- 10 Steps to Overcome Social Anxiety
- 1. Maintain Confident Body Language
- 2. Socialize More
- 3.Keep A Record of Your Interactions
- 5. Reframe Mistakes as Positive Learning Opportunities
- 6. Spend Time With Confident Friends
- 7. Meditate
- 8. Socialize With Everyone
- 9. Make Plans and Invite People
- 10. Practice Self-Amusement
- How to Overcome Your Social Anxiety: 6 Tips You Can Use Now
- What is social anxiety?
- Recognizing if you have social anxiety
- Common situations in which people experience social anxiety:
- Signs and Symptoms of Social Anxiety
- What to do if you have social anxiety
- Overcome social anxiety with Joyable’s online CBT program
- Tips for People With Social Anxiety
- Mental Health
- What is It?
- Who Does It Affect?
- What can I do about it?
- Where do I go from here?
- © 2013 | Back to top | PDF | More info sheets
10 Steps to Overcome Social Anxiety
Social anxiety prevents people from expressing their ideas and personality for fear of being judged or rejected. As a result, socially anxious and shy people often feel misunderstood.
To overcome social anxiety and develop confidence, try the following 10 steps:
1. Maintain Confident Body Language
Body language signals to people around you exactly what you are feeling. Usually, people unconsciously move in ways that reflect their mental state. However, you can also intentionally use confident body language to feel more confident.
Normally, your body produces neurotransmitters and hormones that make you feel exactly the way you think you should feel.
For example, if you live in a stressful environment and are constantly worried people will physically attack you, then your body produces high amounts of cortisol, adrenaline and other hormones that prepare your fight or flight response. In small doses, this is very healthy. However, if you are constantly stressed, it’s very unhealthy.
Even when socially anxious people aren’t living in an objectively stressful environment, they still experience that same overactive stress response because they perceive that they need it. Their body language will reflect this interpretation and their inner feelings. They will try to take up less space to become invisible, avoid eye contact, and speak quickly for fear of being interrupted.
However, socially confident people don’t feel they are in any danger. They feel safe. Their body reflects this in the chemicals it produces and in the postures that a confident person feels comfortable taking.
Certain body language is more ly to be associated with confidence. By assuming these postures and ways of moving, you trigger responses in the body that can only be triggered when you perceive your environment as safe.
Standing and sitting with good posture, slow movements, raising your hands above your head, and other confident poses lower cortisol, the stress hormone. The movements also increase production of other neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, which are usually associated with feeling good.
By practicing confident body language, you are opening your mind to the possibility that you can actually overcome social anxiety and develop confidence. Of course, fixing your body language is only the first step. You should also consider some introspection to resolve psychological issues that may be triggering socially anxious responses.
For more see our pages on Non-Verbal Communication and Body Language.
2. Socialize More
If you want to develop any skill you must practice it.
Try to find some social events in your area and, if you can, go by yourself. It’s common for shy people to stick to a friend every time they go out, but this is only hindering your progress and reinforcing your fear of socializing by yourself.
During your efforts to accumulate social experience, you can also practice your confident body language. Maintain good eye contact, stand up straight, don’t speak too fast, speak at an audible volume, and remember to take a few slow, deep breathes if you ever feel a bit stressed out.
When you socialize, try not to have a goal in mind, such as making a new friend, getting a date, or finding people who will give you friendly reactions. Don’t depend on external results to feel good about yourself.
Instead, be happy that you are improving your social skills and confidence. This is because when you focus on getting a certain outcome, such as finding people who smile when you start a conversation, then it can make you really nervous when people don’t smile immediately. Focus on enjoying the experience.
When you go home, then you can take a moment to reflect on your experiences.
3.Keep A Record of Your Interactions
You don’t need to write down every interaction of course. But keep a record of the times you had the opportunity to avoid an interaction, but instead faced your fear and took action anyway.
