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Advice on managing social anxiety

Hi everyone,

 

I am posting in the hopes that someone can offer me advice or share what they have done to manage having social anxiety. I usually avoid social situations or become extremely anxious leading up to them to the point where my sleep is effected. I am terrible at public speaking, even just answering/asking questions in tutorials makes me shake and stutter - I might not even think I am anxious but I can't seem to control my body's response. It's so embarrassing and it really makes me people underestimate what I am capable of. I am really proud of what I have achieved so far in uni and I have even been accepted into the honours program but I feel like no one takes me seriously because I am so hopeless socially. 

 

My counsellors in the past have told me I should exercise more to manage stress but I am too anxious to go to the gym because there are people there and I have no idea how to work out. I don't want to go for runs or anything either because I don't want people watching me. I don't even want to exercise in my own room because I'm afraid my parents will judge me. I also avoid eating at university because I hate eating in public, I don't want people watching me. Even when I am walking around I think that people are talking about me or laughing at me. I occasionally get panic attacks, thankfully I haven't had one since the end of last year, but they're not pleasant and I never know when they will happen. 

 

I have felt like this for years and it's so incredibly exhausting. I really want to get better and I have tried changing my thinking or trying not to be anxious but it's not working. I have seen some counsellors (at school and another one who had to retire) but I felt like they never took me seriously - that I was just the worried well. My doctor said I should visit headspace because they provide free counselling when a GP refers a person or something but I am too scared to go or I always think I am better.

 

What have other people done to manage this?

 

Thanks Smiley Happy

 

 

 

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Re: Advice on managing social anxiety

Hey @Cloud_atlas, first up, that's a great book you're named after!

 

You're definitely not alone in experiencing a lot of these issues related with having anxiety!

 

I can only speak to my own experience, but hopefully some others will jump in with some suggestions Smiley Happy

 

Things that helped me:

Meditation once a day - Smiling Mind is my favourite app. for this.

Exposure- Doing just a little bit of the scary thing- like eating in public- every day, just have a bit of an apple for example, doesn't have to be anything huge Smiley Happy . For me at least this helped with my social anxiety a lot. This one is best practised with the help of a Psychologist, although there's nothing stopping you from having a go yourself Smiley Happy I can make a thread about it if you want to know more.

Cutting back on the caffeine and alcohol- and any other substance. This area is a big one for me because I know it makes my brain chemistry swing around quite a bit for a few days, but its different for everyone. 

 

Let me know what you've tried or if there's anything in there you want to have a crack at. I think the important thing to remember is it takes time and regular practice of these skills to recover or manage anxiety.

 

Anyone else here got some ideas?

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Re: Advice on managing social anxiety

Hi @Cloud_atlas,

 

Congrats on getting into the honours program! That's definitely something to be proud of Smiley Happy

 

Social anxiety is tough and like you said, it can be very exhausting...

 

I also get the feeling when my body's reactions are sorta 'betraying' my thoughts of wanting the reactions to go away... I think maybe just being okay with what's happening in the body and not judging it too much helps, because sometimes the more I want the feelings in my body to stop because I'm worried others can see me sweating or something, the more intense they get. Sometimes I try to move my focus to something external, like maybe look at the buildings or trees around me, because it helps distract me from my thoughts and feelings in my body.

 

I can really relate to not wanting to talk in tutorials. I used to be very very very nervous before wanting to put my hand up in class, like feeling like I'm going red, feeling my heart thump in my chest and super sweaty palms. Now, I think it's much better although it can still be nerve wracking. I think sometimes what helps is waiting for a pause in the discussion and then just going for it even when feeling really nervous! Maybe setting a goal to put your hand up once a week, or even every fortnight - whatever you feel is reachable for now. It might not always happen and there will be disappointing but I think the important thing is to keep trying if it's a goal that you really want to achieve. If your voice comes out really wobbly or whatever, you'll still be alive afterwards and your goal has been achieved! And others probably wouldn't notice or, if they did, remember what happened later on.

