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Oh No, Not Another Party!

Social Anxiety?

Social Anxiety?

Social Anxiety

Is this your reaction when you are invited to a Christmas or New Year party?  If so you may have social anxiety.

The festive season can be a nightmare for those who don’t like being with groups of people whom they may not know.

For whatever reason, the thought of being in a large group and having to make conversation with strangers is something that just scares the daylights out of them.  The thought is just too fearful that they just can’t stand the idea of being in a social setting.  This leads to avoidance which in turn increases their anxiety and worry.  Women seem to suffer from it more than men.

Social anxiety doesn’t just  affect people at the festive season it can also occur when doing more ‘normal’ everyday things like shopping or travelling to work or relating to colleagues.  It is not just someone being shy.

 

What is Social Anxiety?

Social Anxiety is one of the commonest fears. It can severely restrict someone’s life and can lead to social anxiety disorder or social phobia.  When it’s at this stage many people will go out of their way to avoid contact with other people or situations where they feel insecure or vulnerable.  It may have started in childhood as a result of an event or learned behaviour from those around you.  It may have resulted from being teased, bullied, being laughed at or singled out for attention in some way which as a child could have seemed the worst thing that could happen.   Sometimes it starts as a result of a traumatic event which has affected your confidence or increased your sense of vulnerability.  It may be as a result of a bereavement and a change in life circumstances.

Social Anxiety “is a persistent fear about social situations and being around people” Sufferers know that it’s not ‘rational or logical’ but they seem unable to help themselves.  It’s more than just being afraid to speak in public or go into social situations where you may not know many people.

 

What can you do to help yourself?

Unfortunately social anxiety becomes worse because of how we respond to the physiological and psychological triggers. It becomes a vicious circle which perpetuates and reinforces the anxiety response.  When we first experience our ‘fight and flight’ response it can be worrying if we don’t understand what is happening.  Our heart beats faster, we can’t think straight, we breathe quicker and more shallowly, we may feel sick or feel light headed.  All these are a natural, physiological response.

 

There are some things that you can do to help yourself:

1 Consider what you are thinking and saying to yourself.

Are you focusing on you and what you think is going to happen and what others might think about you?  If this is what is happening imagine focusing on the other people whom you might meet or be in the room with.  Do this without assuming that they will be thinking negative or bad things about you.  Just notice them and how they stand or walk or talk.  Be curious about them.

2  Start to focus on the things you can and have done.

For every negative thought you have about yourself, identify at least two positive ones.  Even though this may seem big headed to you it will help you realise that, just like everyone else, you have good qualities too.

3 If you worry that people will find you boring. 

Do some homework.  Keep up to date with news stories or magazines or TV programmes so that you have something to talk about.  Better still ask other people questions about their interests and hobbies.

4 You have a fabulous imagination.

Over the years you will have become expert at mentally rehearsing everything that could go wrong. Start to change your self-suggestions.  Mental rehearsal works because it reinforces the physical, mental and emotional connections, so rather than imagining what you don’t want to happen, imagine what you would like to happen.  This will help you strengthen and develop this area of your brain.

5 Watch this video clip on a simple way to help reduce those anxious sensations.

 

Useful links

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/social-anxiety/Pages/Social-anxiety.aspx

http://www.social-anxiety.org.uk/

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