What is social anxiety?
Posted on 19th April 2022 at 11:56
Is social anxiety holding you back from connecting with people?
It can sometimes feel a bit like the overprotective best friend you never asked for and frankly now can’t get rid of.
You share with them your dreams of travel and job promotions, of working back in the office and you mention the email from Alice in accounting inviting you to staff drinks on Friday night.
At first they sound excited for you. But the more they talk about it, the more overwhelming it all starts to feel.
They mention that, the other day they noticed a couple of people in the office whispering behind your back about something - but they’re sure it wasn't about you. And suddenly you’re feeling so self conscious that every bone in your body is screaming Don’t do it! Anything could happen! You're bound to embarrass yourself, dry up, not fit in. Stay home! You know it's safer here with me! Before you know it you feel a hostage to yourself.
But what actually is social anxiety?
For people without social anxiety, it can just look like shyness. But beneath the surface, social anxiety is so much more than that. Everybody with social anxiety has a different experience, but it generally includes a range of feelings, such as stage fright, a fear of intimacy, self consciousness, fear of judgement when you step outside the front door and anxiety around humiliation and rejection.
It can cause people to avoid public situations and human contact to the point that everyday living is rendered extremely difficult.
This is why simply telling someone with social anxiety to “stop overthinking things” or to “get out of their own head and think about something else” can actually make things worse.
So, what steps can you take when you start feeling anxious?
There’s a couple of different things you can try when trying to overcome your social anxiety like keeping a daily journal. Activities like this can help you find the root of why you feel anxious and what triggers your anxiety so that you overcome it both physically and emotionally once and for good.
If things start to feel overwhelming when you’re out and about though, here’s a technique to help you get control of your breathing and tell your body’s fight or flight response that its a false reading and there is no immediate danger.
Breathe in through your nose for at least 5 seconds. If you can, try and breathe into your stomach first then fill your chest. You might find it useful to place your hand on your stomach to focus on where your breath needs to go.
Hold this for 2 to 3 seconds.
Exhale, releasing a long stream of breath through your lips as long and slow as you can until you feel empty of air. This will force your body to then take a deeper breath than before.
Repeat this as many times as you need to.
Then bring your focus to your physical symptoms in your chest. Focus only on how your breath is.
When we welcome these feelings - however good or uncomfortable - we step back from what is overwhelming us. We see ourselves clearer and feel back in control.
If you’d like some support to feel back in control, please book a free call with me today. I’m here when you need me.
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