1. Remember everyone is self-conscious. Social anxiety is common, and many people experience it. If you’re at a party and feel really anxious about introducing yourself to new people, remember that other people might feel the same way.
2. Pause to examine the evidence. When you’re feeling anxious, take a moment and try identifying the anxious thoughts running through your head. Challenge them by asking questions such as: “What evidence do I have this is true?” and “Is there another explanation for what happened?” If someone responds curtly to you, you may have the anxious thought that “They think I’m boring.” What if you challenged that thought and instead considered another explanation: Maybe they were in a hurry, or maybe they were already on their way to talk to someone else when you approached them.
3. Imagine the worst-case scenario. Often, people with social anxiety think making a mistake will cause far worse consequences than it actually would. If you’re worried about something, such as stumbling over your words, ask what really would happen if you stumbled over your words. Would people really laugh at you? They’d probably barely notice it or quickly forget about it and continue the conversation.
4. Remind yourself anticipation is worse than reality. Often, our worries about an upcoming situation are worse than the situation itself. If you’re worried about striking up a conversation because you think you’ll have nothing to say, remind yourself that you only have to start with “Hello.” Once you begin the conversation, it gets a lot easier.
5. Bring a cheat sheet. Before going into an anxiety-inducing situation, anticipate what anxious thoughts you’ll have and challenge them on a piece of paper. Bring this piece of paper with you to the event. Then if you start feeling nervous, you can look at it to remind yourself of your thought challenges and calm yourself down.
6. Consider getting help. If you find social anxiety really is impacting your life (For instance, getting in the way of your career or relationships, or making it hard to go to social events you want to attend.), consider seeking help.
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Chris du Toit | South African Institute of Hypnotism