It sucks to have social anxiety. I mean, we all want to be around people at least some of the time, after all they are one of the things that makes us happy – but when you have social anxiety that becomes neigh on impossible. And that really isn’t a way to live. And so, anything that can help a person that suffers from it should be embraced with both arms.
The problem is, there are just too many ideas out there, which one should you choose? Well, choose writing. And I’m not saying that just because I’m a writer. Numerous studies have revealed that writing can help you regulate negative emotions.
But it’s more than that. Writing can specifically help with social anxiety.
Writing lets you practice scenarios
The first way it does this is that it lets you run through scenarios that you think will cause you social anxiety. And it will allow you to do so far more precisely and carefully than just thinking about it will. After all, if you’re just thinking about something it’s the easiest thing to just skip ahead, jump back, or let your feelings take over. That’s far less likely to happen when you’re writing.
And so you get a chance to be more critical. “Would people really think that?” You might realize, as you’re writing down that people would be critical.
“Would they really pay that much attention to me?”
Or you can consider what you would say in certain situations. You can sit back, think about the right response and then write it down, so that you’ll be in a much better position to actually remember them when the time arrives. In this way you’ll be forearmed and therefore be far less likely to be anxious.
Whatever you do, you get to manage your anxiety. You can write your way through the anxiety you’ve got and that is a vital aspect of overcoming the social fears you have. After all, the last thing we should do when we feel socially anxious is panic as that strengthens the fear and reinforces your feelings. That, however, is a very difficult thing to do in the actual situation.
By simulating the experience and running through the scenario several times on paper, you’ll be far less likely to run away – both on paper and when the scenario rolls around.
You can compare notes
With who, your friends, other people with social anxiety? Them too, but they’re not who I’m talking about. I’m talking about with your future self. You see, our memories and our predictions of future events aren’t particularly good. We color and change them all the time with whimsy and fantasy.
For example, in a study where women were asked to report on how much menstrual pain they experienced, some women told the researcher they experienced more pain than others. The psychologists noted this down, then asked all the women to keep track during the experience by writing down how bad their pain was each day. He also asked them to record, a week after their period had passed, how much pain they had felt.
The fascinating thing, those women who said they suffered worth cramps beforehand also said they suffered worse cramps afterwards. But during the experience? They reported the same amount of pain as the other women!
In other words, their expectation of pain made them remember more pain!
Now please note, this isn’t because those women were lying. They were telling the truth as they saw it. It’s just that memories aver easily altered and the expectation of pain altered their perception of how much pain they experienced.
Similarly, if you suffer from social anxiety, you might change your memories after an experience to make yourself believe that you were far more anxious (and it was far worse) than it was.
Carved in stone
One thing that can’t be altered, however, is the written word. So this is what you do. The next time you go to a social event you take a piece of paper and every 20 minutes or so, you write down from 1 to 10 how anxious you are, where one is ‘I feel like I’m in a nice soothing bubble bath’ and number ten is ‘If I don’t get out of here right now, I think my heart might stop’. Try to keep track of that during the whole night. You might also want to include some
bullet points about what happened to make you feel that way.
Then, afterwards, compare how you think you felt with how you actually felt and see if you remember the experience as being much worse than it actually was. Chances are you will. You might even see that some scene you’ve now replayed in your head many times as meaning something enormous, didn’t strike you as that significant at the time (and chances are you had a better idea at the time).
Social anxiety is something that can only be over won if you manage to not let it win. It’s a matter of slowly acclimatizing yourself to social situations and making yourself realize that they aren’t as bad as you think they are.
Writing is the perfect tool for that, as it can both offer you as a chance to practice the situations in advance, as well as lay down in writing how the experience actually was as you were going through it.
Do that often enough and the social anxiety might actually come back under control and you might find yourself competing for having the best retort in an interview, for example, or even allow yourself to get inspired to travel and see the big open road.
The world is your oyster, and only your social anxiety is preventing you from cracking it open. Good luck.