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4 Simple Hacks to Cope with Social Anxiety
January 31, 2018
Many of us know the crippling fear that comes before upcoming social gatherings. We become overwhelmed with dread as the time gets closer, the anxiety becoming so unbearable that we avoid interaction altogether.
Fortunately, the fear that everyone examines and critiques every part of us when we walk into a room is just that: a phobia with no basis in fact. Even so, social anxiety is hard to overcome…but there are simple ways we can loosen its grip on us.
Trying to pretend we’re not anxious makes us more anxious. Be open about your anxiety with yourself and others. Acknowledging that your fear exists is the first step in coping with it. You’ll also find that your friends are likely going to offer encouragement—and may even open up about their own social fears.
Challenge Your Negative Thoughts
Anxiety is rooted in a neurological response to impending danger, so challenge your negative thoughts with logic and clarity. Your anxiety response makes no distinction between fear of criticism and fear of a lion attack—so you have to make the distinction consciously.
First, articulate your fear and give it boundaries. “I’m afraid that everyone will look at me like I’m gross/a freak.” Once you put fear into words, it shrinks.
Once articulated, remember that your brain isn’t actually responding to that fear—it’s responding to a much deeper, more animalistic fear. Call it out—remember that people likely aren’t looking at you, and they’re certainly not judging you.
Because your body doesn’t know the source of your panic, chewing gum is a way to trick your brain into believing it is safe. “Chewing” sends the same message to your brain as “eating,” where your brain thinks, “If we are safe enough to eat, we must not be in danger.”
Remember: People Have Shallow Attention Spans
This one sounds harsh, but it is a reality. Most people are so preoccupied with their own insecurities to feed anyone else’s. The reality of social situations, whatever they may be, is everyone is more concerned with themselves than they are with anyone else. Understanding that can aid in coping with these anxious situations.
When you walk into a room, you can take comfort that you’re not in the spotlight—and in fact, all of us feel like our flaws are on display for everyone to see. Once we realize that we’re all the same in that regard, it becomes much easier to release our insecurities.
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