“Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems”-Epictetus
Social Anxiety is no joke. For some, social interaction comes so naturally and effortlessly. Yet for some, social anxiety can be absolutely crippling and a huge obstacle to overcome. So how exactly can suffers of social anxiety put themselves out there? Specifically when it comes to creating and building a career that revolves around meeting, networking, and interviewing with other people? In today’s blog I’m going to explain how I overcame my own social anxiety and some tips and tricks I still use to this day that help me relax in social situations:
Just Breathe – Personally I hate it when people tell me to “just relax” obviously if your anxious you would love to relax, but you just can’t. What really helped me with anxiety in social situations was realizing what my body was telling me. Basically when we are under stress (or in some instances distress) our bodies go back into primal mode (think fight, flight, or immobilization ie.. deer caught in the headlights). When we become stressed or anxious our bodies think there is something wrong which triggers our sympathetic nervous system to react in a primal way. However to anxious people, we perceive a lot of situations as threatening, when in reality they really aren’t; which causes us to kinda freak out. So how can we beat this? The next time you’re feeling anxious in a crowd while networking, or before an interview, take deep breaths and concentrate on slowing down your breathing. Be sure to not breathe from your chest, but breathe from your diaphragm (you’re lower stomach) and feel yourself fill up with oxygen and then exhale the anxiety out (I actually visualize me exhaling whatever is causing my anxiety out of me and this helps). After a few breaths you should feel a little less tension in your shoulders and neck and hopefully have a clearer mind.
Visualization – As I touched upon in my last point visualization techniques have helped me quite a bit in social situations. It’s really important to note that if you do suffer from social anxiety, ironically the only way to feel better is by putting yourself in social situations. Putting yourself in situations that your brain doesn’t want you to be in is going to feel really weird and you are not going to want to do it, but it’s literally the only way for your brain to rewire and correct itself from past experiences. Specifically in interviews it can be crazy easy to feel that you are being judged; which I know causes me anxiety. A simple visualization technique that I use, is to envision the words that people say as water and they just drip off of me. This helps prevent me from not only absorbing other people’s feelings or needs but helps me acknowledge what they say and let it go. This really comes in hand during interviews as some interviewers might come off as more of interrogators than actual formal interviewers. It’s a great way of reminding yourself no one can judge, or critique you without your consent.
Practice – When I’m feeling socially anxious the last thing I personally want to do is picture myself in the same situation again, and again. However, it’s almost a necessity to get out of your comfort zone. Think from a biological standpoint what the brains purpose is. The brains purpose is to protect us, to make us feel comfortable. The problem with that is we can’t grow if we’re always comfortable. If not talking to people makes us feel good and safe that’s wonderful, but we won’t get anywhere in a professional career, interact with clients, or be able to create great things without the help of others. In essence these comforts our brain loves are holding us back. When you’re matched with social anxiety take a step back, reflect on why you maybe felt that way, or what triggered you; but get out there. Practice always makes perfect and the more you interview, and network the more you will become considerably more comfortable in social atmospheres.
Conclusion – Social anxiety can be absolutely horrible, but I truly believe in many instances it can be controlled through the natural reworking of the brain. Next time you are in a socially anxious situation remember to take deep breaths, visualize, and view the situation as practice. It’s ok if an interview or networking event feels awkward or doesn’t go the way you want it to go; it’s simply practice and there will be plenty of other opportunities for you to shine. I would love to hear your thoughts on this? What are some ways you might cope with social anxiety or stress? Leave us a comment below!