Four Tips to Overcome Social Anxiety

The holiday season is upon us and although it’s supposed to be festive and fun, it can also bring a lot of anxiety-producing social occasions.

Whether it’s due to an office party, a big gathering at your in-laws, or an open house in your new neighborhood, many people suffer from social anxiety and that can make you feel out-of-sync with the merry mood.

If you’re dealing with this problem, Wise Mind Living strategies can teach you how to overcome social anxiety.

My patient Angelina was having anxiety issues about her upcoming office holiday party and asked me for help.

She had a new dress to show off, a recently completed project to celebrateand a gnawing dread of the evening ahead. Ask her anything about the complex data analysis she’d done and she was happy to discuss it at length.

But just thinking about a party and its free-form nature, really stressed her out. It also made her feel sad and lonely, so she needed a treatment plan for overcoming those feelings.

The first thing Angelina needed to do was to get into Wise Mind, and I recommended four steps to use when coping with stress and anxiety that will help you too.

Figure out what you’re really feeling.

Angelina was in touch with feeling sad and lonely, but when she reviewed the big eight emotions, she identified that what she was really feeling was fear.

She was worried about her colleagues not being friendly, not liking her, and maybe even judging her—all signs of fear, not sadness. It can be difficult to accurately label an emotion, but the good news is that there are really just eight choices.

Ask yourself what you feel like doing – what is your “action urge”?

This was an easy answer for Angelina: she wanted to stay home! If you’re feeling anxious about social situations you can probably relate to this. However, what you need to do is stop thinking about ways to avoid something you don’t want to do.

Now ignore your urge, and do the opposite.

Angelina needed to RSVP “yes” to the party. And then go to the party. Opposite action can serve as a kind of short-cut to choosing better behavior. It’s not always easy to do at first, but it works. Give yourself a little push and start “acting” the part and after a little while, I bet you won’t have to “act” anymore.

Go all out.

Angelina needed to commit 100% to her opposite action – she had to go to that party like she meant it. She had to rock that new dress and she had to talk to people—and not just the friend she came with for moral support. You need to do the same thing with your opposite action.

Another thing to remember is to use facial expressions and body language that convey that you’re happy to be there (and not awkward or miserable). There was to be no sitting there like she was a bump on a log. Angelina had to be all in.

This is important not only for communicating to the people around you a message you want to send, but also for convincing your own body that you’re doing a good thing. If you do a half-baked job of it, your emotion, and the stress you feel from it, won’t budge.

Using these Wise Mind Living strategies, Angelina chose a more effective action, changing her behavior and the emotion her less helpful action urges promoted. She changed how she felt by changing what she did – and you can too.

I’m confident that these tips will help ease your anxiety in stressful situations. Please leave a message in the comment section below and let me know how they worked.

Mindfully,
Erin

Photo credit: iStock

2 Comments

  1. Deanna R. Jones August 20, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    I’ve always had difficulty making friends because of my social anxiety. I would like to meet new people and be more sociable, but I always feel a big ball of knots in my stomach that takes over my desire to talk to people. You made some really interesting points about how I should get out of my comfort zone and get over my social anxiety. I liked what you said about identifying my “action urge” to hide from everyone and do the exact opposite. Giving myself the push that I need to start taking baby steps to interact with people more seems like exactly the thing that I should do so that I can start having friends and live a life that’s less lonely. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Erin Olivo October 10, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    Thanks for sharing Deanna. I’m glad these tips are helping you and please keep me posted on your progress.

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