Top Ways to Overcome Social Anxiety

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Teenage Girl At Home Using Digital Tablet Being Bullied On Line

Social anxiety is something that can affect us when we need to speak up in front of a group of people. But it is also something that can affect us when we need to talk to our own friends. Some of us have so much anxiety when we speak even in our friendship group, that it becomes exhausting to socialize at all.
As you might imagine, this is something that you should seek to change as soon as possible. But how do you go about overcoming social anxiety? How do you go from being nervous among even your friends, to having the kind of confidence that will allow you to walk up to a group of strangers and introduce yourself?
CBT for Social Anxiety
CBT is cognitive behavioral therapy. This is a psychotherapeutic approach that is used by therapists and psychologists to treat a wide range of issues.
Essentially, CBT involves changing the way you are thinking in your relationships. The central idea is that your thoughts impact on your experiences and this is what can lead to unwanted emotional responses or behaviors. That is to say that you aren’t scared because of the situation but because of your interpretation of the situation.
Of course, sometimes it is useful to be scared and this is a reaction that you should want to encourage! But in other scenarios, being scared is maladaptive and makes you perform worse than you otherwise would. This is true when you’re speaking to a group or approaching a stranger. You are scared because you’re telling yourself that you’re going to be embarrassed or upset – when in reality the worst case scenario isn’t that bad.
The aim then is to try and get your inner experience back in line with the reality.
Cognitive Restructuring
The tools we use to do this fall under the heading of ‘cognitive restructuring’. Here, you aim to alter your thought patterns using a number of sub-strategies.
One is thought challenging. Thought challenging means looking at precisely what thoughts are making you stressed and anxious and then asking yourself whether those concerns are based in reality. Ask yourself: what is really the worst thing that could happen? How could you deal with that happening? How likely is this to happen anyway?
So, for instance, when talking in front of an audience, the very worst case scenario is probably that people laugh at you, boo at you, or tell you to go home. Scary, right? But how likely are these things to happen really? In reality, 99% of us are much more polite than to do that and we have much more patience and empathy.
Likewise, if people did laugh, then what would it matter? You’d never see most of them again and anyway, it seems that they aren’t really nice people anyway!
And even more powerful than this is ‘hypothesis testing’. This simply means that you test your theory and find out what really happens if you deliver a bad speech, or tell a joke that falls flat. You know what? The outcome likely isn’t as bad as you think!
Citizen Coaching and Counselling provides one to one, couples and family counselling in Birmingham from our counselling centres in Birmingham City Centre and Jewellery Quarter. We have a number of counsellors that specialise in this work who can help you through difficult times. We have appointments available seven days a week – including evenings and at weekend daytimes.