Do you constantly feel extremely uncomfortable and panicky around people in crowded spaces? You may just have social anxiety. What on earth is social anxiety?

You may be thinking social anxiety is a mental health condition that causes a deep sense of fear and insecurities when in public spaces crowded with many people. It affects things like being able to speak publicly or even being able to make a simple phone call. It causes panic attacks which can sometimes even feel like a mini heart attack, it brings about intense self-consciousness, the constant feeling of being inadequate, worrying days ahead about a social event you may need to attend, and feeling like you are constantly being judged or watched by others when you’re out in public. It is a reality for many people in the world today and quite frankly it sucks. However, there are ways to manage and even overcome this terrible condition.

Psychologist Lauren Beukes tells us that there is a range of different reasons that cause the condition but thanks to the medical advances in mental health there definitely tried and tested ways in overcoming it. So, the question stands how exactly do you overcome social anxiety? First, let us understand some of the different reasons people develop social anxiety. Dr. Beukes explains that childhood trauma and abuse are usually the leading causes of social anxiety. Although in today’s day and age social media also plays a significant role in the increased numbers of social anxiety especially amongst teens. She says that financial insecurity and major losses in life may also play a role. 

The first step in overcoming social anxiety is to seek professional help. Dr. Beukes explains that intervention at an early stage produces the best results. She says,“psychotherapy is the best way to help change a patient’s thoughts which initially leads to significant behavioural changes and beliefs”. The second step is to challenge yourself, don’t give up on going to the therapy but rather be persistent. Try doing things that bring you out of your comfort zone, even if you need to ask a friend you trust to join you. 

Challenging yourself will make you stronger and can help you slowly overcome your anxiety. While you are challenging yourself don’t forget to practice deep breathing techniques where you breathe in through your nose slowly for a few seconds and then out again. Doing this will decrease the risk of you having a panic attack and hyperventilating. The third step is self-affirmations and mantras according to Dr. Beukes. She says, “Our brains react to what we say, and if we are constantly repeating negative things about ourselves, we start to believe it.” She suggested that you find mantras that work for you and that you repeat them every morning and night she says it will boost your self-confidence and release feelings of anxiety tremendously. She suggested the book ‘My pocket mantras’ which is an excellent place to start. Make sure to limit your online time to about 5 hours of the day, social media can be very toxic and even more so for those who have social anxiety.

The most important thing to remember when trying to overcome social anxiety is that these things take time. It doesn’t matter what changes you make or steps you follow it’s impossible to become a social butterfly instantly. Focus on the small progressions you’ve made and be proud of them. The journey may be a long one, but your dedication and persistence will get you there.