Coping with social anxiety

Many people become nervous about social events like public speaking. However, some people have feelings that go beyond nervousness.  They worry about others judging them or embarrassing themselves, so they avoid social situations.  This is social anxiety.

Social anxiety affects people of all backgrounds - including celebrities.  Reports show that up to 13% of the population may suffer from it.

Common symptoms

High levels of social anxiety can lead to:

  • Panic
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blushing
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness, feeling faint
  • Nausea
  • Negative self-talk (I don't belong here, I'm making an idiot of myself)
  • Avoidance of all social situations, including uni classes

Social anxiety may become so distressing that it affects your study, work, social and family life. If it does, you should seek support and treatment.

Things that can help

Do not avoid social situations. Instead, go and:

  • Stay for a short time
  • Make eye contact
  • Act calm
  • Talk to just one or two people

Challenge your negative self-talk. Whenever it starts, ask yourself:

  • What proof is there to support these thoughts?
  • Is there a better way to see the situation?
  • Will this matter in a year's time?

Practice ways to calm yourself:

  • Learn breathing techniques
  • Try some relaxation methods

Reward yourself after you cope well in a social situation. Try it again soon. Aim to make it a habit.

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