This will be a helpful reminder of the progress you are making to overcome social anxiety and build confidence. You don’t even need to invest a lot of time to do this.
Every day, after coming home from your social event, take 10 minutes to write down your thoughts about one or two interactions.
You may find our page, Keeping a Diary or Journal helpful here.
Write down a list of all the people and social situations that intimidate you.
Some of these could include asking friends or strangers for favors, or talking to people you think are higher status than you.
Rank these fears in order of least to most anxiety inducing. Now, start facing these fears.
Start with the easiest to face and work your way up. In the beginning, you may not believe you will ever have the courage to face the scariest situations on your list. However, belief can easily change with experience.
5. Reframe Mistakes as Positive Learning Opportunities
Some people are afraid to take the smallest step their comfort zone because they are afraid of making mistakes or embarrassing themselves. They want to stay in their safe zone, no matter how much it limits their opportunities in life.
If any of your interactions are awkward, don’t view them as failures. Instead see mistakes as learning opportunities. Be proud of them as they show you how you can improve next time.
Your self-esteem and confidence will gradually develop with more social experience.
Don’t pressure yourself to impress everyone you meet. Accept the fact that not every interaction will result in meeting new friends or even an enjoyable conversation.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
The Skills You Need Guide to Stress and Stress Management
Understand and Manage Stress in Your Life
Learn more about the nature of stress and how you can effectively cope with stress at work, at home and in life generally. The Skills You Need Guide to Stress and Stress Management eBook covers all you need to know to help you through those stressful times and become more resilient.
6. Spend Time With Confident Friends
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn is well known for saying, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
In general, this is often true. If you spend time with confident people, or at least people working on improving their confidence, then they will influence and encourage you to develop your social skills. Spend time with people who possess traits you admire.
Meditation is a commonly used method for treating anxiety related conditions. It helps in training yourself to practice relaxing in anxiety inducing situations.
To begin, find a comfortable, quiet location. Sit down and close your eyes. Pay attention to your breathing without trying to control it.
It’s usual for the mind to wander during meditation. Don’t try to control your thoughts and don’t feel bad about getting distracted. Just allow the thoughts to come and go and then return your focus to your breathing.
After a few minutes of this, imagine one of the scenarios that trigger your social anxiety. Imagine how you will feel in this situation. Don’t fight these feelings. Remind yourself to accept them and confront your fear instead of running away.
Our page on Mindfulness has more information.
8. Socialize With Everyone
By socializing with everyone you open yourself up to many more opportunities for overcoming your social anxiety and developing confidence.
Instead of only talking to people you feel can offer you value, talk to anyone: the elderly, employees at the grocery store, or anyone you feel is outside your sphere of social interest.
When talking with these people you are less ly to have some sort of ideal outcome or ulterior motive. When you interact with people with some sort of goal in mind it can put pressure on you to succeed. But when you are less concerned with the outcome of the interaction and just enjoying the moment, it is much more fun for everyone involved.
9. Make Plans and Invite People
Once you start facing your fears, talking to everyone, and spending time with confident new friends, you are ready to plan some events. Socially confident people don’t just sit around waiting for invitations, they actively invite people out.
Think of some activities you would enjoy with a group of friends. It could be playing a sport together or having a meal together, for example. This will help you start taking a leadership role in social situations and people will start to look forward to the events you plan.
10. Practice Self-Amusement
When you are constantly worried about rejection it can prevent self-expression. Instead of sharing your real opinions or sense of humor, you may only be comfortable sharing statements you think most people can accept.
You may notice that humorous people are often quite confident. They aren’t constantly filtering everything they say. Instead, they think of something funny and it immediately comes their mouth.
The truth is everyone has this filter. Even the most confident people know some things are best left unsaid. This is just politeness. But socially anxious people have an overly sensitive filter. They hold back way too much fear of rejection.
