Social anxiety happens. It happens to millions of people, and it feels excruciating and isolating. Many of us have been in the grip of social anxiety: that panicky feeling when we would rather disappear into thin air than being around (certain) people.
Sometimes we have no choice. We can’t get away, as much as we’d like to. We have to be around our boss/coworkers/family members/God knows who else.
Here are five tips how to survive a social anxiety attack:
1. Take a break to recharge
When you feel you are deteriorating, take a bathroom break and go through the exercises below.
2. Do not judge yourself
The worst thing you can do is reprimand yourself. Self blame like “I am such a loser,” “something is wrong with me,” “there’s a good reason why people ignore me” and the likes will only make it worse. There is always a background story as to why you feel uncomfortable around other people, and it is vital that you side with yourself in that moment.
3. Be compassionate with yourself
Self soothing will help. It’s important to understand yourself and to know what gets you so clammed up around others. Reassure yourself with thoughts like “of course I get anxious around people, because I never learned how to be the center of the attention when I grew up,” or some variation of what your actual experience was. Self touch, like putting your palms over your eyes, is comforting when you are in the grip of anxiety.
4. Self empowerment
Once you feel a little better, remember that you have a choice. “I don’t have to carry on the legacy of my past. I can be my own person and choose how to connect with others.” Accept that you can’t avoid certain people, but that you are able pick the friendships you really want to cultivate. Small movements, like rubbing your hands together or drumming on your thighs are energizing and enlivening.
You can connect with the people you have to be around on different levels. You don’t have to stand there and conjure up an awkward conversation. Begin with someone you feel comfortable around in order to take in some positive energy. Don’t completely avoid the people you feel it’s hard to talk to. You can just approach them with a handshake or a tap on the shoulder, say hello, say a few things and move on.
Even a simple “I just wanted to say hi,” smile, making eye contact and then going about your business is perfectly fine.
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Last reviewed: 30 Mar 2012