Surviving Social Anxiety

Many people become anxious when they have to be around others. Your anxiety can range from mild shyness or nervousness to severe panic that makes it difficult if not impossible to go out in public. Social Anxiety Disorder is defined as an intense fear of particular social situations, such as new situations in which you fear you will be evaluated or judged by others. Thinking about going to these places can increase your anxiety before you even arrive or you may work very hard to avoid the situation at all costs. Social anxiety is often based in a feeling of fear, insecurity, inadequacy, shame, and embarrassment. While everyone experiences some level of rejection, social anxiety has an irrational aspect to it. Even when people are not looking at you, judging you, or evaluating you, you feel that they are centering their attention on you. It is important to understand the anxiety so it doesn’t stop you from living a full life.

You may experience social anxiety in the following types of situations:
• Public speaking
• Going on a date
• Making small talk
• Attending a party
• Talking to people you feel are more important than you
• Eating in public
• Being criticized
• Going to a new place

The following are some symptoms of social anxiety
• Feeling nervous or worried
• Fearing that people will reject you
• Overly self-conscious
• Avoiding new situations and people
• Upset stomach
• Shaky voice
• Trembling
• Dry mouth
• Feeling faint
• Sweating

Your life has purpose and fear can delay you from walking in your purpose. We try not to let our worries win and instead to find ways to manage or conquer our anxieties. Social Anxiety can become a major barrier to your happiness, peace of mind, job security, educational dreams, and relationship success. Here are a few strategies to help you handle social anxiety.
1. Deep breathing. When we feel nervous we sometimes hold our breath or start breathing in a very shallow way. When your body is not getting enough air it intensifies the feeling of anxiety. It is important before, during, and after social situations that you remind yourself to take long, deep cleansing breaths. As you slow down your breathing, you will learn to calm yourself so you can see the situation more clearly.
2. Self-acceptance. Often we are afraid of what others will think of us because we feel we are unworthy of respect, love, or acceptance. It is important to work on appreciating yourself so you will not be so dependent on the feedback and opinions of others.
3. Peaceful Partners. Watch the company you keep. If you surround yourself with competitive and/or materialistic people, you will feel more pressure to be “on”. Try to spend time going out with people who are down to earth and who accept you for who you are. In this way you will feel less pressure to be something you are not.
4. Self-care. If you don’t get enough sleep or if you fill yourself with caffeine, alcohol, and sugar you will end up adding to your anxiety and stress level. Nurture yourself with good rest and good food so you can meet the day from a place of calm.
5. Spiritual Practice. Spiritual activity can be an important part of calming your anxiety. You may find relief through the daily practice of meditation, prayer, inspirational music, and affirming readings.
6. Patience is a Virtue. When you are too hard on yourself by setting unrealistic goals, you increase your anxiety. If you feel your voice shaking or feel yourself sweating, remind yourself it’s ok. You can outlast the anxiety but you have to be patient with yourself.