Now that you are overcoming social anxiety, and spending time with more confident friends, you can readjust the sensitivity level of that filter. It’s time to finally start amusing yourself and saying exactly what you want to say without too much concern about what other people will think.
With practice, you will more confidently express yourself in any situation. By combining social experience, meditation, and self-amusement you can dramatically improve your self-confidence.
How to Overcome Your Social Anxiety: 6 Tips You Can Use Now
Do you get stressed in social situations? I want to discuss:
- The definition of social anxiety
- Specific situations that trigger social anxiety
- Common signs and symptoms of social anxiety
Let’s get to the truth about social anxiety and what you can do about it. I want to bust the myths and misinformation.
What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety is when you feel nervous, tense or uncomfortable in social situations because you’re worried other people are judging you. Almost everyone has experienced social anxiety at one point or another.
Life is rife with moments of self-consciousness – from job interviews to first dates, we all occasionally feel nervous around other people. But social anxiety becomes a problem when it’s so frequent or intense that it gets in the way of important things in your life.
You might not apply for a dream job because it requires an interview, or you might find it hard to be around even family and friends because you’re so worried about what they think of you.
If social anxiety has prevented you from doing the things you want, such as making new friends or going on dates, you’re not alone.
Social anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States, affecting 15 million adult Americans each year.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in eight Americans experience social anxiety during their lifetime (about 30 million).
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Recognizing if you have social anxiety
While social anxiety always involves a fear of being judged negatively, the actual situations that cause it can vary greatly from person to person. Many people with social anxiety feel nervous in most situations that involve interacting with or performing in front of other people.
But some people only experience social anxiety in particular situations, such as speaking in front of others or hosting an event. For example, a person who is typically very outgoing and comfortable talking to strangers at parties might only have social anxiety when giving presentations.
In fact, public speaking is one of the most common specific causes of social anxiety.
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Common situations in which people experience social anxiety:
- Speaking in front of a group
- Talking to strangers
- Being the center of attention (such as when you are hosting a dinner)
- Speaking to authority figures (such as your boss)
- Answering the phone
- Eating or drinking in front of others
- Talking to someone you find attractive
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Signs and Symptoms of Social Anxiety
People often think social anxiety is just a feeling, but it actually has four components: thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and behaviors.
Most people might begin recognizing their social anxiety when they notice nervousness also is accompanied by physical symptoms such as trembling and crying. When you’re anxious, the four components interact with and build upon each other, causing a cycle of anxiety.
For example, here’s how your anxiety might manifest itself if you’re nervous about giving a presentation at work:
Thoughts: Often, your anxiety will begin with a negative thought, such as “I’m going to screw up” or “People will think I’m stupid.”
Feelings: These thoughts cause you to feel negative emotions, such as stress or worry.
Physical Response: Your body reacts to your negative thoughts and feelings with a physical response, such as blushing, sweating or shaking.
Behaviors: You try reducing your anxiety with conscious or unconscious actions, such as averting your gaze or hiding behind the podium (to prevent people from seeing you shake). Acting this way may make you think everyone else notices you look stiff (an anxious thought), which then can cause you to feel even more stressed (an anxious feeling).
People with social anxiety often don’t realize when their behavior is being driven by anxiety. People with social anxiety tend to exhibit three types of behaviors:
- Avoidance behaviors: When you stay away from situations that make you anxious. For example, you might turn down opportunities to give presentations at work.
- Escape behaviors: When you leave situations that make you anxious, such as leaving a concert or party after just a few minutes because of your anxiety.
- Safety behaviors: Actions you take to reduce your anxiety in social situations, such as drinking to feel more comfortable or playing a game on your phone at lunch. In the example above, averting your gaze or hiding behind the podium during the presentation are safety behaviors.
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What to do if you have social anxiety
If you think you have social anxiety, the most important question to ask yourself is whether it prevents you from achieving your goals. For example, we mentioned earlier that a large majority of people report a fear of public speaking. You might be one of them.
