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Social anxiety? I hear you.

If you’re reading this, chances are that you are familiar with the term ‘social anxiety’. You probably get stressed out in busy public spaces, the idea of being in a space with people whom you feel you ‘have to’ interact with overwhelms you (even if these are friends or family), having to plan things with others feels nerve-wracking and you are familiar with what is like to have a panic attack.

Or perhaps your experience of what social anxiety means is entirely different – and that’s okay (at the end of the day, we are all unique individuals).

In my experience working with clients who experience social anxiety, sometimes there is an element of early difficult experiences or trauma – from experiencing bullying, critical parents/carers, bereavement, or even abuse. Early life experiences shape our development and how we think and behave as adults, so it makes sense that there could be something you experienced in the past that has an effect on how you are feeling right now.

So what can we do to overcome social anxiety? Well, although there is no magic wand or a one-size-fits-all type of solution, I have put together some steps you can take that could be helpful. Just remember like everything, it takes time and practice, so prepare to be patient with yourself:

Tips to stop being socially anxious:

  1. Acknowledge and Accept Your Anxiety
    Recognise that it’s okay to feel anxious in social situations. Respect your own experience and try to avoid self-criticism. It is okay to feel the way you feel.
  2. Practice Self-Compassion
    Treat yourself with kindness and understanding. Be as gentle with yourself as you would be with a friend facing a similar challenge. Remind yourself you are doing the best you can, you are just a human being after all!
  3. Challenge Negative Thoughts
    Identify and challenge irrational or negative thoughts that contribute to anxiety and replace them with more realistic and positive perspectives. This is often a tricky one, as for most people challenging their own thoughts does not come naturally to them, But you can learn, and I believe you can do it!
  4. Try social Situations With Boundaries
    It could be helpful to gradually expose yourself to social situations that make you anxious. Start with smaller, less intimidating gatherings and work your way up. If you do this, make sure you set your own boundaries so you feel in control and comfortable with what you are doing. Remember it’s important you know you can make yourself safe whenever you need to.
  5. Focus on Breathing and Relaxation Techniques
    Practice deep breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation to calm your nervous system. This can help you feel more grounded and centered.
  6. Try to be present
    Instead of worrying about how you are being perceived, focus on being present and genuinely interested in others. Ask questions and actively listen.
  7. Use Positive Affirmations
    Although it could feel cringey, it might be worth reminding yourself of your strengths and positive qualities. Repeat affirmations to boost your confidence and self-esteem.
  8. Exercise Regularly
    Engaging in physical activity releases endorphins, which can help reduce anxiety and improve mood.
  9. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
    Eat well-balanced meals, get regular sleep, and limit caffeine and alcohol intake. A healthy body supports a healthy mind.
  10. Seek Professional Help if Needed
    If social anxiety significantly impacts your daily life, it could be helpful to book an appointment with a therapist and unpack what’s going through your mind in a safe space.

Remember, progress may be slow, and it’s normal to face setbacks along the way. Be patient and kind to yourself ❤️

Important:
These tips are only to be used as ideas on how to manage your anxiety. If you have any specific concerns about your mental health, please do not delay seeking medical advice or treatment for your mental health because of the information on this blog. If you’re unsure, do contact your GP or book a counselling appointment so we can discuss your needs in more detail.

If you’re experiencing severe anxiety or have thoughts of self-harm, please contact a trusted person in your life immediately or call SAMARITANS 116 123 (free from any phone) 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can also email  jo@samaritans.org

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