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Tips To Overcome Social Anxiety

July 13, 2015

Are you deathly afraid of public speaking? Do you avoid going out with friends because you don’t want to engage in small talk? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then you may have social anxiety. Other common social anxiety fears can include eating in front of people and using public restrooms. At the heart of social anxiety is fear of evaluation. People with social anxiety fear not just negative evaluation, but positive evaluation as well. Social anxiety can alter a person’s life dramatically and cause them to avoid social situations altogether, isolate themselves in their homes, and lose friends. If you are struggling with social anxiety, the tips below will help you to reach out more and isolate less:

1. Alter negative thoughts about social situations:

People with social anxiety often have negative thoughts about social anxiety that speak to their fear of evaluation. For instance, they may say to themselves: “I don’t want to look stupid,” or “I won’t have anything to talk about.” The first step to overcoming social anxiety is to challenge these thoughts. Once these automatic thoughts start popping into your head, ask yourself, “why would people think I look stupid?” Or, “even if I don’t have much to say, does that mean I will look incompetent?” As you ask yourself these questions, you may start to recognize that these negative thoughts have no basis in reality. People won’t think you look stupid! By evaluating your negative thoughts, you will be able to alter them and gradually replace them with more positive thoughts about social scenarios.

2. Control your breathing:

When you become anxious, a lot of things happen to your body, including increased heart rate and rapid breathing. You may become so anxious that you become dizzy or experience muscle tension. You can overcome these issues by learning to control your breathing. Focus on taking deep breaths. Sit comfortably with your back straight and your shoulders relaxed and breathe in through your nose. You should feel the breath make your stomach, as opposed to your chest rise. Hold the breath for two seconds and exhale slowly out your mouth for six seconds. Continue doing this until you feel your anxiety begin to dissipate.

3. Adopt healthy lifestyle changes:

Certain behaviors can increase feelings of social anxiety. Try to limit your intake of caffeine because caffeine makes it harder for you to remain or become calm. Drink alcohol only in moderation. Although many think that drinking helps to calm nerves, it can also lead to anxiety attacks. If you are a smoker, stop! People with social anxiety need to be able to control their breathing and compromised lungs make this more difficult. And finally, get enough sleep so you are able to handle life’s challenges with more energy and confidence.

inc.com has some fun tips for dealing with social anxiety. Prevail Health also has a proven cognitive behavioral therapy program that is personalized to target specific issues such as anxiety.

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