But if your job or goals don’t require public speaking, then being afraid of it might not be a big deal.
On the other hand, if your fear is keeping you from getting the promotion you want, or getting in the way of an important personal goal, such as giving a speech at your sister’s wedding, then you might consider looking for help.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) widely is recognized as the most effective treatment for social anxiety. It’s endorsed by leading mental health organizations, including the U.S.
National Institute of Mental Health and the U.K. National Health Service. CBT is a set of activities proven to reduce your anxiety through repeated practice.
It consists of two main parts: cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy.
The cognitive part of CBT is the idea that it’s not a social situation that makes you anxious, but your interpretation of that situation. For example, if you’re having dinner with a friend and she leaves early, you can interpret this several ways.
You might think she found dinner with you boring (leading you to feel anxious), or you might think she had a long day and was tired (and feel neutral). People with social anxiety tend to interpret situations in a disproportionately negative way.
CBT teaches you to recognize and embrace the existence of alternative interpretations, allowing you to identify if other possible explanations are less ly to trigger your anxiety.
The behavioral part of CBT involves gradually facing the situations that make you anxious to overcome your fear of them. (This exercise is called an “exposure.”) You probably imagine the worst-case scenario will happen if you confront these situations, so you tend to avoid them.
However, when you actually place yourself in the situations you fear, you have two critical realizations: First, the bad outcome you fear happens less often than you think. Second, even if it does happen, you can handle it. It’s key that exposures are gradual: You start small, with a situation that causes some anxiety but is doable.
Then work your way up to situations that make you really anxious.
For example, if giving a presentation makes you extremely anxious, to the point where you might even call in sick to avoid it, your first exposure would be a similar but less anxiety-inducing situation, such as telling a story to a group of friends. Once you learn to get comfortable in these practice situations, you’ll be able to take your newfound confidence to more difficult situations you greatly fear or have been avoiding.
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Overcome social anxiety with Joyable’s online CBT program
We’ve talked about how common social anxiety is, and how there’s a proven solution to treat it (CBT). However, the shocking truth is 85 percent of Americans who struggle with social anxiety each year don’t get help. Why? Sometimes it’s a lack of awareness that prevents people from seeking help.
Sometimes, sadly, it’s stigma. But even for those who know they have social anxiety and want help, huge cost and access barriers prevent them from getting treatment. The average cost of a single 45-minute session with a U.S. therapist is $180.
Even if you can afford that, you might not be able to find an available therapist nearby. There aren’t even close to enough therapists to treat the number of people struggling with social anxiety; about a third of the U.S.
population (roughly 99 million people) lives in a mental health desert, with more than half of mental health sufferers not receiving treatment.
That’s why we created Joyable. Joyable makes an effective, affordable solution for social anxiety accessible to all. We offer an online CBT program with the guidance of a personal coach to help you overcome your social anxiety.
Because it’s an online program with check-ins by phone, text, or email, you can use Joyable from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Research shows that online CBT is just as effective as in-person therapy, and for many, it’s a lot more affordable.
Because Joyable is self-paced, you can do activities when it’s convenient and when you’re motivated to work on your anxiety, rather than having to conform to someone else’s schedule.
Overcoming social anxiety is hard work. With Joyable, you don’t have to do it alone. When you start the program, you’re paired with a personal coach. Your coach is your advocate and accountability partner. They’re trained in CBT and help guide you if you have a hard time challenging your negative thoughts. They also give you an extra push when you need it to face situations you fear.
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Tips for People With Social Anxiety
Here are some CBT-based tips for dealing with social anxiety in the moment:
- Remember everyone is self-conscious. Social anxiety is common, and many people experience it. If you’re at a party and feel really anxious about introducing yourself to new people, remember that other people might feel the same way.
