Following years of uncertainty, as well as limited social contact due to covid-19, more and more people may be experiencing feelings of social anxiety. Especially as we return to offices after months and months of working from home, isolated from colleagues.

But what exactly is social anxiety?

Social anxiety is essentially a feeling of worry and fear in social situations, around familiar or unfamiliar people. It’s become such an issue, that Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) now affects 15 million American adults, according to Mental Health America. The majority of people’s symptoms start during the early teen years or childhood and in many cases, they can totally disrupt a person’s day to day life. 

The National Institute of Mental Health describes SAD as “an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others.” This can get in the way of making and keeping friends, relationships, job interviews and even commonplace daily occurrences such as chatting to an employee at a bank.  

Symptoms of social anxiety include an increased heart rate, sweating, nausea, and /or feelings of self consciousness.

Luckily there are ways to overcome social anxiety. Give these a go….

5 ways to overcome social anxiety and feel confident 

  • Slowly return to in-person gatherings

Although it might be the last thing you feel like doing, it’s important to proactively try and immerse yourself back into social events. This doesn’t have to mean big networking parties with hundreds of strangers; it could be a small dinner with a few colleagues that you feel comfortable with, or even an exercise class with some close friends. Say yes to activities that don’t seem too daunting, and continue to say no to anything that you think could cause your symptoms to worsen. Take baby steps, don’t rush yourself and as you slowly start to meet up with people and socialize, you’ll naturally feel a little more comfortable as time goes on. 

  • Give yourself kudos 

It’s important to big yourself up. Congratulate yourself when you attend a social event and give yourself the credit you deserve. 

It’s not to everyone’s liking, but talking to yourself in the mirror can help. This is a great way to help with confidence and self image. Before you head out, give yourself some positive self-talk—you could repeat the line “I am good enough, I can do this,” which when repeated, can eventually stick in your mind, helping you to feel strong enough to socialize comfortably. 

  • Write it down 

When your mind is riddled with thoughts, getting them out on paper can help to literally take these thoughts out of your head and place them somewhere else, so they aren’t continually plaguing your mind. 

In fact, studies have shown that journaling can help relieve the symptoms of anxiety. Having your thoughts written down can also allow you to read back over them further down the line, to see how far you’ve come. 

  • Take care of yourself 

To help you feel confident and empowered, it’s vital that you prioritize your health. Because after all, feeling good starts from within. Take the time to exercise each day, and enjoy good, wholesome food, while limiting sugary, fatty foods that can wreak havoc on blood sugar levels, causing energy levels to peak and crash. It’s also wise to keep alcohol to a minimum as this has been known to make anxiety and mental health disorders even more prominent.  

As well as this, make sleep your number one go-to. Aim for seven to nine hours every night, and practice a solid bedtime routine, removing technology and allowing your body and mind to wind down properly. 

  • Ask for help

It’s important to remember, that no matter what you’re feeling, you are never alone and there is always help at hand. Is there a close friend or family member who is particularly good at listening? Is there someone who you know will give you their time, and allow you to confide in them?

Sometimes, talking to a stranger can be easier than talking to someone you already know well. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) hotline (1-800-950-NAMI (6264)) is a good place to start as is the 24/7 Crisis Text Line: text NAMI to 741-741.

And remember; overcoming anxiety takes time. It won’t happen overnight and there will be setbacks along the way. Be kind to yourself and you’ll slowly start to feel symptoms improve.

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