It's normal for some people to feel shy, self-conscious, or even nervous on certain occasions like going on a date, giving a speech, or interviewing for a job. However, it becomes abnormal if the behavior goes from the usual shyness and instills excessive fear of embarrassing oneself, going through great measures to avoid social situations. In that case, it could be social anxiety disorder. Also known as social phobia, it is characterized by having intense fear over social situations, especially those where you'll be evaluated or watched by other people. Fortunately, there are various ways on how a social phobic can cope with social situations. Here are some tips:
Alleviate Physical Symptoms
Your body exhibits physical changes when you become anxious. One of the obvious signs is over breathing, which can throw off the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the body. This can trigger increased heart rate, muscle tension, dizziness and feeling of suffocation. Alleviate these symptoms by learning how to relax and control anxiety symptoms. Engage in a breathing exercise. Sit with your back straight and shoulders relaxed. Put one of your hands on your chest. Put the other one on your stomach. Inhale slowly and deeply for four seconds. See if the hand on your stomach is rising. The one on your chest should hardly move. Hold your breath for about 2 seconds and then slowly exhale through your mouth for six seconds. This is a good relaxation technique that is effective in anxiety relief.
Challenge Negative Thoughts
The foremost thing that a social phobic suffers from is negative thoughts. These unfounded beliefs set off the anxiety. In his head, the following phrases would be playing endlessly: "I'll look stupid", "I will humiliate myself", "People will think I'm a fool", and "It will be a disaster". If you fill your head with these negative thoughts, that's how things are going to be for you.
If you're starting to feel this way, challenge these negative thoughts with, "How do I know for sure that I'm going to be a failure. I'm not a fortune teller, right?". Then slowly work your way to replace these thoughts with positive ones to avoid setting off your anxiety. "I'll be a hit today. Today is my day, I can feel it!"
Face Your Fears Gradually
In order to successfully overcome any phobia, it's essential to face your fear rather than avoid it. In social phobia, it's best to face the social situations instead of escape from them. But you don't have to be hard on yourself the first time. Take baby steps. Start by attending a social situation and learning how to become more comfortable in it. After that, you can progress to initiating conversations with other people. Before you know it, you can build your confidence enough to talk in front of a lot of people. Just make sure that you're patient with this. It won't happen overnight. It would take a long time but patience and determination will help ensure that your efforts are worth it.
Adopt Lifestyle Changes
Lifestyle changes won't turn you into a social butterfly. But these can certainly reduce symptoms of social anxiety disorder. For one, you should avoid intake of caffeine since these can increase anxiety symptoms. Don't drink alcohol hoping to calm your nerves either. It only shoots up risk of anxiety attack. So is smoking, since nicotine is a powerful stimulant. Make sure too that you get plenty of rest. You're more vulnerable to anxiety when you're not fully rested.
If none of these techniques work for you, it's time that you get professional help from an efficient and trustworthy therapist.