Ever felt that hammer drill pounding in your chest, the excessively loud ringing in your ears, dryness in your mouth like you’ve eaten gritty, salty sea sand, and you just can’t focus on anything around you? Yep, I’ve experienced these social anxiety symptoms and so many more. I’ve even reached the point where I’ve felt as though my entire body temperature increased and I was burning up, all while sitting with a group of people! #notfun #uncomfortable
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia affects our everyday social life, such as, not attending social events or not wanting to attend work or school, and is more common than you may think. So what is it?
Dr Thomas A. Richards explains:
Social anxiety is the fear of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people, leading to feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, self-consciousness, embarrassment, humiliation, and depression.
Spot on Dr Richards!
Social anxiety disorder can devastate our lives because even though we do realise that the fear is extreme or irrational, we often feel immobilised by the intense feelings it brings.
So how can we engage in a better social life and learn to control this fear? #overcomefear
3 Ways to Deal with Social Anxiety
1. Breathe In, Belly Out – Breathe Out, Belly In
I know what you’re thinking – breathing techniques are a bunch of bogus, I try and I try but it doesn’t work! Right? Well, I thought so too, until about a year ago when I was browsing through some articles on LinkedIn.
I came across a video by Jeff Ansell called Communicating with Confidence which I do not remember anything about except ‘breathe in, belly out – breathe out, belly in’. I decided to give it a try. I became conscious of my breathing and I kept practicing this. I practiced this alone, I practiced it while experiencing racing thoughts, I practiced it when I was on the phone and at work too. I found that this technique made a profound impact on my social anxiety symptoms. The hammer drill pounding stopped and because of that all the other symptoms stopped too.
Here’s a site that talks a little more about the breathing technique in an article called the power of calming belly breathing. I’ve added it here in case you want to find out more about this technique, or you want to follow a specific way to do the breathing technique.
To be honest – I didn’t time my breathing, nor did I pause and hold it as the article I linked suggests. All I did was train myself to make BIBO-BOBI a regular breathing pattern for me, and I did it how ever I felt comfortable to do so.
2. Speak to a Professional
As counter intuitive to the condition as it may sound to you, this is the best, most important step you can possibly take to help overcome it. I do realise that it can be hard to actually want to reach out to a professional for various other reasons too, because I’ve been there myself. Sometimes, and unknowingly, the people that we love the most can ‘condition’ us into thinking that it’s all in our head, which makes it even harder for us to recognise that it is an actual disorder, deterring us from seeking help.
So if you’re experiencing overwhelming emotions, regardless of what anyone else tells you, it’s safer to go to your GP and work out what it is, than not to. Your GP, with all the information you’ve provided can then determine whether to refer you onto someone who can assist or select the best course of treatment for you. #seekhelp
3. Being Mindful of your Thoughts
This point takes me back to one of my previous posts where I talked about The Power of Positivity, more specifically, the third point being Positive Self Talk. If you haven’t already read it, please do as it explains the ‘great’ inheritance from our cave dwelling ancestors and what we can do to chisel through this inheritance to create a rock with a positively magnificent image. (Like my metaphor?)
If you find it difficult to be mindful of your thoughts, meditation could be an avenue to help quieten the mind, bring clarity to your thoughts OR even assist with shyness or social anxiety as suggested by EOCInstitute. I use meditation myself at times when I feel ‘bogged down’ by all sorts of thoughts, and it really does work to declutter.
If you are someone reading this that does not experience social anxiety, never tell someone who is that it’s all in their head and to get over it and do not use any other term that dismisses how they feel. If you don’t understand it or don’t know how to support them, explain that you’ve not experienced it and offer to go with them to the GP to figure it out if they’d like.
Here are some informative, helpful websites if you’d like to read more about social anxiety.