1. The little things you do to temporarily relieve your social anxiety can be hurting you.
Those things like getting your phone out and pretending to text to look busy, or playing with your sleeves when you don’t know what to do with your hands, or looking around the room so you don’t have to give anyone eye contact. These are called Safety Behaviours and we all have our own versions of them, things that help us cope in a social situation. We think that they’re helping us to relieve our social anxiety while in fact they are only perpetuating our anxiety in the long-term, they maintain our social anxiety because we think we can’t cope without them. They may not make things worse but by doing these things to cope, we are stopping ourselves from being truly comfortable in social situations.
2. You can get through this.
Social Anxiety doesn’t have to rule your life forever. There are things you can do to overcome your anxiety including different kinds of therapy & medication or if you’re not ready for that you can research by reading books or join supportive groups for people with anxiety.
3. You can make friends, you can be loved.
It’s easy to fall in to the social anxiety trap and start believing that you’ll never make friends and you’ll never be loved. It’s also easy to believe that even if you already do have friends or a partner, that you’re not good enough for them or they don’t like you as much as they say. Social anxiety tricks us into thinking mean things about ourselves, which is usually bullshit because you ARE worth loving and you can have friends.
4. Don’t take it personally if you don’t get invited when you usually decline.
I remember getting so upset when I wasn’t invited to parties and other social events when my social anxiety was at its peak but when I really thought about it, would I have gone to those parties or events anyway? Probably not. You see, if I have a party I don’t tend to invite the people who never turn up or always decline but that doesn’t mean I don’t want them there, I obviously do. They’re my friends. I just assume that they’re not into parties and that’s cool with me. I have my party friends, my coffee friends, my stay indoors and chat shit friends…
If you want to be invited just in case you might actually go to the event, then let your friend know. Tell them, “I know I usually don’t come to your events because *X REASON* but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to. I’d love to be invited even if I have to decline just in case on the odd chance, I can actually come.”
If my friends who always decline invites to my parties said that to me, I’d feel much better inviting them in future. Usually I feel like I might be annoying them with event invites otherwise.
5. It’s Okay to need medication.
Don’t let anyone shame you or guilt you about needing medication. Some people may find that prescription medication have given them nasty side affects and they may not be a long-term solution for everybody but in no way does that mean you can’t use them. If that’s what helps YOU, then you keep doing what you’re doing. For lots of people, medication is a necessary first step to overcoming anxiety and there is no shame in that.
6. Overcoming Social Anxiety needs a lot of work.
There’s not really any quick fix and even when you’re receiving help for you social anxiety, you will be the person putting in all of the work. You have to be ready and willing to work at it. A lot of the times I went to therapy, I didn’t come out with the results I wanted. I blamed therapy for not working or being very good but the true reason it didn’t work, was me. I wouldn’t open up enough. I’d lie and say I did the exercises when I didn’t or I’d simply not do the exercises because they were scary. Sometimes I’d make out that I was fine when I wasn’t so that I wouldn’t have to go to therapy anymore. After a complete mental breakdown, I realised I had to do something. I found myself committed and I tried therapy one more time. It worked. I overcome more of my social anxiety in that 5 months or so than I had in the previous 9 years of therapy.
And the work shouldn’t just stop after you’ve finished therapy or medication etc. You need to keep at it. Keep exposing yourself to social situations that scare you, keep challenging your anxiety.
7. You’re not weird because you have Social Anxiety.
This crappy disorder is something that you have, that’s out of your control, it’s not who you are. Who you are is a strong person who battles a mental illness every day! A mental illness that unfortunately lots of people suffer from. The things that make you feel like you’re weird when you’re anxious, somebody out there can relate. I’m sure I can relate too! I’ve done some funny stuff because of my social anxiety that seemed odd to me at the time, but since making this blog and talking to all of you lovely people who also have social anxiety, I realise that those things are a normal reaction for us and it’s cool with me.
8. It’s perfectly fine to take a break.
Facing your fears day after day is exhausting. Emotionally and physically. Take a day off once in a while and give yourself time to recharge. Watch some movies, read a book… do whatever you like to do to relax.
9. If you’ve done nothing wrong, no one has a reason to hate you.
Does your social anxiety keep telling you that people hate you, or that they’re laughing at you behind your back? Most of the time that’s just social anxiety talking and it’s not true but if someone does dislike you and you haven’t done anything to hurt them, that’s their own problem, not yours.
You’re not going to please everyone in life, as much as you might want to but you can expend an enormous amount of energy trying to please everyone even if it doesn’t work. The best thing to do, is just be yourself. If someone doesn’t like you for who you are then why go out of your way to please them? They’re not worth your time.
10. Eating & Sleeping well can make a huge difference.
Sometimes it’s hard as hell to sleep when you have anxiety. Up all night, tossing and turning, thinking of the worst possible scenarios. It’s just that when you’re tired, you feel more anxious so getting a good nights sleep is important. I’ve tried lots of things to help me sleep when I’m anxious and the things I’ve found that are most helpful is listening to rain or wave sounds, using my fitbit to track my sleep and getting exercise outdoors during the day, also not eating after 7/8pm.
Limiting processed sugar, alcohol and caffeine can also go a long way to reducing your anxiety. I found that eating wheat also makes my anxiety worse, it makes me all bloated and sluggish which makes me anxious cause I’m all tired, bloaty and gross.
11. You’re the only person that remembers that slightly embarrassing thing that happened 5 years ago.
You replay it in your head over and over again, even though it happened years ago and nobody else even thinks about it. You’re probably the only person who remembers and even if anybody else did remember, they’re definitely not thinking about it as often as you are and it definitely didn’t lessen their opinion of you. Everyone does and says embarrassing things now and again, even the coolest, most confident of people.
12. Avoidance isn’t the answer.
Avoiding everything that makes you anxious is only going to maintain your Social Anxiety, it will never help you get through it. You don’t have to jump off the deep end. Just take gradual small steps to make your anxiety smaller. It’s better to go forwards ever so slightly than to stay stuck in your social anxiety forever.