Help with social anxiety
What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety is an overwhelming fear of social situations that lasts for a long-time, often years. It's a fear that does not go away and often affects everyday activities, self-confidence, relationships, work and home life.
If you're struggling with social anxiety, you're not alone. Many of us are now experiencing social anxiety around attending social gatherings or reaching out to friends and colleagues post-pandemic. While social anxiety doesn’t automatically make you lonely, it can often make it more difficult to maintain relationships.
To help, we’ve put together some tips, advice and tools - including what social anxiety is, common symptoms, how to manage it and how we can help.
Symptoms of social anxiety
Here are some of the common symptoms of social anxiety. You may be experiencing social anxiety if you:
- worry about everyday activities, such as meeting strangers, starting conversations, speaking on the phone, working or shopping
- avoid or worry a lot about social activities, such as group conversations, eating with company
- always worry about doing something you think is embarrassing, such as blushing, sweating or appearing incompetent
- find it difficult to do things when others are watching – you may feel like you're being watched and judged all the time
- fear being criticised, avoid eye contact or have low self-esteem
- often have symptoms like feeling sick, sweating, trembling or a pounding heartbeat (palpitations)
- have panic attacks, where you have an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety, usually only for a few minutes
How to deal with social anxiety
Many people will occasionally worry about social situations, but someone experiencing social anxiety can feel overly worried before, during and after them - but there are ways to manage it. Here are a few simple tips that should help with fighting fear and reducing social anxiety. Try starting with one and building from there:
It sounds simple enough, but the best thing to do is take a deep breath, fill your lungs, hold it for five seconds and then breathe out. This helps calm our breathing and heart rate, allowing the body to relax. Check out our breathing tips for more information.
2. Try exercise
Exercise releases endorphins in your body, so any physically challenging activity will help the body to feel better as well as make you feel mentally more positive. The good news is that getting fit and staying active doesn’t have to involve shelling out for expensive classes or gym memberships! There are plenty of ways to get moving and many of them won’t cost you a penny.
3. Start small
Don’t jump into big social situations. When it comes to managing social anxiety, it’s best to start with little changes. You don’t have to volunteer to lead a meeting or strike up a conversation with everyone you meet. Here are a few ideas to try:
- At the supermarket, skip the self-checkout and challenge yourself to make small talk with the cashier instead
- Host a small gathering for close friends and family — socialising in your own space can help you feel more comfortable
- Go on a walk, smile and make eye contact with passers-by
- Remember to celebrate your small wins and progress too
Planning ahead for social situations that make you nervous can help you feel more confident and prepared. You might feel the urge to avoid some situations because they make you anxious. Instead, try to prepare for what’s to come, it's useful to practice visualisation, which is a popular relaxation technique that involves using your imagination to experience a desired feeling such as peacefulness, confidence or motivation - this can help you to feel more positively about your upcoming plans. You could also go and check out the venue prior to meeting there or practice some conversation starters ahead of meeting others.
5. Challenge negative thoughts
Chances are, you spend a lot of time thinking about the potential negative outcomes of the social situations you avoid, here are some things that you might worry about:
- accidentally saying something rude or offensive
- calling someone by the wrong name
- tripping or spilling something on yourself
- laughing, sneezing, or coughing at the wrong time
- getting sick in front of other people
These things do happen on occasion, and they certainly can cause some short-term discomfort. It can feel frightening to imagine yourself in a similarly awkward situation, but try to keep things in perspective, and be honest. Let your friends, family or colleagues know how you’re feeling - this can help to take the pressure off.
6. Keep a journal
Try to understand more about your social anxiety – by thinking about or writing down what goes through your mind and how you behave in certain social situations, it can help to keep a journal.
7. Distract your mind
It is all about refocusing our minds away from the fears that have triggered anxiety. Try listening to your favourite music, being creative and drawing or even playing a game on your phone. Tuning into something else gives your mind a chance to rest.
8. Feeling lonely
While social anxiety doesn’t have to make you lonely, it often can. Social anxiety can make it hard to attend social gatherings, reach out to peers, or maintain relationships, which in turn can make us feel more lonely. If you’re feeling this way try our tips to tackle loneliness here.
9. Try SilverCloud
Sign up for our online ‘Space from Social Anxiety’ program on SilverCloud. It’s free and easy to use, just enter access code 'ben' to get started today. Throughout the program, you will learn more about social anxiety and how it impacts you, including some useful tools and techniques to help you find ways to manage or overcome social anxiety now, and in the future - sign up here.
10. Take your time
Be patient with yourself, it takes time and practice to tackle social anxiety. You don’t have to face your biggest fears right away. Remember if you need help with this or anything else we're here for you - keep scrolling to find out how we can help.
Treatments for social anxiety
Self-help and trying out our tips (above) can help reduce social anxiety, you might find this a useful first step before trying other treatments. However, if you're struggling day-to-day there are a number of treatments available to help you overcome and manage social anxiety.
The main options are:
1. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
CBT is generally considered the best treatment for social anxiety. If you work or have worked in the UK automotive industry, you can sign up for our online 'Space from Social Anxiety' CBT program on SilverCloud.
Throughout the program, you will learn more about social anxiety and how it impacts you, including some useful tools and techniques to help you find ways to manage or overcome social anxiety. It’s free and easy to use, just enter access code 'ben' to get started today. Within SilverCoud you can choose to work through the program on your own (self-help) or you can choose to be supported and have regular check-ins.
Medications can also help, which can be prescribed by your GP. Some people may need to try a combination of treatments to see what works best for them. It's a good idea to see a GP if you think you have social anxiety, especially if it's having a big impact on your daily life.
How Ben can help
We know that asking for help can be difficult, but if you're struggling with social anxiety it's important to get support before it spirals out of control. You can chat with us online or call our free and confidential helpline on 08081 311 333, Monday to Friday - 8am to 8pm.
Firstly we’ll seek to understand the challenges you are facing and identify the causes of the underlying issues affecting your health, wellbeing and quality of life. A designated case manager will work with you to create a tailored support plan and you can choose the right level of support for you.
We will continue to work with you to provide the right support at the right time and together, we’ll measure and celebrate your progress, giving you the confidence to help you get your life back on track - for good.
More about anxiety and loneliness
Learn about anxiety in the automotive industry, signs and symptoms of anxiety and what to do if anxiety becomes too much.
We all feel nervous or anxious sometimes but there are tips and techniques you can use to help you cope and manage nervousness
There’s no magic cure to combat loneliness, but if you’re struggling and feeling alone, it’s important to work out why you feel this way and then take steps to change your life for the better
It’s important to have people in our lives who we truly connect with, but it’s not always easy to meet the right people, make a real connection and maintain friendships
We’re all different and our social needs vary, but having a support network is an essential area for us to pay attention to, so we can look after our health and wellbeing