Sarah is running an errand in Lake Oswego. She is heading to the post office. As she pulls up into the parking lot, she suddenly starts feeling anxious. Thoughts start swirling around her head.
“What if I struggle to open the post office door?”
“What if everyone I drop the mail on the ground and everyone sees me?”
“What if I do something stupid?”
Panic starts setting in. Sarah’s anxiety is increasing at the thought.
While society is opening back up — and a lot of people are really excited about that — there's a lot of people that have some anxiety over that, as well. Anxiety has increased in society.
Those who experience social anxiety may have a challenging time trying to engage once we come out of the CoVid-19 slumber.
The thought of having to be around people causes their heart to race. The possibility of interacting with co-workers or fellow students makes the stomach churn. And the head races with negative thinking at the possibility of making a mistake in front of others. Of not having the right thing to say. Or not fitting in. Or not being good enough.
Anxiety symptoms kick in. And it feels safer to stay home and hide.
But it is unlikely that doing so will actually make the person satisfied with life.
So, here are some tips on how to overcome social anxiety.
Step #1 to Overcome Social Anxiety — Know What Causes Your Social Anxiety:
Knowing your enemy helps you to master it.
Putting a name to what causes social anxiety can be the first step to help a person to move beyond it.
What causes your social anxiety? What triggers come up or what triggers that anxiety
inside of you with being around other people?
Step #2 to Overcome Social Anxiety — Face the Negative Messages:
Anxiety causes thoughts to spiral down into a worst-case scenario. We get into a space of irrational thinking.
It is key to face the negative messages that go on in your head. Those thoughts of being a failure. Of looking ridiculous. Of not being liked. Bring those up and face them.
What does it mean to face them?
It means to simply bring them to mind. You don’t need to dwell on the thoughts. In fact, you don’t want to dwell on them.
You want to take the time to challenge the negative thinking.
Step #3 to Overcome Social Anxiety — Recognize the Truth:
Part of challenging negative thinking is to ask yourself a question: “What is true?”
Recognize the truth or recognize what is true about the situation. What is true about who you are? What is true about your circumstances?
Step #4 to Overcome Social Anxiety — Write It Down:
The next step is to write the negative messages that are going on inside of your head.
And then write down what is actually true.
Then write down what you want to do because of the truth.
Write it down.
Sure, you could do it as a mental exercise. But you would be doing yourself a favor by taking it a step further.
The act of writing down your thoughts can be an incredibly helpful therapeutic tool. It requires you to slow down and be intentional in your thinking and behavior.
Step #5 to Overcome Social Anxiety — Claim Small Victories:
We so easily brush off small victories.
We think, “Oh, anybody could do that.”
Maybe so. But maybe not.
Not everyone is on the same journey.
Don’t worry about comparing yourself to everyone else. Claim your small victories.
Were you able to look people in the eye? Were you able to have a conversation? Were you able to survive going out and interacting with other people?
Recognize and celebrate your small victories. You will be able to build upon them as you grow and reach your goals.
Social anxiety can be debilitating. It can be such a challenging mental issue to overcome. You may need some help to find improvement.
Participating in counseling for anxiety can help you reach your goals for mental and emotional wellness.
Jason Wilkinson is a marriage counselor who is passionate about helping marriages with communication and individuals experiencing anxiety and low self-esteem. He is the owner of Wellspace Counseling, which helps people to reach their goals of mental and emotional wellness is Tualatin, Lake Oswego, and Portland, Oregon. He is also able to serve individuals and couples throughout Oregon through online counseling.