- Pause to examine the evidence. When you’re feeling anxious, take a moment and try identifying the anxious thoughts running through your head. Challenge them by asking questions such as: “What evidence do I have this is true?” and “Is there another explanation for what happened?” If someone responds curtly to you, you may have the anxious thought that “They think I’m boring.” What if you challenged that thought and instead considered another explanation: Maybe they were in a hurry, or maybe they were already on their way to talk to someone else when you approached them.
- Imagine the worst-case scenario. Often, people with social anxiety think making a mistake will cause far worse consequences than it actually would. If you’re worried about something, such as stumbling over your words, ask what really would happen if you stumbled over your words. Would people really laugh at you? They’d probably barely notice it or quickly forget about it and continue the conversation.
- Remind yourself anticipation is worse than reality. Often, our worries about an upcoming situation are worse than the situation itself. If you’re worried about striking up a conversation because you think you’ll have nothing to say, remind yourself that you only have to start with “Hello.” Once you begin the conversation, it gets a lot easier.
- Bring a cheat sheet. Before going into an anxiety-inducing situation, anticipate what anxious thoughts you’ll have and challenge them on a piece of paper. Bring this piece of paper with you to the event (or save it on your phone). Then if you start feeling nervous, you can look at it to remind yourself of your thought challenges and calm yourself down.
- Consider getting help. If you find social anxiety really is impacting your life (For instance, getting in the way of your career or relationships, or making it hard to go to social events you want to attend.), consider seeking help through an evidence-based solution such as CBT.
We get lots of questions about social anxiety. People want to know if everyone feels the way they do or if their social habits are ‘normal.’ I also know that some forms of social anxiety are beyond the advice on this blog. Since I am not an expert in social anxiety, I found someone to tackle this topic for us.
I had stumbled upon Joyable when it was recommended to me by a friend. Joyable is an online service to help tackle social anxiety. I was unsure of what to expect at first, but after completing the entire program, I was blown away. After I finished the program, I reached out to them to do a guest post for our blog on social anxiety and how Joyable helps.
Just to be clear, they are not a sponsor, they are not paying for this coverage and I get no benefit if you use Joyable.
I am posting this because I think their perspective is really interesting and I think it can help people—it helped me. They have been wonderful and put together this great post for us.
I hope you enjoy it and please let me know if you end up using Joyable and what you think.
This guest post was by our friend Tiffany Chi at Joyable.
Amal is a young man in his 20s. When he was a child, everyone thought he was very shy. Now that he’s in university, he’s having a hard time fitting in. He rarely joins class discussions, and he avoids talking to his classmates. He lives in constant fear of doing or saying the wrong thing.
He thinks that other people will judge him or laugh at him. When he does talk to others, he feels shaky and nauseous. Amal has always been a good student, but his grades are starting to slip.
His teachers notice that he doesn’t asks questions or participate—in fact, he’s been missing more and more classes as the school year goes on.
We can all feel nervous in social situations job interviews or when we’re giving presentations. But if you’re so scared of interacting with others that it affects your relationships with other people or it affects your work or school performance, you may have something called social anxiety disorder.
What is It?
Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a mental illness. It belongs to a group of mental illnesses called anxiety disorders.
People with social anxiety disorder feel very nervous and uncomfortable in social situations meeting new people.
Or they might feel very anxious when they have to do something in front of other people, talking in a meeting. Some people feel very anxious in both situations.
People with social anxiety disorder often feel they will say or do the wrong thing. Or they might think that other people will look down on them and think poorly of them because they’re “strange” or “stupid.” It’s important to know that adults with social anxiety disorder recognize that they feel too anxious, but they may not be able to control it.
Some people may have a panic attack or feel some physical signs of anxiety when they’re facing a social situation. Common physical signs of anxiety include stomach aches, shallow breathing, sweating or feeling hot flashes, feeling your heart is racing, feeling tightness in your chest, feeling tense and feeling shaky.
Social anxiety disorder can have a very negative effect on your well-being and quality of life. The illness can cause a lot of problems in your relationships with partners, family and friends. It can also seriously affect your school or work life.
