“What upsets people is not things themselves, but their judgments about these things.”
Football is an American past-time that most people look forward to. Whether you are a football fan or not, however, social anxiety can kill even the best-rooted fan’s good time. For the person who feels anxious about small talk, yelling too loudly about a touchdown, or eating in front of others, a Super Bowl party sounds anything but super.
But with the New Year upon us, now is the time to get past your social anxiety to enjoy community with others. And also to resolve to take steps to get out on that social playing field.
At the center of social anxiety is the fear of how others will judge you, or how you will be perceived. For someone experiencing it, it is much easier to stay home and watch the game alone than to deal with the stress.
But if you are secretly worried about standing out or being different, try to let it go! These are six ways to overcome your feelings of social insecurity.
Practice Deep Breathing
Anxiety is not just a mental experience; there are physiological responses that happen too. When you experience stress and anxiety, your body releases stress hormones.
Most commonly known as the “flight or fight” response, for evolutionary reasons, the body sends a signal to put you on high alert. Adrenaline and cortisol are two hormones that are released when you feel anxious, and they can cause sweating, a feeling of your heart racing, and extreme fear.
Deep breathing is one way to combat the physiological and psychological responses to social situations. And the more you practice taking deep breaths in the face of anxiety, the more automatic it will become.
Also, if you practice ahead of time, when you do need to use deep breathing to calm yourself, it won’t be distracting or disruptive to a conversation; it will become second nature.
Desensitize Your Fear
If you know that being in social situations causes you a great amount of stress, inoculate yourself this year by starting with a small Super Bowl Party. Instead of putting yourself amid a giant party in the middle of a city bar, opt to choose, or even to have a small get together yourself.
Make this year’s goal to engage in more social situations and interactions, but start small and build. With each new accomplished gathering, you will build the confidence to attend bigger ones that involve people who you may or may not be familiar with.
Create Small, Attainable Goals
If you feel anxious about going to the Super Bowl party, make small goals for yourself. The first goal is to get dressed and out the door. You don’t have to stay the entire time, just promise yourself that you will make an appearance and give it a try. Upon arrival, make a goal to talk to one person before you leave.
Once you obtain that goal, move onto the next. Before you know it, you will probably be lost in the game and forget that you didn’t want to go, to begin with. Goal setting is one of the best ways to overcome social anxiety. Because learning to deal with the stress of being around people is key to curbing your social anxiety, the more goals you set and reach, the more confidence you will build to continue engaging.
Use the Basic Principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
There is still time before the Super Bowl to work on the basic concepts of CBT. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a way to look at your expectations and compare them against the realistic nature of a situation. Social anxiety is based on what you perceive an outcome to be, not what it most likely will.
Since we can be our worst enemy, we tend to exaggerate the harm that can come to us. In the weeks ahead, find a quiet place to reflect and picture yourself in different social situations.
Think about the worst thing that can happen and ask yourself how much danger there is in putting yourself out there? Then take those expectations and compare them with the reality of the risk that being around others will pose to you.
Quite likely, you will see that what you tell yourself the harm is, and what the harm actually is, are not equal. And once you uncover the veil of inner negative thoughts, they can’t hurt you anymore. Then you’ll begin to look at social situations for what they are realistically.
Social anxiety is not something that comes from the outside; it is something that is created within. If you begin to see that the stress is not in a social situation itself, but instead in the way you perceive and react to it, you can be mindful of your actions and stop feeling so anxious.
If you choose to merely be an observer to any social situation, there is no anxiety in the interaction. Social anxiety is a concept that you create internally, so sit back and see it for what it really is, instead of what you perceive it to be.
Work With A Therapist
If you have been experiencing social anxiety for a long time and can’t seem to get past it, this New Year is an excellent time to get the professional help you need to work through it. There is no reason to suffer the fear of being in social situations anymore.
A therapist can help you initiate tools, tricks, and exercises to help you overcome your social anxiety not just for the Super Bowl party ahead, but for a lifetime. A therapist can be a great resource to help you find comfort in your own skin. And also to stop worrying so much about external things that can’t hurt you unless you allow them to.
The New Year is upon us, and so is a new opportunity to make 2020 the year that you work to overcome social anxiety. With the Super Bowl still a couple of weeks away, you still have time to work on enjoying it with friends and family, anxiety-free. Practice the steps above to enjoy the game and to score a touchdown over the social anxiety that has been keeping you on life’s sidelines.