Social anxiety? Who me? That’s a laugh (not really). Someone needs to come up with a better name for this excruciatingly inconvenient disorder. How about The Plague of Extreme Shyness? Hmm, nope. How about cursed-with-the-fear-of-social-situations? Too dramatic.
Friendly warning: This post is about to get a tad personal.
I suffer from social anxiety. While I was always shy growing up, the anxiety didn’t hit me until I was about nineteen or twenty. And, I’m still adjusting to it. Or, more accurately, trying to get completely past it.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Highly Sensitive Person. Maybe it’s because I was home-schooled. Maybe it’s because of the toxic friendships I’ve put up with in the past. Maybe it’s because I’m an INFJ.
The point is, it’s a crippling disorder to have.
I would delve into the topic of what it’s like being socially anxious, but I’m going to save myself some time by leaving it up to the experts. So, if you’d like to understand this disorder better, I suggest reading this very informative article on WebMD.
Besides, I’m here to tell you my tips on getting past social anxiety.
But first, a little disclaimer: These tips are not to be used as a substitute for a professional’s advice or anything of the like. These are simply things that I do that I think help me with my social anxiety. And, I’ve decided to share them with you. 🙂
Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let me tell you about this super event that I’m going to, and then we’ll move on to the tips.
From March 18th-20th, the Women in Travel Summit will be convening in Irvine, California. I will be attending for the following reasons:
- I want to meet other female bloggers who are as passionate about traveling as I am.
- The winter weather here at home, has been totally dismal, and can’t wait to bask in the sunny SOCAL weather.
- I need to travel again as I am getting super restless (it’s been at least 6 months since my last journey).
- Connections, connections, connections! There will be so many speakers, travelers, bloggers, sponsors, etc.
- I’m going to learn things, and hopefully improve my whole blogging game, as there will be many sessions on the following topics: Travel, Blogging, and Entrepreneurship.
My 8 Tips for Dealing with Social Anxiety
#1 – Don’t Forget to Smile
One toothy grin releases endorphins, which help reduce stress levels, and simply make us happier. Even faking a smile will do it. Your brain can’t tell the difference between a real and a fake smile, as it has to do with the positioning of your facial muscles.
And besides, isn’t a smiling person such a happy sight?
Does this subject fascinate you, or is it just me? Check out this article for more information.
#2 – Essential Oils
Whenever I leave the house, I usually dab an essential oil to my pulse points, and inhale a whiff of it’s potent scent. In fact, I frequently keep a roll-on in my purse for any time that I need a boost of encouragement or something to “de-stress” me. These are the two I use regularly:
You can also create your own blend.
#3 – Shades
I never leave home without my sunglasses. When I wear sunglasses, I relish in the security (however flawed my reasoning) of “I can see you, but you can’t see me.” Sadly though, this plan doesn’t work when indoors (although celebrities pull it off all the time).
I’ll admit that no one yet has been able to sense when I am anxious (knock on wood). I’ve asked friends & family if they can tell how insanely anxious I am, and they can’t. So, maybe I don’t even need the sunglasses. But, if I can make myself feel more comfortable, then I go for it.
I’m so shy now I wear sunglasses everywhere I go.
#4 – Dress for Success
Wear nice clothes. Wear comfortable clothes. What we wear says a lot about who we are. If you can manage to combine comfort with class, then hooray for you. And isn’t it so marvelous to feel comfortable & classy? I know that if I’m tugging at a shirt that’s a tad short, or having to deal with a scratchy label, whatever the problem is, it affects how I feel.
Ruminating is the worst part about having social anxiety. It fuels the whole disorder. Millions of anxious thoughts run through your head like:
- “This dress is so uncomfortable. I hope no one notices how uncomfortable I am.”
- “My feet hurt. Why did I wear these stupid pumps? Can people tell that my feet hurt?”
- “Does this blouse make me look pregnant?”
Here is an excellent article about how what we wear can really affect how we feel.
And, although it has nothing to do with anxiety issues, I absolutely love this video by Jennifer Scott entitled “What We Wear Matters.” Just thought I’d share it with you, while we were on the subject. 🙂
#5 – What You Eat Matters
I can’t drink coffee. I love coffee, but I can’t drink it (at least not on a regular basis). In the past, if you asked any of my friends or family, they would have declared me a coffee addict. I simply couldn’t function in the mornings without first having my daily cup of java. And, if I didn’t drink that cup of coffee every day, I would get a headache from caffeine withdrawal.
But, when my anxiety was at it’s worst, I researched all sorts of ways to alleviate it. That’s when I found out about the effects that caffeine has on people who suffer from anxiety, as well as panic attacks.
I highly recommend this article: Nutrition for Anxiety
#6 – Affirmations
I like to jot down affirmations & uplifting quotes. I stash them in my purse, pin them to my bulletin board, and use them as book-markers. I found one among my things the other day, and it gave me a terrific boost. It said, “Things are never as bad as we think they are going to be.” When I read that, it made me smile (tip #1, remember?).
This one is a favorite of mine: “I can get through any situation with grace and poise.”
#7 – Stop Mind Reading
Because you can’t. Do yourself a huge favor, and stop thinking that you know exactly what everyone else is thinking about you.
I remember the first time I said “gracias” to a native Spanish speaker. It was my first night in Panama, and it had been a long day of travel. My cousins & I were gathered around the table eating Chinese food (go figure), while their aunt (or tía, as she is called in Spanish) was serving up the food. Up until this point, I’d been as quiet as a mouse. My anxiety was at an all time high, and I was simply trying to get through the evening without making a fool of myself or bursting into tears due to my strained emotions. Tía dished more food onto my plate, and I said (perhaps a little loudly), “Gracias!”
My cousins immediately giggled. I blushed, and bit my tongue throughout the rest of the meal. I must have sounded like a fool with my enthusiastic “gracias,” I’d thought.
Several months later, we were reminiscing about Panama, and I found out that my cousins had thought I was “adorable” at the time (and those are their words, not mine). Adorable isn’t so bad. 😀
So, yeah. Don’t read people’s minds.
#8 – Just Breathe
I can’t keep track of all the times I’ve thought, “Okay, I’ve got this.” And then the moment I open my mouth to speak, my voice croaks, and I can’t catch my breath. That’s because I forgot to breathe. Or sometimes, I’ll take a deep breath, and then forget to exhale. Or my breath escalates until I find that I’m hyperventilating.
Then one day I learned about breathing exercises. And, believe me, they have helped a lot. Here is an excellent article on the subject.
And that is my list of tips for you. I still struggle with social anxiety. I will continue to struggle with it. But, I know I can beat this. I’m a travel blogger, and my plan is to travel & to write. And I know, somewhere along the way, I’m going to be okay.
Lauren from Never Ending Footsteps has a wonderful success story on her blog, which I found to be exceptionally inspiring. You should read it!
Do you suffer from social anxiety? If so, do you have any tips of your own for combating it?
What about the Women in Travel Summit, have you heard of it? Will you be attending?
I’d love to hear whatever thoughts & ideas you may have, so please feel free to leave me a comment below!
Image Credit: Big thanks to the creative artists at Pixabay for the beautiful imagery that they stock (for free, I might add).