Awkward situations are some of my worst fears I’ve experienced as both a therapist and someone who struggles with social situations in general. I have all kinds of thoughts in my head like, “Was I supposed to shake this person’s hand?” or “Darn it! I forgot this person’s name they will surely hate me!” These thoughts that come in my mind quite a bit can not only already make the process exhausting but can produce a feeling of sickness and sometimes provide me with low self-esteem that won’t leave me alone. And for me there is nothing more frightening than having these situations actually come true. For someone who feels anxiety during social situations, nothing is more defeating for me than an awkward situation. And I imagine I am not the only who has felt that way.
For those of you who may have experienced the same kind of doom and gloom that comes with anxiety in social situations, there is some help, and it goes beyond just running away. What I’ve noticed living in the world of awkward social situations is that social situations never go away and that awkwardness will come up at any point in time. Therefore, those two are inescapable. But, we can learn to challenge the self-defeating thoughts that come before getting into a social situation and what can come afterwards.
There are many ways to challenge those thoughts that can plague the mind with anxiety. We all have our own ways of coping. And we all will find our ways to cope. I will reveal a couple techniques to use in handling social anxiety. First, there is a concept called mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to experience what is going on in the moment and not letting negative thoughts or worries distract you. Practicing mindfulness is an art and it is helpful. There are mindfulness apps such as Mindfulness Daily that can help you get in tune with your body and challenge the negative thoughts that effect you becoming a more confident you. Another way to challenge those anxious thoughts is by using a trick called the Thought Stop Technique. The Thought Stop will help you by identifying your bad thought, replacing it with a positive thought, and repeating it. An example of the Thought Stop is “Ahh! I’m weak and…. Okay I’m not weak and I’m strong, right now I feel weak but I am strong, I’m very strong!”
There is no way easy way to overcome anxiety in social situations. I would be lying if I had completely overcome self-defeating thoughts in social situations. It takes time, patience, practice, and finding your own way to fight off that anxiety, and learning how to develop your own coping skills to overcome it. Don’t let your anxiety hold you back, grow with it, and learn how to find your more authentic self.
Written by Jasper Gates, M.A., LPC Intern
Learn more about Jasper's counseling approach by visiting his website, http://jaspergatescounseling.com/