It is estimated that there are over 40 million American adults with social anxiety disorder. A pervasive disorder found in children and adults, social anxiety is often described as, “a fear or discomfort of social situations.” In the dating world, social anxiety can wreak havoc on a person who is trying to establish a meaningful relationship.
Fear of crowds, feeling anxious on a date, and massive self doubt can make it difficult to find (and keep) love. But the good new is, social anxiety is treatable and can be overcome! Along with on-going treatment (recommended by your doctor), here are four ways to overcome social anxiety and face your fears.
1. Learn to Breathe
One of the best ways to calm anxiety is to breathe through it. There are several online videos you can watch or books you can read to teach you deep breathing techniques. Anxiety can sometimes come along with hyperventilation, the act of breathing too quickly. This can lead to feeling lightheaded, shaking, rapid thoughts, and chest pain. Sometimes anxiety can trick your body into thinking its dying! A great way to stop the anxiety is to learn techniques to calm the anxiety before it starts. If you learn how to breathe deeply -- relaxing the body and the mind - you can use this technique before you start feeling anxious or even while you are experiencing an anxiety attack.
2. Practice With Friends and the random people you encounter
Your friends love and accept you exactly the way you are, so when you need their support, make sure you turn to them for advice and comfort. If you have a social anxiety, tell your friends about it and how you feel in social situations. Your friends can act as mentors, helping you confront the anxiety, while also acting as safety nets. If you want to break the cycle of social anxiety, start practicing on a friend. Ask your friend to act like they are your date. Talk to them and role play like you would on a date. Then move it from your house to somewhere with a few people around, like a park. Next try to have a practice date at a restaurant or the movies. This is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, it is a way to break your old habits and reform your thoughts. The more you practice with friends, the easier it will be on a real date.
3. Keep a Journal
Writing down your thoughts and feelings can be great catharsis. It is a way to express yourself and fully get to the root of your obstacles. Begin by writing in a journal everyday, but more specifically, write when you begin to feel anxious or after your anxiety fades. How did you feel? What triggered the anxiety? What are things that make me feel calm and happy? Ask yourself a variety of questions and try to be as honest as you can. If you write for a few minutes a day, you will be sure to feel a difference even after just a week.
4. Just Be Honest
All relationships should be built on trust and honesty. If you meet someone you really like, but anxiety seems to be getting in the way, just have a conversation about your anxiety. Be really open and say something like, “I really like you, I just wanted to let you know that sometimes it might be hard for me in social situation. So if I appear nervous or distracted, it’s because I'm anxious. However, I'm continuously working through it.”
What do you think? Share with us any other tips and your thoughts on how to overcome social anxiety.