Ways to Cope with Social Anxiety When it is Controlling Your Life!
Updated: Sep 20
How do you deal with Social Anxiety when it is controlling you and ruining your life?
Experiencing some form of anxiety is a normal part of life but when you suffer from an anxiety disorder such as social anxiety it can it can debilitating, negatively impacting your whole life and affecting your overall health well-being. I know as I have suffered with anxiety to some degree all my life, particularly with social anxiety. I often joke that I was born anxious with an inbuilt fear of people in general, but in reality it is no joke.
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is so much more than worry over what people may think of you, being scared of doing or saying the wrong thing and looking stupid, or not feeling like you measure up in some way. It can literally be an irrational fear of being around people as you perceive this as a threat or danger to yourself in some way which is hard to explain rationally. The social fear can be so bad at times that it takes over your whole body - your stress level goes up and the 'fight or flight' response kicks in with the aim of protecting you from danger. As a result you experience everything from increased heart rate, dry mouth, shortness of breath, shaking and inability to speak. It can be as extreme as a full blown panic attack in some cases.
Do you avoid social situations?
Most people, unless they have experienced it, do not understand social anxiety. They may think you are shy (which can be a part of it), aloof, stupid or just plain strange and it can be soul destroying. As a result you try to avoid social situations as much as possible as it is just too uncomfortable. Even though you may want to feel part of a group and be able to contribute to a conversation like everyone else you just can't escape the anxious feelings.
What does social anxiety feel like?
The fear inside when you walk into a room, as a socially anxious person, is like walking into a pack of wolves and your only protection against attack is to stay small, fade into the background and keep quiet as if your life depends upon it. Now the sad part is that the room can be full of people you know quite well or strangers, but the effect they have on you is pretty much the same – irrational fear. So you either avoid entering the room (not always an option – but one I have tried!), turn and run (slightly embarrassing!) or stay quiet and try to read everyone to gauge the threat level.
I think most socially anxious people are more relaxed and have less of a problem in a one to one situation as the perceived threat from one individual is much less than a group. Usually with a close friend there is no issue at all as you will have learned to feel safe with them over time.
Fear of speaking up!
The next hurdle arises when someone tries to talk to you. Your subconscious mind sees this as a threat to your safety as now you feel like the focus of attention to the whole room (which is often not the case), you are no longer in the shadows and so the fear of impending attack increases. As a result you speak quietly and try to keep the conversation short so you can fade into the background again. Eye to eye contact can also be a big problem. If you fear you are in danger from a wolf then you avoid staring into its eyes!
Being Socially Anxious is exhausting.
Sometimes you can manage to cope if you can calm down enough to come out of the initial panic and see that the people around you are not a danger and you relax a little but other times it is exhausting, particularly if you are a sensitive person. You are constantly assessing the environment to check for danger and picking up on other peoples energy and it can drain you. The only time you can feel truly safe and relaxed is when you are alone or sometimes with animals.
Social Anxiety can affect your ability to function in life.
If you suffer from social anxiety you will know these feelings well and if you don't then I hope this helps explain it. Many people suffer from social anxiety so if one of them is you then you are not alone so please seek help and don't feel like you are the odd one out. It can be very difficult to function in life when you are anxious, particularly socially anxious, unless you find ways to manage it. Stress can make anxiety issues worse and also lack of sleep, so some days will be better than others.
Learning to manage Social Anxiety.
When you learn how to manage your anxiety and accept it as a part of your unique make up then you can live the life that you want without the constant fear. In my case I run my own business as I am fortunate that I have learned to manage the anxiety, most of the time. I am aware of my triggers, know my limitations and I accept the off days as I know that they are only temporary and another day will be fine.
If you are suffering from social anxiety issues then please know that you are not alone and there are things you can do to manage it naturally so you can live a happier more fulfilled life.
General tips to reduce Anxiety:
Mind, body, spirit practices such as Yoga, Tai chi, or Qigong are well-known to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and make you feel more grounded in your body.
Meditation can help you connect back to yourself and feel more relaxed and calm.
Ensure you are getting plenty of quality sleep.
Eat a healthy balanced diet.
Reduce caffeine and alcohol as this can often make anxiety worse.
Do some form of physical exercise to release the feel good endorphins and reduce stress.
Spend time outdoors in nature.
Positive affirmations can be helpful.
Try journaling to write your thoughts and feelings down.
Talking to someone can help.
EFT (Emotional Freedom technique) is very beneficial for anxiety.
Reiki can help rebalance a disrupted flow of energy and make you feel better able to cope.
What to do in a Socially Anxious situation:
Control your breathing – focus on taking slower deeper breaths, this will help to bring you out of the 'fight or flight' stress response state.
Also feel your feet planted firmly on the ground when you start to feel panic rising, this literally helps keep you grounded!
Distract yourself from anxious thoughts by looking around to focus your attention elsewhere.
Try studying something in small detail to re-focus your mind such as a picture or reading a poster on a wall.
Holding a crystal such as amethyst, sodalite, blue lace agate, rose or smokey quartz can help give you support.
Have an elastic band/bracelet around your wrist and twang it when your anxious thoughts start to spiral. This helps bring you back into your body and out of your head.
Focus on the person you are talking to and really listen instead of worrying about what they may be thinking of you.
Take steps to gain back control of your life.
Don't let anxiety ruin your life. Take steps today to take back control. With social anxiety it is a case of one small step at a time until you start to feel more comfortable. Sometimes anxiety can occur when you have low self-esteem and are out of alignment with your true self. It can be beneficial to take a more holistic approach to your health and life in general to make sure your mind, body and spirit are equally addressed. There is a healing process you may need to go through to accept who are and find peace within yourself. There is no quick fix to cure anxiety, it is often a process. Be gentle with yourself and seek help when you need it from someone who understands.
Visit Lincsholisticwellness.com for more information on how to reduce stress and anxiety.
In more severe cases please contact your GP.
Useful Resources to download
Holistic Health and Wellness Coach
Lincs Holistic Wellness
Information provided for general educational purposes only and not intended to replace medical advice.