Anxiety and depression are illnesses that affect around 6-million people in the UK. They can affect anyone and everyone, no matter of their ethnic background, age, or socioeconomic status. Social anxiety is a branch of anxiety and comes with many negative consequences. Read on to learn about the ins-and-outs of social anxiety and how to overcome it.
What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety disorder is a long-term and overwhelming fear of social situations. Children, teenagers and adults can suffer from it, and it can have a huge impact on their lives. Sometimes social anxiety can be more than shyness – it can be an intense fear that affects everyday activities like building relationships and going to school or work.
Social anxiety symptoms
As everyone is different, social anxiety symptoms can vary from person to person but the following are the most common. You may suffer from all of these symptoms, or none, but it’s important to go to your GP if you’re feeling disconnected in any way.
Common social anxiety symptoms
- You dread everyday activities that most people find easy. This can include starting conversations, working, going to school or simple tasks like going to the supermarket.
- You’re constantly thinking about embarrassing yourself like stuttering, blushing or sweating.
- You’re worrying about (or avoiding) group situations like lunchtimes, parties and social conversations.
- You have physical symptoms like sweating, trembling, heart palpitations or feeling sick.
- You’re regularly thinking that people are watching or judging you.
Overcoming social anxiety
If you think you’re suffering from social anxiety, go and see your GP as you might be prescribed medication or other treatments that can help. There are also some self-care methods you could try.
Adopt a healthier lifestyle
Our minds and bodies are linked, and how we treat our bodies can affect how our mind works. Making exercise a priority and part of your daily routine can dramatically help with anxiety. Whether it’s going for a run at lunchtime or walking to work rather than driving or getting public transport, moving your body is a great way to reduce anxiety. Limited caffeine and alcohol intake can also help, as well as ensuring you have a healthy diet and sleep routine.
Confidence is key
It may seem silly but pretending you’re the most confident person on earth can make you believe that you actually are. It just takes practice, and at some point, you might find that you aren’t pretending anymore. Try and push yourself to enter social situations with confidence. Hold your head high and smile - you’ve got this.
Similarly, it’s important to be honest with people if you aren’t feeling great. In the long run this will bring you closer to others and will allow people to understand why you aren’t going to certain events. Rather than potentially judging or wondering why, they will understand and accept it. Talking about how you’re feeling may seem scary at first but the relief you will feel when you share this personal information with someone will leave you feeling great.
Challenge negative thoughts
It’s important to remember that the negative thoughts you’re having are just thoughts, not facts. If you start thinking that nobody is interested in you or that they are judging what you look or sound like, try and recognise that this is just a thought you are having. Once you’ve recognised it, make a conscious effort to challenge it. Ask yourself, is there any evidence that contradicts this unhelpful thought? What would friends or family say to me if I told them about this? What are the pros and cons of thinking this?
It sometimes helps to write these thoughts down or discuss with someone you trust - once it’s out in the open it can seem like a much smaller problem and make you feel better.
Try something new
Trying something new might seem like the last thing you want to do but it might be just what you need to overcome social anxiety. Is there something you always wanted to do that you never did? Try it. If you don’t like it, you never have to do it again. If this seems too tough, start with small goals and work towards the more feared activities.
Participating in an after-school or work activity lets you meet like-minded people, learn new things and most importantly, have fun. The Army Cadet Force is a fantastic organisation to join if you suffer with social anxiety. With our welcoming adult volunteers and cadets that want to develop and inspire others, it’s a chance to delve into something you might not have experienced before. There are many roles available if you’re interested in volunteering, from admin roles to Officers, so you can take on whichever role you feel is most suitable. Find your nearest detachment and learn more.