Anxiety can creep up on us, especially when it comes to social settings. In today’s environment, social anxiety has become more common than ever. For a lot of people, the thought of attending an office happy hour, birthday party or special event is exciting, but for others, it can be crippling. As an introvert myself, the pressure of social media and having to put yourself out there constantly is not only draining, but can trigger my anxiety as well. So, if you have social anxiety but are ready to get back out there, then here are a few tips that have helped me.
1. Control your breathing
Have you ever given a presentation and noticed how fast you were talking? Stress and nerves can affect you’re breathing, so one of the best things you can do for anxiety is to take deep breaths. Taking fast shallow breaths will not only make you feel more tense, but it will make you feel less confident as well. Set yourself up for success and meditate or do some breath work before a social engagement and if you ever feel your anxiety creeping in, step outside to take a few deep breaths.
2. Be a good listener
People love to talk about themselves, so if you find yourself not knowing what to talk about, then ask questions. Have a few open ended questions up your sleeve that you can bring up, and pay attention to how people respond. Often times we’re so in our heads that we aren’t really listening which makes it hard to have a good conversation. When you’re paying close attention to someone, you’ll not only make them feel like you’re engaged, but it will open the door for more follow-up questions.
3. Pay attention to negative thoughts
One thing I love about meditation is that it helps me be more mindful of my thoughts. Most of the time, our anxiety stems from within. Our thoughts and emotions can take over causing a downward spiral. So, try to be more mindful and pay attention to any negative thoughts you might be having. If you’re telling yourself that you aren’t good in social settings, then chances are you won’t be. Instead, challenge those negative thoughts by rewriting your script. Anyone can improve their skills, and the best way to do that is by practicing.
4. Take the focus off yourself
Sometimes, we’re so focused on ourselves and what we’re feeling that we don’t realize that nobody is paying that close attention to us. Everyone is the star of their own show, so get out of your head and take the focus off yourself. If you’re attending someone else’s party or event, ask them what you can do to help and take a genuine interest in them. People like feeling special and they’ll appreciate the extra attention.
5. Start small
After the last couple of years, you might not be ready for a large scale event, and that’s okay! Start small – maybe it’s grabbing coffee with an old friend or making eye contact with a stranger. If you get invited to a party, try committing to just the first hour. Just knowing you have an excuse to leave can make you feel more comfortable. Be patient with yourself – tackling social anxiety doesn’t happen over night. Like all things, the more you practice, the better you’ll get. Who knows, you might even start to look forward to social interaction!