Simple Techniques to Lower Social Anxiety
Everyone occasionally feels anxious in social situations, but 7.1% of Americans have been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. If this describes you or you are worried about you anxiety levels when interacting with other people, then you understand how difficult things can be. You may be concerned that there is no way to overcome your fears. While medication and therapy can be a huge help, there are also a couple of simple steps you can take to ease some of the anxiety. Rest assured that you can take control of your anxiety and keep it at a manageable level. Even if you experienced abuse as a child, trying these techniques can help you to feel relaxed in a social setting.
Identify Negative Thought Patterns
Negative thoughts are natural and arise as an evolutionary inbuilt survival mechanism. This doesn’t mean that you cannot control them, however, and the first step is to identify them as and when they arise. Overwhelmingly negative thoughts are easy to notice, but you may not be aware of the small automatically occurring thoughts about something as simple as ordering a bottle of wine or asking for directions.
Become aware of the types of thoughts you are having, which include mind reading (thinking you know what other people think) and fortune telling (predicting a negative event in the near future). Once you see these thoughts for what they are, you will be able to dismiss them and replace them with something more positive.
Redirect Your Attention
Mindfulness is one of the most powerful remedies to anxiety and social situations are a perfect opportunity to take control of your focus. Anxiousness comes from being stuck in your own head, so redirect your attention to other people. The more you really pay attention to what they are saying and doing, the less you will worry about your own speech or behavior. Pay attention to what they are actually saying, rather than what you believe without evidence that they are thinking.
If you need a place to direct the attention, then it’s good to start on the breath. This automatically grounds you into the present situation, but it also allows you to take longer deeper breaths. This will lower your heart rate, increase oxygen flow to the brain, and help you to feel more calm and relaxed. Try to empty your mind of thoughts and then gradually add positive affirmations that you will be okay and that you are in the company of good people.
As simple as these two steps sound, they can have a profound effect on anxiety level. They are not a guaranteed cure for social anxiety disorder, but they are a mechanism for grounding yourself and taking control of your levels of social discomfort. Paying attention to negative thoughts is the first step to replacing them with a thought pattern that will put you at ease. Secondly, paying attention to the breath and redirecting your focus onto other people is a mental exercise designed to produce calming feelings, but it also physically relaxes you by increasing oxygen flow and slowing down a racing heart. Try these two things and see if it helps your levels of social anxiety to decrease.