How To Overcome Social Anxiety. Personal experience based advice


Hello, my name in Ben Lovegrove and in this
video I’m going to describe how you can cope with and eventually overcome social anxiety
or social phobia. This advice is based on my personal experience
of how I learned to control it and overcome it. I fully empathise with those who experience
the symptoms and would like to pass on my knowledge to help others. If you suffer from this condition then you
probably already know that it can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. You
may tend to avoid social interaction with others and it may be having a detrimental
effect on your life in school or college, at work, and among friends. Not only do you feel stressed during simple
interactions with other human beings but you also wonder whether you’re going mad, a
freak, or just useless. In this video I offer the benefit of my experience.
However, I am not a medical professional so if your symptoms are severe then you should
seek assistance from trained and qualified professionals. So let’s begin with some definitions. What exactly is social anxiety? According to the Social Anxiety Institute
people who suffer from social anxiety or social phobia may experience anxiety and fear when: Being introduced to other people.
Being teased or criticized. Being the center of attention.
Being watched while doing something. Meeting people in authority (“important people”).
Most social encounters, especially with strangers. Going around the room (or table) in a circle
and having to say something. Interpersonal relationships, whether friendships
or romantic. When I was a teenager I could put a tick next to all those symptoms! You may be fully aware that logically there
is nothing to be afraid of but you feel the symptoms anyway. Social anxiety is not just the shyness we
feel when meeting someone new or the nervousness we might feel before giving a presentation. Most people experience those symptoms and
they are perfectly normal reactions. Social anxiety is an acute or extreme form
of shyness that leaves the sufferer unable to function and enjoy life at work, socially,
or even at home with your family. Consequently it can lead to low self-esteem
and mild depression. It can hold you back in your career and your social life. So let’s work out some ways to deal it with
it. How to cope with social anxiety.
Once you’ve identified that you’re experiencing these symptoms you can begin the process of
managing the condition and eventually overcoming it. The good news is that the way ahead is clear
and you can look forward to feeling confident and enjoying life. But you won’t be able to build enough confidence
to, for example, give a lecture to 500 people overnight. You’ll need to take small steps
and build confidence gradually. The first step is to admit that “OK, Houston,
we have a problem”. It’s a known problem and there are solutions. When I realised that I had a problem I went
to see the local doctor and eventually I was given some pills that masked the symptoms
but did nothing to cure the condition. Once I realised that these pills were not
the answer I worked out a real cure by myself. One of the first tools that helped me to cope
is the habit of controlled breathing. At school we were encouraged to learn to play
a musical instrument and I chose the flute. As you can imagine, in order to play the flute
well you need to have control over your breathing. So the first few lessons were all about learning
abdominal breathing. This is type of deep breathing fills your lungs to capacity with
fresh air and empties all the used up air. It’s a simple but highly effective method
relaxing your muscles by efficiently oxygenating your blood. It’s the ideal way to begin any type of
relaxation or meditation. It also helps if you feel a little nauseous
for any reason, or when you just want to relax and wind down before sleep. I highly recommend you learn abdominal breathing
so that you can use it whenever you need it. It’s free, it works, and you’ll find many
uses for it. I cannot emphasise enough how important but
effective this technique is. Master abdominal breathing and you’ll use it throughout your
life. Learn real, deep relaxation. Another thing you can do is to find a local
practitioner of complementary therapies e.g. an acupuncturist, reflexologist, massage therapist
or similar. The reason I give this advice is because I
want you to fully experience complete relaxation. Once you know what real relaxation feels like
it’s much easier to relax yourself when you need to do so. Buy a book or audio book on relaxation techniques
and teach yourself how to find peace. When you’re on your own and anxious about
something that’s ahead then deep breathing combined with relaxation techniques will lift
your spirits. If you’re short of money, try your local
lending library or use the internet to search for free advice on YouTube. Using deep, regular breaths and relaxing your
body muscle by muscle you will begin to relax your mind. Once your mind is relaxed you can simply enjoy
the experience or use the time to imagine yourself overcoming anxiety in specific social
situations. Body, Mind, and Spirit. You can also learn how to relax properly and
