You can Conquer social anxiety, I did. - NCS GRAD, DAISY
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I love meeting strangers. I love finding out little bits of information about their lives and realising they all have a story to tell. I consider myself fairly confident and very much enjoy making new friends. So, you may be wondering, why would I be talking about social anxiety? I literally sound like the exact opposite of somebody who would suffer from it, and you wouldn’t be wrong.
However, only a few years ago, I was completely different. Social anxiety took over my everyday life. I cried and hid whenever I saw kids my own age, I would cross the road to avoid walking near people I didn’t know, even ordering food was difficult. It sucked, so believe me when I say I know how hard it is.
Social anxiety is an increasing problem among today’s teenagers. Suffering from it can make you feel isolated, self-conscious and depressed. But, if the fourteen year old I was can become the person I am today, you can learn to deal with it too and grow into the person you were meant to be.
Here are my top tips on how I overcame my social anxiety.
Prioritise your happiness
When I’m feeling happy my mental health is much easier to deal with, and it was the same when I was younger; leaving the house in a good mood would mean I was a little less likely to feel overwhelmed. And yes, I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s not impossible, I promise.
Try making a list of small activities you could do that will improve your mood before engaging in social situations. Read a great book, do some exercise, get enough sleep, that sort of thing. And if you find yourself having negative thoughts, challenge them. They are just thoughts, not reality, and you can tell them so.
Keep someone you trust nearby
Having a friend or family member who understands what you’re going through can make a huge difference. Not only did I find that having friends with me made me feel less anxious, but if you’re beginning to feel overwhelmed, they can help you calm down. Perhaps you could make a plan of what your trusted person can do to help when you’re getting upset in a social situation, such as getting you out of there, or helping you with some deep-breathing exercises.
Take baby steps
When it comes to making yourself feel better, you’ve got to be proactive. It’s difficult, but never impossible. Start with a goal as little as you are comfortable with – there’s no wrong way to try. Even if it’s something as small as ordering a drink at a coffee shop, set yourself an objective and build from there.
Most importantly, remember if you’re not successful with your goal, don’t criticise yourself! Overcoming your anxieties won’t always be solid progress, but as long as you’re trying, that’s great progress.
Find the good in people
For me, a big trigger for social anxiety was the assumption that all people are malicious, which simply isn’t true! Sure, you’ve got some unpleasant people out there, but for every person who is unkind, there’s about ten who are thoughtful, inspiring and genuine.
Surround yourself – whether on social media or in real life – with people who you think are inspiring and kind and who think you are inspiring and kind. When you’re with them, try to fully engage with them. This will pull you out of yourself because you’re concentrating on the connection, rather than ruminating on negative thoughts they definitely aren’t thinking!
Seek help from others
Although it can feel embarrassing at first, there is nothing wrong with asking for help from people who specialise in mental health. Most people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life, so it’s completely normal! You can always start with your GP, but there are loads of helplines, live chat services and message boards full of advice. Here are some helpful sites:
Though it can be tough living with a mental illness, remember there’s always help available no matter how bad it gets. I am incredibly proud of anyone who is struggling with mental health, so I’ll leave you with one last thing: show yourself some love! Why not grab some herbal tea and chocolate and watch an episode of your favourite show? You deserve it!