Counsellor Sarah Barr shares four steps to help face up to social anxiety and enjoy life.

Social anxiety, put simply, is the fear of social situations.

Living with social anxiety can be frustrating and overwhelming. Your mind is constantly jumping to the worst case scenario. Your body then reacts and you are left feeling nervous, scared and awkward.

Signs of social anxiety:

• Worrying about other people’s reactions.
• Experiencing extreme nervousness and anxiousness when part of¹ social situations.
• Worrying and over thinking about everything you say and do in social situations.
• Feeling paranoid, judged or/and rejected.
• Avoiding social situations.
• Physical effects on your body include, sweating, increased heart rate, or rapid breathing.

If you think you may have social anxiety, I would always advise seeking a professional diagnosis from your doctor or a mental health professional. Hiding or suppressing anxiety can produce more anxiety.

1. Share

The most important tip I can give is to share your experience of social anxiety with friends and/or family. Feeling this way is nothing to be ashamed and it definitely does not make you weak.

2. Breathe

Becoming more aware of your own warning signs of when your anxiety flares up is important to help you take action.
Breathing exercises can help you control your anxiety. Having a steady breath has a direct impact on your heart rate and, in turn, your thoughts.
There is a great selection of relaxing breathing techniques and guided breathing exercises on youtube.

3. Thoughts are not facts

Social anxiety feeds on thoughts that emphasise danger and negativity. Thankfully thinking is a habit and can be changed. By catching,
challenging and changing your negative thinking patterns into thoughts that are more realistic.
CBT can be very helpful in doing this.

4. Face your fears

Avoiding social situations, yes will make you feel better at that particular moment. But this is only a short-term solution which prevents you from learning how to develop new coping mechanisms.

By saying no will give you the same result each time, but by saying yes means you’re taking a chance and living your life.

Take care ~ Sarah.