Anxiety of all kinds is one of the most common mental health concerns reported by people. Of these, social anxiety seems to be the most prevalent and intrusive. There are many different forms of it, or rather, in a given individual, some components of social anxiety maybe more prevalent than others.
Commonly, there is a fear of public speaking that involves going up on a stage, giving presentations or talks, heading meetings and so on. Another component is general sociability – the person is not able to connect with a lot of people in his life – friends, family and so on. This is different from introversion because there the person willingly chooses to stay away from people. The third kind has to do with attractiveness and romantic partners: the person flusters when approaching someone for a date, alliance or proposal.
There are many different reasons identified by these, both by social convention and by research: some put genetics to blame, some say that one bad incident has conditioned the fear, while some attribute it to faulty parenting methods. Regardless of what the cause may be, the fact remains that there is a problem and it needs to be countered. There are some ways of thinking and behaving and need to be changed to behaviour and thoughts that are helpful.
The following techniques and methods are effective for more or less all components of social anxiety:
- Relaxation: A major component of anxiety which people find stressful is the physical effect of it. There might be fast heartbeat, palpitations, heavy breathing, sweating, shaking, trembling, flushing and so on. Relaxation helps to counter this. Outside of the anxiety provoking situation, the person should think of the situation and try to relax at the same time. This will reduce anxiety in the actual situation. Use progressive muscle relaxation and breathing techniques.
- Rethinking: Our thoughts also add to the problem. If you think that one bad speech or talk means you are a total loser, such thinking adds to the pressure you feel and makes you more anxious. Instead, replace such thoughts with helpful thoughts like ‘I would like to perform the speech well, but it is not the end of the world if I don’t’. By reducing the drastic consequence from your thoughts, you will inspire more confidence in yourself.
- Rehearsal: Since you have to acquire these new skills, it is important to rehearse them. Prepare the speech well in advance, mark out the pauses and breaks. Speak in front of the mirror and then in front of family members. You can also rehearse by yourself, the strategies required to talk to friends and family.
Apart from these three methods, it is also important to remember that if anxiety has a medical cause then you would have to seek the help of a professional. Sometimes, mild antianxiolytics can help if the techniques are useful or sufficient by themselves. Be sure to go to a qualified mental health professional.