build confidence in yourself learning some basic yoga, Tai Chi, or through non-contact
sports like archery. Building body confidence will lead to mental
confidence. If you can learn just how to stand tall, shoulders
back, relaxed and centered, then you can use that knowledge and awareness when you meet
new people. When you meet someone new, remember that feeling
of being centered and relaxed, look them in the eye and shake their hand. You may still be at the stage where you feel
nervous making small talk but at least you’ve made a good first impression! Set yourself some goals. Now that you’ve identified the problem,
learned some deep breathing techniques, and experienced true relaxation, what else? My next suggestion is to set yourself some
achievable goals. Each time you achieve a goal give yourself a small reward and move
on to the next. My social anxiety was so acute at times that
the simple process of going into a shop, waiting in a queue, and paying for an item caused
the symptoms to appear. So I set myself the goal of overcoming this
first. I guess it was a form of do-it-yourself CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). I imagined the situation first, when through
the steps in my mind, and imagined myself completing this simple task. Then I went out
and did it for real. I remember the elation I felt when I achieved
my goal and reinforced it by giving myself a reward. This turned out to be a vitally important
step. You’ll find most self help books give similar advice. You have to learn how to visualize the situation
in great detail while in a relaxed state. You then go through the experience in your
imagination feeling confident and happy. With practice you’ll feel ready to go through
experience for real. Find other ways to build confidence. Since social anxiety is caused by interactions
with other people you could build confidence in yourself by learning something new that
doesn’t require so much interaction. You could learn a new skill or start a new
hobby that gives you confidence as you get better at it. It would also give you something
to talk about with others. Later, when you have developed basic skills
you could join a club and feel more confident because you’ve already mastered the basics. I learned to fly in my 20s. It not only boosted
my confidence but also gave me something to talk about with anyone else interested in
aviation. It’s a great ice-breaker and of course,
there are plenty of clubs and other activities that involve flying. You might find some other interest or hobby
that you can enjoy alone but which eventually leads to interacting with others who share
the same interest. A word about alcohol. Have you ever noticed how everyone seems so
much at their ease and the party gets going after the first drink or two? Most people feel more relaxed, talk more freely
(and loudly!) after a couple of drinks. Consequently, some people who suffer from
social anxiety may be tempted to use booze as a crutch to lean on. We all know that good health, deep breathing,
and conscious relaxation are the best ways to put us at our ease. But if you’re socialising and it involves
some drink then there’s no harm in using that first glass of wine or pint of beer to
put you at your ease too. However, don’t rely on drink to mask your
symptoms. That road leads to worse problems. You can’t use booze as a crutch at work
or at home and it won’t cure a thing. Stick to drinking when the occasion allows
it. Meanwhile, work on curing your social anxiety
in healthy and permanent ways. Final thoughts. Most of the symptoms of social anxiety involve
imagining that you are being scrutinised and judged by others. The truth is that people pay far less attention
to you than you imagine! Most people are too busy thinking about themselves
and their own problems and hangups. Take the example of one of symptoms mentioned
at the start of this video: “Going around the room (or table) in a circle and having
to say something”. Most people will be busy thinking about what
they’re going to say when it’s their turn. Those who have already spoken will just be
relieved their turn is over! Also, if you set goals and don’t achieve
them, or if you just want a day off, don’t worry about it. Sometimes you’ll be ready to fight your
demons but sometimes you’ll want to do something else. You’re not a failure if you take the
day off or retreat to try again later. As long as you challenge yourself more often
that you take days off you’re still making progress. Finally, don’t suffer in silence. I know
you can feel low but help is available. Once you take the first step by asking for help
you’ve made one of most important decisions of all. Learn deep breathing techniques, full body
relaxation, and seek out some professional advice about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. You deserve confidence and happiness. It’s
there, waiting for you. Start walking towards it. I hope my advice has helped. If so, please
give this video a like and if you have tips of your own or you would like to share your
experiences or ask a question please leave a comment below.

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