Through years of trial and error, I learned methods and mind hacks that not only dissolve social anxiety, but — if practiced consistently — help you to become a confident person and enjoy social connections naturally.
If you struggle with social anxiety, try these three mind hacks, and with time and practice, you should see big changes in how you feel.
1. Making Peace with Your Fears
Your biggest struggle is the struggle itself — and wanting to have control over everything.
Let me illustrate this more clearly: Your first reaction to fear is to fight it or to escape from it. This is absolutely normal. The feeling of fear is not pleasant and nobody wants to expose themselves to unpleasant feelings. But by resisting fear, you increase inner tension because now you’re not only experiencing fear itself, but also the tension created as a result of you trying to fight it.
I used to feel weak, worthless and angry at myself for feeling intense fear in what are supposed to be normal situations. My social anxiety escalated into panic attacks simply because I wanted to control it, and started being afraid of the fear itself. This is not surprising considering that fear of fear is the number one cause of recurring panic attacks.
This kind of battle with your own feelings can pretty much escalate as far, and on as many levels, as you can imagine.
On the other hand, if you avoid social interaction in order to avoid the feeling of fear and the perceived dangers of the situation, you reinforce your brain’s belief that social interaction is dangerous. Therefore, if you don’t do anything about it, your social anxiety will most likely increase with time.
The solution lies in accepting the fear as merely a feeling in your body. It’s not pleasant, but it doesn’t have to stop you from doing the things you need or want to do. If you have severe social anxiety, start with the kind of social interactions that don’t scare you so much and work your way up progressively.
Make peace with your fears and paradoxically, they will melt away with time.
2. Focus on What You Like about the Person You’re Talking To
One of the common pieces of advice given to lessen social anxiety is to take the focus away from yourself and your racing thoughts, focusing on other people instead.
This works well most of the time, but I have found it even more powerful to focus on what you like about the person or the situation you are in. Obviously, it’s essential that you do this without cultivating jealousy and bitterness. I say this because when we are socially anxious, we often compare our weaknesses to other people’s strengths and then use other people’s good qualities as a “proof” that we are worthless losers.
Instead of comparing yourself, simply notice the good qualities in people and use them as an inspiration to learn from them and work on developing your own virtues. In other words, appreciate the good in people and let yourself be fascinated by them without putting yourself down at the same time. Turn bitterness into inspiration and thankfulness to have these people in your life, helping you learn and grow.
3. Reprogram the Process in Your Body
Mind and body are interchangeably connected so if you want to overcome social anxiety, it’s essential to take a good care of your body and teach it how to relax.
Relaxation is the opposite of anxiety. If you practice at least 30 minutes of muscle relaxation every day consistently, it will help you accept your fears and face social situation with much more ease. The key here is in consistency. One time, or occasional relaxation every now and then won’t do much. But if you dedicate 30 minutes to it every day, you will be amazed at how powerful it becomes in the long run.
Another way to relax your body is through physical exercise, especially cardio. Cardio exercise releases similar chemicals in your brain to the ones used in medication for anxiety and depression, and it burns out the extra adrenaline caused by anxiety.
Overcoming social anxiety is a process containing many different aspects that need to be brought together for optimal results, but if you apply these three tips in practice you’re already off for a great start.