Beat Your Social Anxiety

Beat Your Social Anxiety

Remember, you are not alone
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Some people thrive in social circles and enjoy the energy they receive from being around others, while other people require much more mental preparation for social events, regardless of how “small” or “not a big deal” they may seem to others.

The Social Anxiety Institute describes social anxiety as “the fear of interaction with other people that brings on self-consciousness, feelings of being negatively judged and evaluated, and, as a result, leads to avoidance.”

There are both general and specific forms of social anxiety. This article addresses general social anxiety, which is characteristic of those who are more relaxed when alone than in social situations.

Social anxiety disorder is much more common now. According to US epidemiological studies, it is the third largest psychological disorder in the country, following depression and alcoholism.

People with social anxiety experience severe emotional distress involving social situations such as: being introduced to people, being teased, being the center of attention, being watched doing something, meeting important figures, participating in conversation that is going around a room (or table), and making impromptu speeches.

Different people experience social anxiety differently, but the common feeling is one of intense fear or nervousness. This may come in the form of heart racing, sweaty palms, blushing, excessive sweating, dry mouth, trembling, difficulty swallowing, muscle twitching, and difficulty formulating or enunciating words.

The best way to treat any psychological disorder once realizing it, is to seek professional help. However, these tips may take you one step closer to comfort in social situations.

Birds of a feather, flock together

Go out with others you know are similar to you when it comes to social circles. Having someone who understands may calm your nerves, even a little bit. That way, you will not have to explain the sudden urge to leave an event, or get some air. You could help introduce each other to people and coax each other with words that won’t come, when necessary. A friend who understands is the best friend to have in these cases. You can uplift each other during down times, feed off each other’s energy, and call it a day if the energy gives out.

Plan ahead

Make a mental note of some emergency lines and topics you can use. For example, always have a few lines to say about yourself. This is usually the first thing that comes up in casual groups where people are unfamiliar with each other. You can also help yourself by creating a list of FAQs you usually get asked in social settings and mentally practice answering them. Planning ahead will leave you feeling more confident, and less tense.

Steer

Much like driving, you can steer conversation in various directions. If you start feeling uncomfortable, try steering the conversation towards topics that interest you or ones in your area of expertise. Doing so will put you at ease. Also try telling stories related to the topic. These usually grab everyone’s interest and add lightness to the occasion.

Attend purposeful events

So maybe the party atmosphere isn’t your thing. In such an atmosphere it can be uncomfortable deciding what to do next. Do you stand around and chat? You might hate small talk… and then how would you know when the conversation ends? What should you do when it ends? Just walk away slowly? Say goodbye (even though you may run into them again)? Do you dance? And with who? You may not want to invade anyone’s space or be put on the spot. Do you grab food? Do you play it safe and go to the bathroom for no reason? For the socially anxious person, these are all nerve wrecking decisions to be made at social gatherings.

Perhaps a change of setting is the solution. It may help turn feelings of anxiousness into productivity if you participate in group events featuring purposeful activities. Things like yoga, rock climbing, gokarting, paintballing, or museum visits are good alternative options.

Since these social events are centered around a specific activity, you will know just what to do, and if not, you can easily follow others’ lead. Doing these activities in a group means all eyes will not be on you at any point because you will all be focusing on the task together, which may prove less stressful for you.

Remember, you are not alone

More than likely, your feelings of anxiety may be shared among others in the group. Don’t beat yourself up over simple things. We are all human, meaning we are all imperfect. We all stutter at times, we have all done an embarrassing thing, we have all tripped or dropped something. We have all blanked out on our words. Just brush it off and keep going. Social anxiety does not allow many people to think this rationally when they are actually in the situation, but remind yourself of these things once in a while.

Everything is easier said than done, of course, but these tips should propel you towards more comfort, and eventually, confidence, in social settings.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr Photography - by Estitxu Carton

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College As Told By Junie B. Jones

A tribute to the beloved author Barbara Parks.
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The Junie B. Jones series was a big part of my childhood. They were the first chapter books I ever read. On car trips, my mother would entertain my sister and me by purchasing a new Junie B. Jones book and reading it to us. My favorite part about the books then, and still, are how funny they are. Junie B. takes things very literally, and her (mis)adventures are hilarious. A lot of children's authors tend to write for children and parents in their books to keep the attention of both parties. Barbara Park, the author of the Junie B. Jones series, did just that. This is why many things Junie B. said in Kindergarten could be applied to her experiences in college, as shown here.

