How to Reduce Social Anxiety

How to Reduce Social Anxiety

Do you ever feel so anxious in social situations that you feel the urge to escape?

Do you find yourself being overly self-conscious and hypersensitive to criticism or evaluation?

Anxiety often manifests itself physically and is also linked to the way people think about themselves.

Social anxiety is rooted in the fear of being negatively judged by others. As humans, we have a natural desire to be accepted and approved of by others. However, this can become exhausting if you find yourself overthinking and trying to guess what people may be thinking about you.

Mind reading, also known as jumping to conclusions, is where you believe you have the power to read other people’s thoughts. Most people engage in mind reading subconsciously and are not even aware of their negative automatic thoughts.

Mind reading can lead to self-critical thinking which can give rise to feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, fear, and self-doubt.

If you struggle with social anxiety, you may interpret neutral behaviors in others more negatively and jump to conclusions more easily.

Negative thought patterns that are often associated with social anxiety include:

Negative “what if’s” and overthinking

Extreme negative self-judgement and self-blame

Catastrophizing and thinking about the worst-case scenario

Thinking that others dislike you with no clear reason

Replaying or ruminating on past conversations

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an evidence based form of therapy that has been shown to be effective for social anxiety. Next time you feel anxious in a social setting, and you notice that you’re mind reading, try these simple steps:

1. Externalize & label your thoughts as mindreading.

2. Look at the facts for and against your fear.

* Keep in mind that interpretations and facts are very different. Your mind may automatically try to interpret peoples body language cues negatively, so stick to the concrete facts.

3. Come up with at least 3 alternative (more objective) reasons for the other persons behavior that have nothing to you with you personally.

4. Challenge self-critical thoughts and replace them with more rational (self-compassionate) thoughts.

Practicing these simple tips can help you think in a more clear and rational way, which can help reduce social anxiety. Keep in mind that changing the way you think is a process that takes practice and persistence. Try to be patient with yourself and take small steps that help build your confidence.

By: Shari Wood, R.C.C.

The information provided on this blog are for educational purposes only and do not replace individual counselling or advise from your medical doctor. Further, they are not intended for those experiencing symptoms such as suicidal thoughts, for which emergency help should be sought.

Counselling Burnaby Vancouver, Via Counselling & Consulting. Burnaby Counsellor Shari Wood, M.Ed., R.C.C. dedicated to helping clients begin their personal therapeutic journey. A Clinical Counsellor, specializing in helping people overcome self-doubt and build healthy relationships.