Coping Strategies for Social Anxiety
Social Anxiety is something that many people experience (about 15 million American adults), and yet few people discuss. It is is defined as
"the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations." (Source). "Anxiety (intense nervousness) and self-consciousness arise from a fear of being closely watched, judged, and criticized by others." (Source)
I have personally experienced Social Anxiety for many years, and still do at times today. A person might look at me and ask, how can you be a Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor and have Social Anxiety? Or how can you instruct a packed boot camp class with everyone looking at you and have Social Anxiety?
Well one thing I have learned about myself and others with Social Anxiety is we are darn good at hiding it! As I have gotten older I have also learned techniques to help me cope with it and that is what I am going to share with you today.
I can vividly remember being a child, and having to walk in front of the church to place money in the offering basket. I would literally put my hand on the side of my face as I walked by because I did not want people looking at me. To me that was the scariest thing ever, I was extremely shy!
I am not that shy anymore, but at times I still get the fear and anxiousness, usually when I am in a large group or in a meeting. I feel like everyone is looking at me and I get really hot. I just want to run away and hide.
Thankfully I have come to realize that people are usually too busy focusing on themselves to even pay me any mind which is great in my opinion. :) Here are some of main things I do and you can try to be more comfortable in a social situation. These are not the cure-all but they do help.
Realize that most people are not judging you.
Like I mentioned earlier, when I realized that most people are focused on themselves, their phone, their family and the million other things that race through our minds throughout the day. It helps me to calm down and realize not everyone is focusing on me.
If they are focusing on me because I am instructing or talking, I tell myself they are actually listening to my instruction and what I am saying rather than criticizing my technique, voice or body. You have to turn the negative thoughts into positive ones.
Take the attention off of yourself.
If you go to a party or an event and are introduced to someone, be prepared to ask questions about them. The main thing about being socially anxious is we don't want the attention on us. By being the first person to ask the questions, it buys you time to:
One, get to know the person more and become more comfortable with them and Two, have time to relax and come up with a response. This helps me every time. Doing this also makes you seem like a caring person, which I always strive to be.
Air your dirty laundry.
What I mean by this is if you are nervous or shy, say it. I mean most people won't judge you but instead give you a pass. They may give you time to warm up since they realize you aren't mean, just shy.
If you just sit there quiet and afraid, it gives off the wrong impression like you are stuck-up or too good for everyone. I've learned this the hard way. :)
Don't be afraid to be yourself.
I believe anyone worth having in your life will accept you how you are now and not try to change you.
Social Anxiety is something that only YOU can improve on, no one else can make you more social. When I realized that shyness and social awkwardness was just a part of who I am, I felt better about myself and am able to deal with it better.
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. - 2 Timothy 1:7
Disclaimer: If you are experiencing extreme Social Anxiety that is affecting your daily life, be sure to contact your doctor or mental health professional for help. These are only tools that I use and not a substitute for a doctor's advice or treatment.