3 ideas to gently ease social anxiety
Our social skills, which develop in childhood, enable us to form meaningful connections and improve the lives of those around us. These developments may occasionally be impeded by shyness or insecurity, although they are not always permanently impaired by it. However, social anxiety frequently coexists with powerful psychological and physiological reactions which can become isolating, lonely, and depressive as they inhibit one's enjoyment of life.
In this article, I'd like to discuss three easy strategies that I have used with clients to help them modify their social behaviour. These strategies can be highly successful in boosting social confidence and overall well-being.
I sincerely hope you find them useful.
Three strategies to ease social anxiety:
1. Walk (or any other physical exercise)
Go for a walk before forcing yourself into difficult social settings!
Some people may find the idea of exercising intimidating, but even adding a little walk to your regular routine can have wonderful benefits.
For the most part, the physical advantages of exercise are obvious (burning extra calories, improved blood circulation, cardiovascular benefits), but the psychological advantages could be less clear. It should come as no surprise that many doctors counsel their patients to engage in brief physical activity to help with a variety of physical and mental health issues.
“Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another.”
Exercise is a powerful tool for letting go of tension, lowering cortisol (the stress hormone), and increasing endorphins, the body's natural feel-good hormone. Our immune system and metabolism can be severely hampered by excessive cortisol, leaving us vulnerable to a wide range of physical deficits. Exercise not only defends us from this but also helps with other physical signs of excessive anxiety, such as IBS or vomiting.
How does this relate to social anxiety?
Spending too much time "in your thoughts" is likely to be something you have encountered if you have ever struggled with anxiety. By refocusing your attention on your physical body through exercise, you can let go of needless thoughts and move into a more attentive state of being. By doing this, you'll discover that negative thinking will abate in a tranquil and peaceful mind.
Exercising for just 10 to 15 minutes per day has been demonstrated to:
Exercise also helps us breathe deeply and rhythmically, which is one of the most efficient and straightforward strategies to lower our anxiety. Deep breathing helps us return to a happy balance where worry naturally subsides by communicating to our unconscious mind that "all is okay!"
2. Show interest!
No matter the avoidant safeguards you may put in place, it will be challenging to avoid people forever. We must eventually interact with other people.
Dale Carnegie advises us to show genuine interest in other people in his renowned book "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Although it may sound cliché, a socially anxious person's fear of being the centre of attention—or of any unwanted attention at all—can significantly heighten anxiety. Turning the verbal spotlight on other people is a simple and courteous method to avoid this.
"You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them, than in two years by making them interested in you."
In addition to seeing that other individuals are not as frightening as you previously thought, you will also find that you share more in common with them than you initially believed. Focusing on the other person will also serve as a welcome diversion from your worrisome thoughts, which is essential for enabling you to embrace other people's company.
Another social skill that can be improved through this exercise is listening. You'll be able to notice that you don't have to be concerned about running out of things to say after you develop this capability. It's acceptable to remain quiet in good (or bad!) company, and can even be quite charming! Everyone simply wants someone to pay attention to and appreciate them.
Be kind to others and truly appreciate their willingness to be open. You don't have to concur with or comprehend all someone says. Even the most outgoing social butterfly only seeks to be heard by sympathetic ears. Give this gift to others with generosity. Pose inquiries. You can maintain your composure and make a genuine connection with someone by simply listening.
As a general rule, it is best to listen 75% of the time and speak about 25% of the time. As Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor once said, "the reason we have two ears and only one mouth is that we should listen twice as much as we speak."
3. Exposure and practice
We must employ our new skills in order to instil them, just like we must with all new habits. Mastery is achieved through repetition!
So it's time to venture outside and conquer your phobias for good!
No matter how minor the interaction, the fact that you are being proactive will immediately increase your sense of value.
As Bruce Lee put it:
“I don’t fear the man who has practised 10,000 kicks only once; I fear the man who has practised one kick 10,000 times.”
You can incorporate a basic kind of exposure therapy into your daily activities.
Exposure therapy is the concept of exposing yourself to whatever it is that makes you afraid and gradually developing a tolerance for it. This will initially seem difficult, but I frequently advise clients to turn it into a game by seeing how many "random people" they can meet each day while keeping track of their progress in a journal. Making treatment into a game shifts the focus away from the issue and toward something enjoyable; building confidence! The mind is less likely to get in the way and resist when something seems pleasant (and doesn't immediately challenge automatic thought habits).
Having a conversation with someone in a bar or café takes courage, but it can be as simple as saying "hello" to a passerby, asking a shop employee where something is, or asking a stranger for directions.
Although we are exercising the brain directly rather than the body with this exercise, the advantages are similar to those of physical exercise. The relationship between the body and mind is crucial to our general health and capacity for the enjoyment of life.
Joining a club or neighbourhood friend group can boost this mild resilience.
As you keep growing stronger, confidence can be developed from discovering that there isn't anything to be afraid of when engaging with new people and that, as the old adage goes, a stranger might simply be a friend you haven't met yet!