It is a sad experience when getting together with friends and sometimes even family brings on anxiety attacks. Have you been there before? I have. I know there are people to this day that are of the opinion that anxiety attacks and social anxiety are figments of your mind and on some levels I can understand the view but in reality, it is not the case entirely. I am not a medical doctor so I will not speak to the diagnosis of it. This post offers a few habits from my personal experience that added to my routine significantly reduced feelings of anxiety. I want to share them because while I do not believe they are miracle cures I believe they are great additions to any current treatment or management system you may have in place. I mentioned before that on some levels I can understand where a person with the mindset that social anxiety is in your head comes from because for me the journey of finding a cure or aiding myself to manage the experience as been mostly in my head. Changing certain ways of thinking and doing practical things that helps me to cope. Honestly unless you have walked in someone’s shoes it is hard to understand. I also understand that there are levels to the experience, and it is quite different for everyone. There are people with clinical diagnosis that are not even equipped to leave home because of how much anxiety they experience. To start I always recommend that you talk to someone, a mentor, a friend, a councilor or psychologist but preferable someone who has some experience in this area. Secondly I want to say submit all your fears to God because he cares deeply for you and he is able to do abundantly and above all you could possibly think or ask, he can literally heal the spaces that causes fear and anxiety. There are however practical steps that you can and should take to help you manage your thoughts and emotions.
Selfcare helps because when you take care of yourself you feel good and look good and therefore improve your outlook on yourself. This is especially important because social anxiety comes from the fear of being judge negatively by others. This capsizes into the mind because you are generally focusing more on what other people think about you and your weakness and flaws that you become afraid that they may discover your weaknesses if they look too deep. People with social anxiety take on vastly different shapes and sizes as well as visual appearances. One personality type that often suffer from social anxiety are perfectionist. The need to be perfect are appear perfect is all consuming. Usually this personality type prefers to be alone because they like to control their day and the environment around them. The less varying factors, the less risk factors of things not going right or worst someone else viewing or seeing them as less than perfect. I feel like this may not be so obvious when we think of social anxiety. Why would that matter? The more you take care of yourself the better you will feel inside. The better you feel inside the more likely it is that you will be comfortable with yourself in different environments. I am a firm believer of the phrase “as a man thinketh so he is”. If you are in a social environment and you already have social anxiety, it will reduce your stress to not be thinking or worrying about things like your hair, your skin, your outfit etc. I am not suggesting that to feel ok you have to look any particular way but your outward appearance can reflect your inward perception of self.
My second point is meditating. Often, we allow our minds to go rampant and continuously think in overdrive. I believe that this is a result of not believe that we have the power and the ability to control our minds and thoughts. The bible tells us to subject all thoughts to God for his glory. To me that is an assurance that tells me God created me with the ability and capacity to think and control my thoughts. Knowing this for me was empowering because I no longer gave in to negative thoughts that would then drive negative emotions. Meditation is helpful in teaching you how to control and allow your thoughts to flow and be thoughts but not to control how you act or feel based on those thoughts. An app that is helpful for beginners is Calm, meditations are guided but I liked them because they did not feel gimmicky. Another app you can use is abide, these are guided meditation based on scripture so in essence while you meditate you can learn a bible verse or two! Do not knock it until you try it, it is a mind cleansing experience. You cleanse and filter out junk from your mind and filter in the good stuff. When you are positive in your mindset it is much harder for you to focus on negative or “possibly” negative experiences you may have in social situations.
My next big tip is exercise, exercise and more exercise. Normally this would have been number one, but I understand that not everyone is able to actively exercise because we are all living different experiences. But if this is a viable option to you, please do not leave it on the table. Exercise is paramount for several reasons. When you exercise often you look and feel better about yourself, and your stress level is reduced. This is contingent that you are following a regime that is safe and healthy for your body and specific lifestyle. But other than that exercise increases blood flow and circulation. If you have ever experienced an anxiety or panic attack you can testify that one of the most obvious feeling is that of having your air ways restricted or the feeling that you are not getting enough oxygen. Exercise increase the flow of oxygen in your body, blood stream and brain over time. I passionately believe this is a great aid in reducing the onset or the pickup time of any panic or anxiety attack. The other thing that exercise does for our body that is also overlooked is it provides us with much needed endorphins. Endorphins are hormones released to increase feelings of well being and happiness. Incorporating different types of exercise in your routine can be a huge help in reducing feelings of anxiety in any situation. I want to clarify that I am not necessarily referring to going to the gym or running on a treadmill. I advocate for activities that also bring pleasure from the perspective of a hobby. For example, a dance class, hiking, Pilates, a game of soccer, jogging outside and anything you can think of that will help you increase your heart rate, burn some calories and release endorphins while you have fun!
Up next on the list is journaling! This part is harder than you think, at least it was for me. One of the things I recognize was that journaling forced me to be brutally honest with myself and my experiences. Write your thoughts down when you begin to worry or think about a social experience you have had or are about to have. Write down the whys of what you are feeling and, if your worst nightmare came through what would that mean for you? Can you handle it, will you in be ok after? Whatever it is journal and then read it aloud to yourself. You may realize that maybe it’s not as bad as it seems or maybe the more you read it you will recognize that this isn’t a situation you want to be in and that’s ok. That is an empowering choice rather than making that choice out of fear. Fear is the enemy not you. Anything you fear controls you and that is a terrible space to be in.
The last two strategy are complimentary to each other but unrelated, but I have put them together for the purpose of this post. They have to do with control and self image. Unfortunately, or generation focuses so much on self and what we have or do not have to bring to the table that it can be very consuming. To rectify that we need to recognize that we are in control of nothing but our actions and mindset, so we need to let go and let God. Look to God for a definition of self and not yourself because on the merit of self no one person is ever enough. There is only so much time and things we can do regardless of who you are and how much money you have, there are genuine limits. I know some may disagree but letting go off the notion of being perfect or enough for someone else is liberating. You are enough as you are and made whole in God’s perfect love. Secondly get off social media! Seriously give yourself a social media cleanse, set time limits to use the plat form and set your intentions. Spending stupendous hours on social media and practicing self loathing or comparing your life to others …well the life they let you see on social media, is not healthy for you. This is true for anyone, but it is especially true for someone who suffers from Social anxiety. Yes, there are positives and possible motivational aspects of social media but that only comes if you are mentally responsible and are setting healthy boundaries and intentions around using and consuming social media. I think with this tip you must trust your instincts and gut feeling about your use of social media. If they are telling you something is off, perhaps try to explore it by learning about the psychological effects of social media and journaling your experience over a period of time then go back and see what you find.
To wrap up I just want to encourage anyone reading that may be suffering from any form of anxiety. That it is ok, and you are strong, your mind is a powerful place, and you can direct how and where your mind goes. It may take time, but you can take back the power to be in control of it. Let me know in the comments your experience with social anxiety and whether this was helpful or if you have other suggestions that may be of help. While I do not promise that you will be healed of anxiety, these are practical steps to take that can help reduce your social anxiety and improve your quality of life.