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5 Tried and Tested Ways to Overcome Social Anxiety

Scared of speaking up at that meeting for fear that your colleagues will ridicule you? You might have social anxiety.

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Do you get nervous right before having to speak on stage? Or experience acute embarrassment and a self-consciousness when meeting new people?

You’re not alone.

Of course, these are more often than not, ‘normal’ reactions which stem more from personality traits than from an anxiety disorder. But it is no longer shyness if it is accompanied by any of these symptoms:

Scared of speaking up at that meeting for fear that your colleagues will ridicule you? You might have social anxiety.
Are you dealing with social phobia? (Photo: The Quint)

Then you know you’re dealing with a social anxiety disorder – or social phobia as it is most commonly called.

(For a more extensive list of diagnostic criteria for social anxiety, you can test yourself on the Leibowitz Social Anxiety Scale.)

Social anxiety can be crippling. Desolation and loneliness sets in as most people are viewed as ‘unsafe’. The fear of being socially awkward, belittled, judged or criticised is large and ever prevalent – it’s them against the world.

(If that’s a gloomy thought for most of us, imagine having to feel it every single day.)

Fortunately, social anxiety is curable and one can overcome it by helping themselves with some of the methods talked about below:

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Don’t Postpone Seeing a Therapist

Scared of speaking up at that meeting for fear that your colleagues will ridicule you? You might have social anxiety.
CBT endeavours to teach new and helpful behaviour to the client by making them participate in activities they feared. (Photo: iStock)

Research in the field of social psychology and therapy has found incriminating evidence that therapy – especially Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – is an effective treatment for social phobia. CBT endeavours to teach new and helpful behaviour to the client by making them participate in activities they feared or are unable to partake in, in a step by step manner.

Why this works: It works with social anxiety since it builds confidence and attempts to bring about a permanent change in behaviour by rewiring the brain’s pathways (i.e. learning).

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What Triggers Your Anxiety?

Scared of speaking up at that meeting for fear that your colleagues will ridicule you? You might have social anxiety.
This may seem tough to do at first, but learning more about your anxieties goes a long way in overcoming them. (Photo: iStock)

People with social anxiety can fear a gamut of social situations and have different emotional and physical responses to them. It’s important for you to observe what exactly are your triggers and your reactions. Take some time to observe and tabulate your reactions. You can make separate rows and columns for jotting down the date, the situation and your reaction.

Why this works: This may seem tough to do at first, but learning more about your anxieties goes a long way in overcoming them.

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Argue With Your Negative Thoughts

Scared of speaking up at that meeting for fear that your colleagues will ridicule you? You might have social anxiety.
Most people with social anxiety have a continuous reel of negative self-talk ‘auto playing’ in their heads. (Photo: iStock)

Most people with social anxiety have a continuous reel of negative self-talk ‘auto playing’ in their heads. Your mind may tell you that if you voice your opinion in a meeting, your boss will shut you down or your colleagues will humiliate you by taking out the flaws in your suggestion.

One effective way to gain victory over these thoughts is by arguing logically with these predictions. Ask yourself, “How many times has my boss ridiculed me in public?” “Are my colleagues really that vindictive?” “How many times have I genuinely made a fool of myself?”

Why this works: It is important for you to recognise that your thoughts are not predictions but in fact just estimates which may or may not occur in reality. By arguing with your thoughts and challenging them you are developing a more realistic and logical picture of your anxiety and learning to manage it better.

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Rate Your Fears – What’s a 9 and What’s a 4?

Scared of speaking up at that meeting for fear that your colleagues will ridicule you? You might have social anxiety.
Start with tackling the one you fear less, before your making your way to the ones that make you more anxious. (Photo: The Quint)

Now that you’ve observed and enumerated the specific kind of social situations which make you anxious, put them in a hierarchy to see which you fear most. Rate them on a scale of 0 to 10.

Say, talking to a colleague you haven’t interacted much with may be a 4 (aka low fear), while talking to a group of colleagues you haven’t conversed with before is a 9 (high fear). Start with tackling the one you fear less, before your making your way to the ones that make you more anxious.

Why this works: This helps since, by the time you reach the situation you fear most, you already know how you can handle social events better.

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Always Congratulate Yourself

Scared of speaking up at that meeting for fear that your colleagues will ridicule you? You might have social anxiety.
Come home and celebrate what you achieved! (Photo: iStock)

As mentioned above, negative self-talk causes and provokes quite a lot of anxiety. So once you start tackling your list, instead of coming back home and making a list of what went wrong – “I stammered too much, I mixed up the words, my hands were all sweaty”; come back and celebrate what you did achieve!

Why this works: Need you even ask? You’ll feel incredible about yourself and you have every right to.

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(Prachi Jain is a psychologist, trainer, optimist, reader and lover of Red Velvets.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Psychology   Social Anxiety   Therapist 

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