…than speak in public. Is this you? Cold sweats, tongue tied, sweaty palms, trembling, hives…Fortunately, I do well enough, but it doesn’t mean that right before I take the podium, butterflies don’t suddenly appear, and leave as quickly as they come. I have spoken in front of thousands, taught classes, and took part in debates. The comfort and ease did not magically appear.
If you find yourself getting anxious at the thought of meeting new people, or speaking in front of a group, you may be suffering from social anxiety. According to the American Depression and Social Anxiety Organization, more than 6% of Americans suffer from SAD (Social Anxiety Disorder). It affects men and women equally, often beginning at age 13. More than a third of those suffering with the condition, wait years before seeking help. Social anxiety causes one to avoid social situations. Many people rely on self-medication, drugs, and alcohol, to get them through life.
Luckily, there are methods you can use to find relief in healthy ways!
Try these effective strategies:
- Put yourself out there. It can be a daunting prospect, but try to accept invitations, even if you don’t particularly want to go. With a positive attitude, the more you practice, the easier it becomes.
- Get help from a professional. Of course, talking to a close friend about your anxiety may help, but remember they aren’t trained for this. Make an appointment to speak to a professional therapist. They should be able to suggest some customized coping mechanisms that would work for you.
- Strengthen your overall health. Poor health can leave you feeling anxious. Eat nutritious foods and exercise regularly. Both uplift your mood and can decrease stress and anxiety. Exercise has been shown to release feel-good hormones.
- Besides getting some exercise, joining a local fitness class can also allow you to practice meeting new people while those feel-good hormones are in full effect. Plus, who knows – you might just make a new friend.
- Write it down. List the times that you have managed to overcome your fears. What did you do in the situation? How did you feel when this happened?
- Whenever you encounter an event where you are feeling socially anxious, write that down, too. How does it compare with the ones on your list?
- Regular reflection of the times you were successful combating your fears, can help with current situations.
- Congratulate yourself. You may not be confident in public, but you have plenty of other things to be proud of! Recognize and remind yourself of any achievements. This will help boost your confidence.
- Practice your social skills. Learn how to make introductions and give compliments. Practice making eye contact and remembering names. Listen to what others have to say and keep the focus on them – not you.
- These few skills will not only help you through a social situation, but the other person will walk away from the conversation feeling like a million bucks!
- Remember – others will not always remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel!
- Join a support group. Talking to others who are undergoing the same challenges can be comforting. Group members can encourage, offer support ,and advice from their own experiences.
- Try going to new places. You’ll meet new people. I have taken many solo adventures abroad, and I’m still in touch with some of the best people I know. Using your new skills to interact with them will give you more practice and confidence in dealing with social situations.
- Remember that you don’t need to be perfect. Those with social anxiety have a tendency to believe they need to be perfect. This is not attainable for anyone! Instead try and enjoy the moment and have a “that’ll do” attitude.
- Read a self-help book. There are many inspiring stories about others with social anxiety who have transformed their lives after overcoming their social fears. These stories can motivate and encourage you to keep trying..
Breaking the cycle of social anxiety will take some time and practice, but you can do this! Reward yourself for each small step you make. Focus on the journey ahead, and the steps you can take to bring you success. One of the above suggestions on their own, might not solve your problem. Furthermore, everyone is different, try a combination of things, and keeping a journal of what works, will go a long way.
You might be wondering, how I developed the habit of being able to confidently speak before large crowds without falling apart. Bear in mind, change is generally incremental. I also have an aptitude for it. However, start small, try practicing in front of friends and ask for feedback, get enough rest the night before a big social event, meditation, journaling, and challenging negative self talk, have all contributed to success.
To Your Success,