Easing the Discomfort of Social Anxiety

Do you feel uncomfortable around new people?  Does interaction with co-workers cause you to feel self-conscious, negatively perceived, or under unnecessary scrutiny? Does speaking up in meetings frighten you to the point of dizziness, muscle tension, or shortness of breath?  If you can relate to any of the aforementioned symptoms, you may be experiencing Social Anxiety—and you aren’t alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, around 15 million Americans experience a form of social anxiety.

Social anxiety is defined as the fear of interaction with other people that brings on self-consciousness, feelings of being negatively judged and evaluated, and, as a result, leads to avoidance. “If a person usually becomes (irrationally) anxious in social situations, but seems better when they are alone then ‘social anxiety’ may be the problem” says Thomas A. Richards, PhD., psychologist and director of The Social Anxiety Institute. This article will provide some tips to help ease the discomfort of social phobia.

Social situations can be very bothersome but you can reclaim your life and ease your symptoms by thinking positively. When you know that you’re going to be speaking or mingling with a group of individuals, be sure to affirm yourself. Learn to catch negative self-speak when it occurs and turn it around to something that will ultimately motivate you. For Example, if you think, “I can’t speak in front of these strangers; they will hate my voice” combat that thought with, “My input is very important; my insight could help someone”.  This won’t be easy in the beginning but with much practice, your mind will be reconfigured to more optimistic thinking.

Building a safe network of friends and colleagues can also be helpful in easing your social discomforts. You can meet individuals in embracing environments; for example, doing volunteer work is a great opportunity to engage with others. The key to making this successful is to ensure you are performing an activity you enjoy, providing a main focus, in an environment that encourages you to interact in small talk with like-minded people.

It’s very important that you actively pay attention to your breathing. Quickened breathing can increase symptoms of anxiety, for example, increased heart rate, feeling suffocated, and dizziness. Learn to slow your breathing to regain control of your body and anxieties. You can find breathing exercises online to assist you when needed.  Focusing on remaining calm and practicing proper breathing should be the foundation for successfully overcoming social anxiety.

For more information on the causes, symptoms, and treatments of social anxiety: visit http://www. Socialanxietyinstitute.org