According to the National institute of Mental Health, social anxiety—or social phobia—is “characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social or performance situations.” While many people experience shyness, some experience these feelings more intensely. When asked to give an impromptu speech or not knowing anyone at a party, the average person is likely to feel a little uncomfortable, even shy. One of the situations listed above would likely be enough to cause blushing, shaking, sweating, or a racing heart, among other symptoms in those with social anxiety.
Social anxiety often has negative repercussions in everyday situations. It affects the ability to develop strong relationships or excel at work. Though it definitely requires effort, there are ways to overcome social anxiety. However, The Anxiety and Depression Association of American reported that sadly, 36 percent of people live with social anxiety for 10 or more years before seeking help. Those with social anxiety can benefit from seeing a therapist.
Furthermore, many people don’t realize that anxiety is not just about personality or genetics. Struggling brain health or nutritional deficiencies can contribute to anxiety. Even a seemingly healthy body does not always indicate a healthy brain. Read on for some surprising dos and don’ts that may help in navigating social interactions:
- Do take baby steps- You don’t need to be the life of the party or center of attention at a social gathering in order to participate. Start by making conversation with one person or joining a small group. You might even start by going out with a group of close friends or invite someone to get lunch one-on-one. Getting accustomed to social situations gradually will make the task seem a lot more doable. Celebrate small victories-they will help to keep you motivated. Even if stepping out of your comfort zone doesn’t go as planned, celebrate that you stepped out of your comfort zone and worked towards overcoming a fear.
- Do take MindWhale’s Brain Health Quiz– Based on scientific research, this quiz will help you to learn more about your own brain health and find out how to improve it.
- Do prepare for social situations- An article I recently read on The Spruce, suggested having some conversation starters ready to begin an exchange or to keep a lagging conversation going. If thinking about an upcoming social interaction induces stress, try to think positively about it or do something relaxing such as taking a bath or listening to calming music while picturing the situation. This will help you to associate more positive feelings with the event.
- Do realize that everyone wants to accepted– People experience the basic need to be accepted and appreciated. Everyone, to some extent, cares what other people think and experience self-consciousness. Remember that you are not the only person in the room who may be feeling this way. Put others first. Focusing on helping others to feel good about themselves may help to redirect some of that nervous energy off of you. It is also a good way to make friends.
- Do schedule an in-person or virtual consultation with biochemist and nutritionist, Nicholas Hundley- Did you know your anxiety may be a result of brain chemical imbalances such as inflammation or unhealthy neurotransmitters? Nic will work with you to create a plan to correct these issues and start you on the path to eliminating anxiety from your life.
- Do try to pinpoint what you actually fear– When I was young, my family took a vacation to Canada. This was before documentation was needed for United States citizens to pass through the Canadian border. For one reason or another, when we pulled up to the Canadian Border Crossing, we had no idea where we were and my dad asked the border patrol for directions to Canada. He told him to go straight ahead. In my dad’s defense, it was dark out and we were all exhausted. We all had a good laugh about it later. Situations like this can help people figure out their specific social fears. Are you afraid of appearing unintelligent? Needy? Ill-informed? Afraid of being rejected? Knowing what you actually fear may be helpful in finding ways to combat that fear.
- Don’t avoid social situations- This may seem obvious, but the best way to get over your fear is to face it. Staying home may make you feel better in the short run, but it won’t help you work towards building relationships and having positive interactions with others. These things will make you feel better long-term.
- Don’t be ashamed- Feelings of shame often stunt progression because people believe that they are to blame for the way they are. They often feel that something is inherently wrong with them. If you are struggling with social anxiety, remember that there is nothing wrong with you and that you are worthy of connecting with others. You have things to share with others and your relationships with them can benefit them as much as their attention can benefit you.
Putting these tips into practice will help you to begin working towards feeling more like yourself in social situations. However, it is important to know the causes of your anxiety as well. At MindWhale, we evaluate patients’ brain health by looking for biochemical causes that may keep them from reaching emotional wellness. Take the Brain Health Quiz or schedule a consultation to learn more.