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How to Overcome Social Anxiety

Having social anxiety can be very overwhelming. It makes it so you’re not comfortable socializing, which makes the situation you’re in not very good or enjoyable. Learn how to overcome social anxiety below.

What Is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety is when you are anxious in social settings. You probably have social anxiety if you don’t look forward to spending time with other people because it causes stress, concerns, or an uncomfortable feeling. It can also include the feeling as if everyone were paying attention only to you, making you self-conscious and only allowing you to focus on that bad feeling while in that social situation.

Social Anxiety and Normal Anxiety

Learn how to differentiate social anxiety and normal anxiety to better navigate your anxiety journey.

Social anxiety will only be present in a social situation, perhaps when you are preparing to be in a social situation or after processing the social situation, you were just in. However, regular anxiety can be present at any time of the day. Oftentimes if you are an anxious person in general, you will also experience social anxiety.

How to Tell if You Have Social Anxiety

Social anxiety can present itself in a number of ways, but here are some signs to look out for to determine if you have social anxiety.

  • Embarrassment. You are easily embarrassed in social situations, or you constantly fear being embarrassed by the people around you.
  • Fear. Just the thought of being out with other people stresses you out or causes you to overthink.
  • Sweating. If you get sweaty when you are in a social environment, just because, there might be an underlying reason. It likely causes stress or something like that.
  • Overwhelming feeling. Does the idea of going out with other people cause an overwhelming sensation, like it’s all just too much? This feeling likely indicates you have social anxiety.
  • Fast heartbeat. It’s normal for your heart to be accelerated when you are about to be in a different situation, but socializing should only cause a fast heart beat if it’s due to excitement, not stress. So if you’re not excited, and your heart is beating quickly, it is likely beating that fast for a less enjoyable reason.

Causes of Social Anxiety

If you want to overcome the problem, you need to fully understand it. Exploring the root of the problem will help you overcome your social anxiety. Find out possible causes below.

  • Bullying. Perhaps you were bullied in school or in a specific social situation, which scarred you. Bullying can be traumatizing, and social anxiety may result from that bad past experience.
  • Stressful events. If you have a lot of stressful, difficult things happening around you, it wouldn’t be strange for you to be experiencing social anxiety.
  • Emotional abuse. This type of abuse can happen in different ways. Perhaps you were emotionally abused in a friendship, in a romantic relationship, or by family members. Whichever it may be, if you are hurting due to someone else’s actions, you may experience some social anxiety until you overcome the situation.

Is Being Shy the Same as Having Social Anxiety?

If you’ve gathered anything from this up until now, it should be that being shy and having social anxiety are very different things. Someone shy may not want to talk to many people because it doesn’t seem fun for them. When you have social anxiety, it’s not a matter of not wanting to do something because you are too shy to do whatever it may be. It’s because the thought and experience of the situation are too much to tolerate.

Tips to Overcome Social Anxiety

Tips that help you overcome social anxiety.
Tips that help you overcome social anxiety.

Follow these tips to try to overcome your social anxiety quickly.

  • Take small steps. Heading in the right direction, ease yourself into a social situation you mostly feel comfortable in. Try to be mindful of the positive factors about that specific social situation. Little by little, you’ll overcome your social anxiety so you can do more in a social setting than before.
  • Play out different scenarios in your head. Do this with possible positive experiences and negative experiences. If you are prepared to go into the social setting, you will know how to navigate the different situations you may find yourself in, no matter how unexpected they are.
  • Build your confidence. If you are confident and 100% sure of yourself before putting yourself in a social setting, you have a lot less to worry about. Often, you’ll get in your head about things if you feel unsure of yourself. If you at least feel good about yourself, it’ll be one more thing in your favor.
  • Distract yourself. Perhaps you are at a gathering, and it’s going well, but there are moments when you are getting bored or suddenly don’t have someone to talk to. Don’t let that happen, and keep busy. The busier your mind is, the less time it will have for intrusive, anxiety-inducing thoughts.

How to Make Friends if You Have Social Anxiety

How to make friends if you have social anxiety problem.
How to make friends if you have social anxiety problem.

Making friends when you have social anxiety can be tricky. You might feel comfortable with them one day, but the next you have horrible social anxiety and can’t quite get on the same page. What will be most helpful is finding friends who understand the anxious feelings you have.

Make sure to communicate with them openly and honestly about your social anxiety, so they know what to look out for and help you navigate those feelings. It feels a lot better when you have people on your side cheering you on to get through it or trying to help you. This will make overcoming your social anxiety a lot easier. Look for these qualities in your friendships:

  • Understanding. If they are understanding, they won’t judge you for wanting to leave earlier because you’ve had enough socializing for one day. They’ll get that you need to ease into things.
  • Patient. This goes along with being understanding. They will have patience for the emotions your social anxiety may cause.
  • Not the most popular person. Making friends with someone who is popular will make things harder for you because they will usually be surrounded by other people. Finding someone who has a social circle they can introduce you to but not overwhelms you with is your best choice.
  • Encouraging. This is a good quality in a friend because you will need support and encouragement to put yourself out there and improve in social situations.

How to Handle a Flare When You’re in a Social Setting

Let’s say that you made it to a social gathering and you’re doing okay. You haven’t felt anxious yet, you’ve been doing a good job socializing, but suddenly the bad feelings start to creep up on you again. Don’t let this small bad feeling turn into something bigger, you’ve made it this far. The best choice is to try to overcome the negative feeling and keep going.

Stay calm, maybe step out for a minute, and go somewhere that is more quiet so you can gather yourself and continue.

If you see a friend, go to them and explain the situation so they can help you out. Although it’s better to navigate the flare on your own, in case there’s a time when you can’t rely on someone else for help, it is okay to ask for help too.

Don’t be afraid to go to whatever length is needed to make it through the flare. Minor setbacks shouldn’t discourage you for there to be a next time.

Most Important Tips for Navigating a Social Situation

  • Differentiate if you have anxiety or social anxiety. This is important to differentiate because you might think you have social anxiety, but you really have generalized anxiety, and you need to go about that differently. 
  • Figure out the cause of your social anxiety. Figuring out the cause of the problem will help you solve the problem more easily.  
  • Think about if the issue is truly anxiety or shyness. You might just be shy or introverted around other people. Analyze your feelings in different social situations to figure out which one is.
  • Make friends that understand. Having a social circle, no matter how big or small, understanding of your social anxiety will greatly benefit you. They will allow you to improve in social situations amongst them, and be a support system when you need one.

To sum it all up, if you practice all of the tips provided above, you will be able to achieve any social goal you may set for yourself, and little by little, make improvements. Don’t rush because if you rush, you might experience more setbacks due to overwhelming feelings. Instead, take your time, and get better at handling social situations to avoid experiencing social anxiety. Remember, you don’t have to live with social anxiety forever, it is possible to overcome it.

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