How to Cope With Social Anxiety at Social Events
I’ve struggled with social anxiety for years, and so have the clients I help in therapy. Social anxiety is uncomfortable and emotionally draining. You feel depressed and ashamed afterwards. You ruminate about the parts you don’t like on and off for weeks. We both know how it gets in the way of meeting people, making friends, and socializing with others. But you can get better with social anxiety by learning helpful ways to cope with it. This post is going to share some tools to help you cope with social anxiety at social events from my perspective as an Anxiety Therapist at Care Therapy ONLINE.
Understanding Social Anxiety
Before digging into the tools, it’s helpful to understand how social anxiety works. It’s rooted in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the concept that the way you think affects how you feel and act. The way you feel affects how you think and act. The way you behave affects how you think and feel. Check out the model to get a visual on this concept.
In real time, social anxiety would look something like this:
There’s a triggering situation, let’s say it’s attending a party where you know very few people. You start to have anxious thoughts, “What if no one talks to me?” “What if I say something stupid and embarrass myself?” “People will think I’m weird.” You start to feel nervous and uncomfortable. And then you don’t initiate conversation or withdraw and become self-conscious.
The thoughts you have affects how you feel, and how you feel influences how you act. It’s all interconnected and understanding how you think, feel, and behave in social situations are the first step to breaking the vicious cycle of social anxiety. Working in one area helps to improve the others.
The 3 Coping Tools That Help With Social Anxiety
Examining and changing beliefs:
Take a closer look at your beliefs. When it comes to social anxiety, we all have some unhelpful beliefs. The problem with unhelpful beliefs is that they’re not accurate. They are misleading views that distort thoughts, create anxious and uncomfortable feelings, and lead safe and comfortable behaviors, like avoiding or pleasing people.
I had a client once who believed she never had anything interesting to say at social events and no one would want to talk with me. This belief really held her back from socializing with people which led to the fear of no one talking to her come true. Together, we examined her belief and created a more helpful and realistic belief to replace the unhelpful one with. My client’s new belief became, “There are times I don’t have anything interesting to share but doesn’t mean no one will talk to me.”
Self soothing social anxiety with deep breathing:
Before attending a social event, soothe your anxiety with deep breathing. To clarify, deep breathing isn’t just about taking in deep breaths. Deep breathing is a technique that uses your diaphragm, also known as “belly breathing.” I love the 4-7-8 deep breathing technique by Dr. Weil because it’s quick to do and easy to learn. Check out Dr. Weil’s demonstration of the deep breathing technique here.
Benefits of deep breathing:
There are many benefits to deep breathing but specifically for social anxiety, it helps you to relax and reduce your stress. When you are feeling relaxed and less stressed out, you’ll have less anxious thoughts which helps you to stay present and focus on socializing instead. You can do this technique whenever and it’s free. Even at social events, you can find a safe place such as your car or bathroom. Remember, it’s not so much the count that matters but the technique of using your belly to deep breathe and regular practice is necessary to sustain the benefits.
Identifying behaviors that influence social anxiety:
Just like beliefs, you will need to take a closer look at what you’re doing (behaviors) that make social anxiety worse. These are safety-seeking behaviors such as not initiating conversation, withdrawing or shutting down, and having self-conscious focus like thinking of what to say next or trying really hard to not appear “weird.” Safety seeking behaviors make anxiety worse because of the consequences of them. It leads to being less approachable, feeling depressed or ashamed, ruminating afterwards, and feeling more insecure about socializing. The more you stay safe, the more you prevent opportunities to learn that your fears are exaggerated, and you can cope with it.
You don’t have to practice all three tools. I recommend picking one or two that might be helpful for you and give it a try.
Develop a Plan to Manage Social Anxiety
The real issue with social anxiety is not that you have social anxiety, it’s that you haven’t developed a plan to manage it. Developing a plan helps to lessen the anxious thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. When you are experiencing less anxiety, you can stay present without overthinking every little word or action.
To help you get started on your plan, here are some tips:
Think of triggers in social situations and have a go-to plan to deal with it, identify unhelpful beliefs and thoughts about yourself and others and replace them with more realistic ones, and commit to trying a new coping tool and practicing it regularly. This also includes setting realistic expectations for social events. For instance, not everyone is going to like or judge you, just as you will not like and judge everyone. And more than likely, most people around you are experiencing some level of social anxiety too.
Therapy for Social Anxiety: Getting Help
If you’ve given these tools a try and find that social anxiety is still sticking around, I recommend this book that provides a ton of tools and helpful information about social anxiety. You can buy it here. But if you find that self-help books or practicing on your own haven’t really worked for you and you need support or guidance, book a free 30 mins consultation or appointment with me here so we work on them together.
My Personal Experience With Social Anxiety
Reflecting back on my social anxiety throughout the years, I’ve learned a lot. Now when I start to feel socially anxious, avoidant, and judge myself – I have learned that I don’t have to believe every thought and fear I have. That I need to take care of my mind as I do my physical body by cutting out thoughts and beliefs that don’t help me. I have to take care of my emotional health by giving it what it needs, and challenging my fears about social situations by facing it. With practice, you will become better at coping and actually enjoy yourself at social events.
Closing Thoughts From an Anxiety Therapist in Orange County, CA
Before I end this post, I would like to share a helpful reminder with you. Remind yourself that rarely do your fears come true and in rare instances that your fears do come true, you can handle it. I hope you find this post helpful and will try one of the tools.
Thank you for reading and until next time, take care.
Begin Therapy for Social Anxiety in Orange County, CA Today
Social Anxiety can be scary and all consuming when it gets out of control. It can make it difficult to connect with the people in your life and leave you feeling isolated and alone. If you are caught in the vicious cycle of never ending social anxiety and can’t see your way out of it I am here to help. At Care Therapy I specialize in working with women who, like you, are overwhelmed with their social anxiety. Together we can process those feelings and emotions. We will get you to a place where you can regain control of your life. You will not only survive, but thrive! If you are interested in starting Therapy for Social Anxiety, follow the steps below to begin your journey to healing.
Two: Reach out to me via email @email@example.com or call 949-441-CARE (2273)
Three: Begin the process of healing and recovery
Other Services Offered by Care Therapy ONLINE
In addition to Therapy for Anxiety I also work with women who are struggling with depression and women who are in the midst of kidney failure and dialysis. We work together to overcome the obstacles in your path that prevent you from living your best life and get you to a point where you find peace and comfort in your life.