Social anxiety is the intense fear of social situations or becoming extremely nervous even when thinking about socializing. You always feel like you’re being watched or judged. That’s not a good feeling, but there are ways to try and get yourself out there. Here are my 6 ways to socialize when you have social anxiety.
1. Be Mindful Of Your Body
When we are anxious, our body can become quite tense and experience uncomfortable sensations. In an uncomfortable situation, these sensations are usually heightened. Take the time to step away from the situation and ground yourself. Feel your feet on the floor during a presentation, think of your body and try not to live too much inside of your mind. If you’re at a party or other event, politely ask for a break or to use the facilities, and take some time to reconnect with yourself. You don’t have to practice mindfulness meditation on the floor of a washroom, just look at yourself in the mirror and remind yourself that you have to deal with the situation at hand and keep your head screwed on.
2. Practice Affirmations
Social anxiety can often fool us into thinking that people are scrutinizing our every move. It’s important to remember that most people aren’t scrutinizers and they will value the interaction you share with them. In the face of an interviewer or professor, we often feel powerless. You should remind yourself that it’s normal to feel this way and that the person in the power seat is simply doing their job. But it’s not just high-stress situations like interviews or talking to profs that can heighten anxiety, even chatting casually with someone can make you feel naked and vulnerable. You know how great you are, and they can probably see it too. Don’t think the way you see yourself is the way others see you. Most people get nervous talking to someone new, maybe the person you’re talking to is just as nervous. We can’t see these emotions, so don’t think you have embarrassment written all over your forehead. Also think about the stakes, because the chances are you probably won’t ever have to talk to them again. And if you do, the next time will be easier because you’ve already broken the ice.
3. Online forums or groups
Joining an online forum focused around social anxiety can help to find people that really understand what you’re going through. These are safe places where you can openly talk about your feelings. You can also do this in real life, and in Toronto, there many youth and adult programs that provide group counseling for free. Do your research to make sure you find one that suits your needs. If you’re a creative person, like a writer, photographer, or visual arts, or even if you want to start developing these skills, trying joining an online publication like a zine or blog. You can peruse Instagram using tags like #zine and #writersofinstagram in order to find a creative outlet. Being part of a team, whether it’s online or in person, can be a great way to find like-minded friends and start networking. But remember this: don’t hide behind the internet. This is meant to be a jumping off place for you to start making connections in real life. Maybe someone in your magazine or group lives in your city and you can meet up! You’ve already broken the ice, all that’s left is the face to face!
Talking on the phone can be a big stress for those of us with social anxiety. Talking to friends through text messaging can help to give us the space we need. Millenials and Gen-Z’ers are often chastised for texting instead of calling. But I think that texting is a valid form of communication. It may not be as comforting as having a physical someone there to hug when you need a hug, but what happens when you don’t need a hug? Sometimes you want to be alone but still know that there are people out there who care. Texting someone when you need both space and company is a good social negotiation that gives you the best of both worlds
5. Take Small Steps (Or Really Small)
Reaching out and being social doesn’t mean you have to have an instant connection. Connecting with someone can be as simple a start as sharing a laugh. Sharing a smile with someone is a good way of showing them you’re friendly and open to conversation. Once you’ve made that initial step and receive a reciprocation, it’s usually a good sign that you can start a conservation the next time. The first conversation is always the hardest, but it will get easier each time. Try thinking of questions to ask the person the next you seem them, talk to them about what you learned in class, make fun of the prof, compliment their clothing, or refer to something they might have told you before.
6. Find Your Comfort Zones and Break Out of Them
Using online groups or texting can be a trap if you use them as escapes instead of tools for coping. I don’t mean that you should suddenly force yourself to become super talkative and reveal your deepest desires to the first person you see. Start to reflect on your use of texting instead of talking, the internet instead real life. If you’re feeling disconnected from your friends, try meeting up with them in person. Pay attention to yourself and try to find the boundaries that you can push. If you’re unsure whether or not you want to go to event like a party or hangout, it’s best to go and try your luck, even if you’re nervous. If people you trust are going to be there, it’s a good time to take a leap. If you’re not feeling it, you can always leave. It’s important to remember that you can always reach out to the people that you trust. Seeing a counselor or a therapist might be a good way of addressing your anxiety head-on.