social anxiety May 26, 2020
3 practical tips to overcome social anxiety and shyness to become more confident in any social situation.
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Feeling shy and awkward in social situations are natural feelings and something we’ve all been through at some point or other in life.
But… what happens when it’s more than just shyness and becomes a debilitating experience?
Many people have social anxiety, from mild physical symptoms of racing heart, rapid breathing and dry mouth, to the more extreme such as sheer panic, despair, blank mind and dizziness.
Having social anxiety causes you to want to avoid all social situations however small or insignificant.
I suffered terribly with this as a child and into my teens. I would go bright red with embarrassment, watery eyes, couldn’t make eye contact and really struggled to say anything.
It was such a tough time in my life to make or keep friends and felt so bad about myself. I honestly can say I hated it! And although well over it… I can still remember the moments of utter dread.
Lockdown and Social Distancing is your ideal comfort zone and safe place if you struggle in social situations. You feel at ease and comfortable at home and at least you don’t have to justify not socialising with others.
Whilst we’re slowing coming through this pandemic and certain aspects of lockdown are being eased, it can remain the perfect excuse for avoiding people and not resolving your social anxieties.
I’m not just someone who coaches people to overcome their emotional states and psychological barriers, I’m the genuine person who has lived through many struggles and share from the heart about the only way to move beyond them.
At the moment you feel you ARE your Social Anxiety – that’s just rubbish, a distorted narrative you’re replaying over and over that becomes your reality.
I’m not poo-pooing your feelings for one moment – because to you they feel very real right now. I’ve been where you are and think you’re stuck like this forever. You’re not!
This is simply that I’m here to help you understand that you and your emotions are separate. You FEEL socially anxious, rather than you ARE, there’s a significant and powerful difference.
As the saying goes… “Thoughts become things or scenarios”. So firstly, you MUST control your thoughts.
Here’s a quick example…
Close your eyes and imagine a social situation you struggle in (family event, speaking up in a group, making new friends, etc). Make it real in your head, the surroundings, the smells, what you hear. See how quickly your body and emotions have responded to that picture!
Open your eyes, take a few deep breaths, connect with something solid and repeat to yourself… “I’m calm, I’m ok” as many times as you need to return to a calm state.
That is powerful! You didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything, just imagine and all those emotions and physical symptoms occur.
Think scared, afraid, shy, embarrassed – you’ll become it.
Here are my 3 top tips to help you feel more socially comfortable and finally handle things better.
1: Mind Magnet
As you’ve just experienced, our mind is like a magnet. Think rubbish thoughts and that’s what you get.
Instead focus on what you want to get better at or improve.
Whatever it is… focus on it.
Change what you think and notice how you begin to change.
2: How You Act
Our mind and body are closely connected, the body responds to thoughts and feelings.
Here’s a quick example…
At a safe time, stand or sit up straight, tilt head back and look up (to ceiling or sky depending on where you are!), put the most ridiculously massive grin on your face.
Without changing that position, can you start to feel sad, down or unhappy?
You can’t – it’s just not possible. This is a helpful reminder that our body reacts to emotions, but also controls them one way or another.
It was once said… ‘Knowledge is power’. But there’s a missing element to that and here it is… ‘only when action is applied’!
There’s no point having this information and then not doing something with it. You must take action and use this to feel better.
During times of negativity and social anxiety your body will respond to those thoughts and feelings. Putting together what you’ve learnt so far… think more confidently, happier and certain and make a conscious effort to use your body to act that way.
Very quickly your mind and body will respond, and you’ll start feeling and moving in that positive way. Train your mind and your physiology follows. Change your actions and your mind responds.
Make a definite decision in all you do to act more confidently and positive… you’ll be amazed at how quickly things change for the better.
3: Positive Action
Now it’s about taking action out in the ‘real world’. Yes, it’s important to practice at home and with people you’re very comfortable with, at some point though you must get out there and do it for real.
But let’s not create overwhelm and panic before you’ve even got out of the door!
Take it one step at a time. On your daily exercise or when out (socially distancing) for a while…
One of the things I really struggled with for years was eye contact, you may have this too at the moment.
Quick tip… wear sunglasses to help. It shields your eyes and gives you an added ‘comfort’ to help you feel more in control and to practice making eye contact more. You can see their eyes, but they can’t see yours.
This is not to be used as a constant option, just in the beginning to help you practice and train yourself into feeling more comfortable with making eye contact with others. Make a definite decision to regularly make eye contact without sunglasses too.
Practical action will feel uncomfortable to start with. Nothing different or awkward does feel ok in the beginning, it’s natural.
Just like a sports person doesn’t go from lying on the sofa eating junk food to immediately playing their best match or running their best race.
They practice… over and over and over.
And to become more socially confident you must practice too. Smile, relax and be proud you’re finally breaking free of the shackles of social anxiety. I did it, I believe you can too.