You may avoid certain careers or fields of study, avoid contributing your ideas, turn down promotions, drop school or take many days off because you feel so anxious. Some people with social anxiety disorder fear one or just a few specific social situations.
Others fear a wide range of social situations.
It’s normal to feel a bit nervous or anxious when you have to give a speech or when you’re meeting people for the first time. But with social anxiety disorder, your anxiety is so intense that it affects many parts of your life. It might affect your school or work life, relationships, things you do for fun or your day-to-day life.
These are some other signs you might have social anxiety disorder:
If you agree with some or all of the above statements, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor.
Who Does It Affect?
Social anxiety disorder is one of the most common types of anxiety disorders, and one of the most common mental illnesses. About 8% of people will experience symptoms of social anxiety disorder at some point in their life. Without treatment, social anxiety disorder can last for a long time. Unfortunately, many people never seek help for social anxiety disorder.
There are some groups of people at higher risk of experiencing social anxiety disorder:
Age—Social anxiety disorder often starts sometime between childhood and teenage years. The majority of people with social anxiety disorder say that their symptoms started before they were 18
Women—Women are more ly to experience social anxiety disorder than men
Other mental illnesses or substance use disorder—Many people with social anxiety disorder have other mental illness depression, panic disorder, bulimia nervosa (an eating disorder) and substance use disorders. However, social anxiety seems to appear before other mental illnesses.
Young children usually don’t know that they are experiencing anxiety. They just know that they have stomach aches, headaches or other physical symptoms of anxiety. Children also know that they just don’t want to do certain activities. So children might express their anxiety by complaining about physical discomfort, avoiding social activities, refusing to go to school or acting out.
What can I do about it?
There are a few different things you can do:
Counselling—Many people with social anxiety disorder benefit from a form of counselling called cognitive-behavioural therapy or CBT.
A mental health professional trained in CBT can help you work through the thoughts or beliefs and behaviours that lead to or maintain your social anxiety. CBT helps you cope with social anxiety by teaching you skills to build confidence in social situations.
You can also learn how to interact with people and maintain relationships. CBT is usually a short-term treatment. You can get the most treatment by regularly practicing CBT skills.
Exposure—Exposure (sometimes called desensitization) helps you “unlearn” anxiety associated with a situation or thing.
With the guidance and support of a qualified professional, you gradually take small, planned steps towards a situation you fear until you no longer feel overwhelmed by that situation.
It can be a very effective treatment for many different phobias, including social phobia. Exposure is an important part of CBT treatment for social anxiety.
Medication—Anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants can be used in combination with counselling or exposure to reduce your body’s response to anxiety.
Support groups—You are not alone. Anxiety disorder support groups in person or online are a great way to share your experiences and learn from the experiences of others.
Self-help—There are some things you can do on your own to help keep you feeling better.
Regular exercise, eating well, managing stress, spending time with friends and family, spirituality, and monitoring your use of alcohol and other drugs can help keep anxiety from getting worse.
Talking to your doctor, asking questions, and feeling in charge of your own health are also very important. Always talk to your doctor about what you’re doing on your own.
Where do I go from here?
In addition to talking to your family doctor, check out the resources below for more information about social anxiety disorder:
Visit www.anxietybc.com or call 604-525-7566 for self-help information and community resources.
BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information
Visit www.heretohelp.bc.ca for info sheets and personal stories about social anxiety disorder. You’ll also find more information, tips and self-tests to help you understand many different mental health problems.
Resources available in many languages:
* If English is not your first language, say the name of your preferred language in English to be connected to an interpreter. More than 100 languages are available.
Call 811 or visit www.healthlinkbc.ca to access free, non-emergency health information for anyone in your family, including mental health information. Through 811, you can also speak to a registered nurse about symptoms you’re worried about, or a pharmacist about medication questions.
© 2013 | Back to top | PDF | More info sheets