeling as if they are “less than”.

It’s not surprising many people are overwhelmed by anxiety in all types of social settings. However, it doesn’t have to control you. There are ways you can calm those anxieties down, keep them from taking over. You can learn to handle anxiety in social settings.

Handling Anxiety in Social Settings

Calm social anxiety while in the thick of it? What now? How’s that even possible? I know it’s hard to believe, but when you’re overwhelmed with anxiety there is a way to handle it in a social setting. But it does take a little practice.

Notice Your Surroundings

When you’re noticing the things around you, you aren’t as focused on your own inner hurricane of emotions and anxiety. Look around the room and notice colors, smells, noise, and the little details. It’ll help get you out of your own head.

Take a Deep Breath

When you feel your heart starting to race, maybe feeling a little dizzy, and your entire body tensing up - excuse yourself. Go find someplace to sit down, or step outside into fresh air, and take a few deep breaths. Focus on each breath, until you feel better.

Ask Questions

Divert attention from yourself, and from questions you have no interest in answering, by asking open-ended questions. No questions that can be answered with a simple “yes or no”. When someone talks about him-or-herself, it takes the attention away from you! Listen intently, or zone out, that’s up to you! Just make sure to pay enough attention to nod, and ask a follow-up question when necessary.

Stand Up to Your Negative Thoughts

When your thoughts start turning negative, like ragging on yourself for getting anxious during a social interaction a week ago, talk back (in your head, or step away and find a bathroom with a mirror). Tell your negative thoughts “so what, I got through it and learned a new way to deal with it, like standing up to my negative thoughts”.

Stay Away from Alcohol

Alcohol is no one’s friend. It makes anxiety more intense, and is often the root of making not the best choices. It’s also notorious for negative thoughts to get louder in your head, making it harder to stamp them out.

Practice/Role Play

Social interactions also include ordering food at a restaurant, going to the bank to make a transaction, or asking someone for help at The Home Depot. Ask someone you trust to role play because with practice, it eases the “unknown” which is often the cause of anxiety.

Ask for Help to Calm Social Anxieties

We all want to live healthy, full lives. Social interactions are a part of what makes humans unique, and it’s also an unavoidable part of life. Create a plan to heal, and calm social anxieties so you can live your best life, even if it means spending lots of time interacting with fellow humans!

Even with tips, tricks, techniques and all the role playing you may feel like it isn’t enough. Your best option is to ask for help from a professional to help dig into the root of the anxiety issues, and role play with a professional to learn exactly what’s triggering you.

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