 

I remember going through lots of times when I'd reassure myself that everything was fine and I don't need to change anything (it felt like too much effort and it felt like completely changing who I was!). But after a while, when I saw that social anxiety was really interfering with my life, I thought something really had to change.You can still be yourself, but it's also good to have some tools to be able to achieve the goals you want and not have progress hindered due to worrying about what others are thinking about you Smiley Happy I still feel the anxiety but it's a lot more manageable and I can try and achieve stuff i want to do.

 

Exposure is really useful because it helps you learn how things really are instead of how they seem in your head.. testing things out. Sometimes if something embarrassing happens, I'll just say it's experience - still alive and the embarrassment will hopefully pass eventually. And after a few embarrassing moments, you start to feel more confident as well I think - like you'll be able to handle the next thing because you made it after that one!

 

I also like the Dr Seuss quote, "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

 

I hope this kind of helps and that you eventually reach your goals Smiley Happy

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Re: Advice on managing social anxiety

Thanks for replying cupcakes_032, your advice has been really helpful. I was actually thinking about setting goals today about answering a question once per week or something - helpful to know you have found this a good strategy.
Thank-you for your thoughtful reply, it's always so reassuring to know you're not alone, especially when things fluctuate so much.
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Re: Advice on managing social anxiety

Hi Ben-Ro
Thanks for your comment! Super helpful, although I don't really drink alcohol, cutting down on my coffee would probably help and I will see if I can challenge myself more and not be so critical.
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Re: Advice on managing social anxiety

You're very welcome @Cloud_atlas Smiley Happy

Yes it can feel like you're the only one who has it but definitely not alone! I just read on beyondblue that every year, a bit less than 5% of Australians have social anxiety disorder which is pretty common. I guess it's hard to tell especially with the fear of negative judgement at the core of it and not wanting others to know about it.

Let us know how things go if you like Smiley Happy I'll also be setting the once a week goal for myself - it's been a while since I've done it and I kind of have to again for class participation haha

Good luck with it all, we have your back Smiley Happy
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Re: Advice on managing social anxiety

hi @Cloud_atlas jsut wondering how your going with the anxiety? have you found anything that has been helping you?

**NEVER be afraid to ask for help because you're WORTH it!**
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Re: Advice on managing social anxiety

Hey @Cloud_atlas,

I can't help with a lot of the stuff you mentioned, 'cause I'm kind of in the same boat, but the one thing I've never had trouble with is public speaking so I'm posting this in the hopes that I can convey some of the mindset I use in that scenario.

 

Alright, so a little groundwork first - when I'm public speaking, I'm in a completely different mental 'mode' to when I'm attempting (struggling) to have a normal conversation. Public speaking is all about the angle - what can I say that will make my listener think this thing is true. 

Nobody expects you to be expressing your whole opinion, or even what you actually believe in - you're just presenting an idea in the best light possible, regardless of what you actually think. As such, you as a person are not 'on the line'; if they disagree with what you're saying, well, they're just disagreeing with the idea, not with you, or anything you really think or do.

This level of abstraction really, really helps me, because a big part of my problems (and I think maybe yours too) is the idea of people judging me. If you can firmly establish in your mind a division between the idea and you, things get easier, at least in that specific sphere.

I know for a lot of people this isn't easy. My dad sort of instilled it in me early on, because that's how he thinks, as someone who used to do a lot of public speaking, mooting, and debating, so I never really had to "make" it happen. If I were to recommend a method, though - spend time talking to someone who debates. The obvious difficulty here is, well, the social anxiety, but hey! I exist! I did (and will do, as soon as I work up the courage to join another team) a lot of debating, indeed because of this very thing (being able to TALK) and I would be absolutely delighted if you were to message me or something (is that a thing here? PMs? I'm new to the forums) and we could talk about it. Or anything really.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

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Re: Advice on managing social anxiety

things that helped me.
Expossure definetely works woth time. And also thinking realistically. Like when you feel social anxiety is because you feel that there is danger out there. You hve to tell yourself tht everything is okay.

Also think about it, no body gives a shit about you anyways.. Like people have their own things to think about.
Dont let the fear creep in to you, get out there at your own pace and get over it.
Meditaion helps, control your thoughts, when you feel like you are thinking negatively, focus on your breath, relax for 5 minutes or more, and then continue with your life!