When Junie B. introduces herself hundreds of times during orientation week:

“My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice. Except I don't like Beatrice. I just like B and that's all." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 1)

When she goes to her first college career fair:

"Yeah, only guess what? I never even heard of that dumb word careers before. And so I won't know what the heck we're talking about." (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 2)

When she thinks people in class are gossiping about her:

“They whispered to each other for a real long time. Also, they kept looking at me. And they wouldn't even stop." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When someone asks her about the library:

“It's where the books are. And guess what? Books are my very favorite things in the whole world!" (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 27)

When she doesn't know what she's eating at the caf:

“I peeked inside the bread. I stared and stared for a real long time. 'Cause I didn't actually recognize the meat, that's why. Finally, I ate it anyway. It was tasty...whatever it was." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When she gets bored during class:

“I drew a sausage patty on my arm. Only that wasn't even an assignment." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 18)

When she considers dropping out:

“Maybe someday I will just be the Boss of Cookies instead!" (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 76)

When her friends invite her to the lake for Labor Day:

“GOOD NEWS! I CAN COME TO THE LAKE WITH YOU, I BELIEVE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 17)

When her professor never enters grades on time:

“I rolled my eyes way up to the sky." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 38)

When her friends won't stop poking her on Facebook:


“Do not poke me one more time, and I mean it." (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 7)

When she finds out she got a bad test grade:

“Then my eyes got a little bit wet. I wasn't crying, though." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 17)

When she isn't allowed to have a pet on campus but really wants one:

“FISH STICK! I NAMED HIM FISH STICK BECAUSE HE'S A FISH STICK, OF COURSE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 59)

When she has to walk across campus in the dark:

“There's no such thing as monsters. There's no such thing as monsters." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 12)

When her boyfriend breaks her heart:

“I am a bachelorette. A bachelorette is when your boyfriend named Ricardo dumps you at recess. Only I wasn't actually expecting that terrible trouble." (Junie B. Jones Is (almost) a Flower Girl, p. 1)

When she paints her first canvas:


"And painting is the funnest thing I love!" (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 61)

When her sorority takes stacked pictures:

“The biggie kids stand in the back. And the shortie kids stand in the front. I am a shortie kid. Only that is nothing to be ashamed of." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 7)

When she's had enough of the caf's food:

“Want to bake a lemon pie? A lemon pie would be fun, don't you think?" (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed p. 34)

When she forgets about an exam:

“Speechless is when your mouth can't speech." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 54)

When she finds out she has enough credits to graduate:

“A DIPLOMA! A DIPLOMA! I WILL LOVE A DIPLOMA!" (Junie B. Jones is a Graduation Girl p. 6)

When she gets home from college:

"IT'S ME! IT'S JUNIE B. JONES! I'M HOME FROM MY SCHOOL!" (Junie B. Jones and some Sneaky Peaky Spying p. 20)

Cover Image Credit: OrderOfBooks

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A Day In The Life Of A Socially Anxious Person

"I better lower the volume of my phone. Someone sitting next to me might hear what music I'm listening to and judge my song choice."

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According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), social anxiety disorder affects 15 million adults in the United States. It is one of the most common mental illness and yet a lot of people don't know what social anxiety disorder (SAD) exactly is and have misconceptions about it. Social anxiety is often misunderstood as shyness. However, SAD goes beyond shyness. For someone with SAD, daily social interactions can be stressful to handle because of fear of negative evaluation and embarrassment.

To eliminate misunderstandings and spread awareness about SAD, here's a picture diary of what a day in the life of a socially anxious person looks like.

8:30 a.m.

"I better hurry and switch off my alarm before my roommate wakes up. I'm afraid she might hate me for waking her up this early."

12:00 p.m.

"I know the answer to this question but I'm too scared to answer. What if it is wrong and I embarrass myself in front of everyone?"

3:00 p.m.

"I better lower the volume of my phone. Someone sitting next to me might hear what music I'm listening to and judge my song choice."

5:00 p.m.

"I better keep practicing my order in my head otherwise I might stumble upon my words and make a fool of myself."

7:00 p.m.

"I am just going to delay answering this call as I'm afraid to answer the phone. I don't know who is on the other side and am not exactly sure what to say."

10:00 p.m.

"I'd rather not sleep, as if I try to, I'll be reevaluating all the embarrassing moments of my day."

Along with these thoughts, a person suffering from SAD might also experience physical symptoms like nausea, dizziness, flushing, palpitations, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest. If your day looks anything like the picture diary above and you have been experiencing physical symptoms, do not be afraid to seek help.

According to a survey conducted by ADAA, 36% of people with social anxiety disorder report experiencing symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help. If you are someone who is suffering from SAD, always remember that there's hope. Always seek help as social anxiety disorder is treatable through medication and therapy.

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