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7 Must-Do Tips for Social Anxiety

7 Must-Do Tips for Social Anxiety

Do you struggle with social anxiety wanting to connect with people, but feeling so awkward and uncomfortable that you just avoid it? I know I did. Hi, I'm Paige Pradko. Welcome to Therapy for a Better Life.

Today's topic is social anxiety, something with which I am very familiar. Many of us develop social anxiety for different reasons and some of us may even have the genetics for it. We inherited it. Or it might be a combination. Perhaps we may have experienced uncomfortable childhood experiences where we felt humiliated or criticized or ignored. Maybe we had acute trauma and we learned to associate social situations with fear. And when we began to feel uncomfortable, we started avoiding social engagements. Now, when anybody with anxiety, any type of anxiety disorder begins to avoid what makes them uncomfortable, the anxiety can become worse, and the symptoms can get stronger and persist.

What I was surprised to learn is that people with social anxiety care very deeply about connecting with other people. In fact, if they didn't care about connecting, they wouldn't have social anxiety at all. And so, you must remember that about yourself. That deep down, you care about connecting. You actually value it. Now when we avoid something that we value, we're actually sabotaging ourselves, and that creates suffering within us. We are creating our own suffering. I want to share a few things that I've learned and that have helped me. And I really hope that they help you too.

The first is that we must acknowledge and really know that if we have social anxiety, we value connecting with other people. It's important to us.

Number two is that we as humans have a core need of belonging. Whether you recognize that or not, it's part of being human. I love a Mother Teresa quote. She said, “If we have no peace, it's because have forgotten that we belong to each other.” I love that.

Number three is if we value something, then we are willing to tolerate some uncomfortable feelings because we value it. Maybe you value having an education. If you value an education, you're going to be enduring some uncomfortable things. But you move through it because you value it. This idea helps me in a lot of social situations. I remind myself; I value connecting with people. Okay. I'm willing to feel uncomfortable. I'm willing to have some anxiety because it's something I value.

Number four is having an attitude of willingness. I'm not going to resist it. I'm not going to try to get out of it. I am going to have an attitude of willingness. I'm willing to put myself in social situations. Doesn't matter if anxiety comes or not. I'm willing to put myself in it.

Number five is we must challenge ourselves to be in social situations. This is where we are helping our brain create new neuropathways through exposure therapy because somewhere along the line, out fear response got connected and conditioned and associated with socializing. We have to give our brains opportunities to undo that. And researchers have found out how to undo that by rewiring your brain by having new experiences. Every new experience socializing is creating a new neuro pathway. You have to actually be a little anxious for the rewiring to occur. And so, every time that you are putting yourself in a social situation, even small ones, even texting somebody, even phone calls or saying hello to a clerk. Through every little interaction, you are creating a new neuro pathway. It's called exposure therapy or a social exposure, and this is how to rewire your brain. We must be willing to challenge ourselves. The more often we challenge ourselves, the better we get. I encourage people to challenge themselves every day, as many times a day as they can. Some people can’t do that, but whatever you do, every effort is a good effort. Every exposure is good. Even if these are exposures that you make you uncomfortable, you are still making good connections.

Number six is to get out of your head when you're in social situations. I want you to get out of your head. I want you to intentionally focus on the other person. If you're in your head, you're going to be saying, “Oh, I'm uncomfortable. Oh, I can't wait to get out of here. Oh, they think I'm stupid. Oh, they're looking at me, sweat.” Whatever you are saying in our head is not helpful. I want you to get out of your head and focus on the other person. If you're really listening to somebody else, you can't have those thoughts in your head at the same time.

And finally, number seven is I want you to be kind and compassionate to yourself. It is very difficult to do social exposures. If you have social anxiety, it's very difficult. The process of rewiring the brain is a challenging process, but you do it. You can do it because you value connecting with other people. Every effort is a good effort. So be kind to yourself, congratulate yourself every time you tried. And until next time I will see you in session, take care. Bye-Bye.

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