24 Jun 5 Ways I Cope With Social Anxiety
5 WAYS I COPE WITH SOCIAL ANXIETY
In this series of blogs, we explore the realities of anxiety and depression through the lens of real-world first-person narratives from anonymous teens. What else can we learn about these issues? How can we work to overcome them together? Let’s talk about it.
If you’re like me, you don’t go to parties because you can’t imagine that many people looking at you. You dread meeting new people, and you start to sweat thinking about interactions that haven’t even happened yet.
I suffer from social anxiety. Socializing scares me and, when I’m forced into it, I freak out and start to panic. It used to be a lot worse, but once I realized how bad it was, I wanted to do something about it. I’ve been doing a lot better lately—here are some of the ways I’ve learned to cope.
When I first decided to take steps to improve my social struggles, I started small. I wasn’t about to jump right in and go to a party where I didn’t know anyone—that would be way too overwhelming. I started with small tasks to combat my anxiousness in public. I even made myself a list of things to do to challenge myself.
Some of the things on my list included asking somebody at school for the time, giving someone a compliment, and raising my hand in class to comment on something my teacher said. These things might seem silly to most people, but for me, they’re anxiety-inducing. I did them at my own pace, though and eventually completed my list. These small victories gave me the courage to accomplish more.
Recognize and Combat the Signs
Anyone with anxiety knows that their body physically reacts to “threatening” situations. Whenever I’m in situations that make me socially anxious, I try to recognize the signs that my body is giving me and combat them with certain techniques.
For example, if I’m eating lunch with a close friend and their friend joins us unexpectedly, I might feel nauseous, get sweaty, or start shaking. Deep breathing is my go-to coping method. As soon as the feeling hits, I try to focus on my breathing. It also helps when I plant both of my feet firmly beneath me because it makes me feel grounded and secure.
Thoughts are Just Thoughts
In a situation like the one I just described, my thoughts are flying all over the place. I’m thinking things like, “They probably think I’m weird,” or “I’m going to ruin this for my friend and they won’t want to introduce me to anyone else ever again.”
It’s helpful for me if, when I’m in the moment, I stop these racing thoughts in their tracks and realize they’re just thoughts. They aren’t reality. My friend’s friend probably doesn’t think I’m weird and I definitely won’t ruin my chance of being introduced to anyone else. My anxiety is making my thoughts irrational, so if I can just grab hold of them before they get out of control, I can realize that nothing is nearly as bad as I think.
Don’t Expect Perfection
If you struggle with social anxiety, the most important thing to remember is that you’re allowed to make mistakes and be awkward in public. Nobody is perfect, and you’d never put the amount of pressure you put on yourself on anyone else.
Everyone has off days where they seem distant or don’t necessarily want to socialize or go to a party. You aren’t weird or lame for feeling this way. It took me a long time to realize this, but once I finally understood it, so much pressure was lifted from me and things felt a lot easier.
Confide in a Friend
One of the ways I learned to cope with my social anxiety was to confide in a good friend who knew about my struggles. I know opening up to people about it can seem scary, but if there’s someone you trust and care about enough to share it with, it can be really helpful.
Once I confided in my friend, he did his best to understand my anxiety and took steps to help me cope with it. He’s taken me to small parties that he thought I’d enjoy and he’s introduced me to people in a way that doesn’t make me feel pressured or nervous. Sometimes all it takes is someone you love being sensitive to your struggles. It can make a world of difference.
I want to reiterate that suffering from social anxiety doesn’t make you weird or boring. It’s a very real thing that lots of people struggle with. That being said, you don’t have to be complacent with your anxiety. You can challenge yourself and combat it like I did. You might be surprised by how much things can change!