Sometimes before I even go somewhere, I dread it. I become self-conscious that people will be watching me and even worse- judging me. Believe it or not, this is actually a common occurrence for many people. Some may chalk it up to nerves, but it can also be due something else entirely; social anxiety.
Social anxiety (also known as social phobia) is a form of anxiety, defined as the intense fear of being watched or judged by others. This generally occurs in most or all social situations, such as meeting new people or speaking in a large group. It can also happen in what we consider to be everyday activities, such as talking with co-workers, going to the grocery store, eating in public and so on. Some signs and symptoms of social anxiety can include:
- Feeling nauseous
- Rapid heart rate
- Little to no eye contact with others
- Rigid posture or closed-off stance
- Avoiding places with other people
Experiencing social anxiety is common for many people. In fact, it’s normal to want to be independent at times and spend time alone at home, particularly in the time of cold weather and rising Covid cases. However, while it can be common and is nothing to be ashamed of, it can be an issue when it becomes debilitating or prevents you from accomplishing everyday tasks.
Luckily, there are many ways to help and learn how to cope with social anxiety. One way is to first identify specific situations or places in where your social anxiety may be the worse. This could be going to the grocery store, speaking in large groups or ordering food from a restaurant. Now, this doesn’t mean you can or should always avoid these situations because of it, but by identifying what is making you most anxious, you can take the next steps to manage it.
Another step is to challenge negative thinking. To reduce negative thoughts, think about a recent social situation where you may have felt anxious. Write down what your negative thoughts were during the situation and how you felt after. This can help you keep track of social situations where anxiety occurs most and common negative thoughts that coincide with them.
When you find yourself in these situations, other than challenging negative thinking, you may want to practice relaxation techniques. Try deep breathing exercises, such as box breathing or even just stepping away from the situation and coming back to it when you are calmer and more comfortable. It should also be said that if you are dealing with extreme social anxiety you may want to find and speak to a therapist about it. There are coping methods you can do on your own, but it can also be helpful to discuss what you are experiencing with a mental health professional.
Social anxiety will show up differently for everyone and everyone will most likely cope with it using techniques and methods that work best for them. Just remember that it can be possible to manage your anxiety in stressful social situations – you just have to work towards it!
Staff Blogger: Mollie Clupper
Mollie Clupper works for MHA as a Communications and Support Specialist. Using her own experiences, she wants to help bring awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental health. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, drinking coffee, and spending time with her fur-niece.