Photo used under Creative Commons from Vaqawi
Do you ever find it difficult to follow conversations? Does your mind go blank ‘trying’ to think of something to say? Or do you feel overcome by nervous whenever you enter or leave a room?
If so then it’s probably due to anxiety getting in the way. Social anxiety is rooted in the fear of what people think of you and causes you to worry aboutÂ everything you say and do. As a result, anxiety can cause you to feel extremely self-conscious, making it difficult to relax and behave naturally.
When you feel self-conscious you focus on your own thoughts and feelings, instead of what is going on in the world around you. Rather than reducing the chance of doing anything stupid, feeling self-conscious can simply magnify the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that make you feel anxious in the first place.
So in order to be able to relax and reduce your anxiety, you need to be able to reduce your self-consciousness.
So how do I reduce my self-consciousness?
To reduce your self-consciousness you have to distract your brain away from focusing inwardly. You have to divert it from analysing your own thoughts and feelings to focusing on the world around you.
If you suffer from social anxiety I know this is a lot easier said then done. So here are a few ideas for keeping your over active brain occupied:
Concentrate on what other people are saying. Even if you don’t have any witty anecdotes to share, simply listening intently to others will distract your brain for long enough that you might find yourself making the odd comment and then joining in without consciously realising it.
Try playing detective mind games – observe the way other people are behaving to deduce what their occupation could be. The way they’re standing, the clothes they’re wearing or how they interact with others can all provide you with small clues. Just remember not to jump to conclusions, but rather see yourself as gathering evidence like a modern day Sherlock Holmes.
Act like a scientist in analysing your own safety behaviours. Try making a determined effort not to do the things you normally do when you feel self-conscious, such as fiddling with your phone, playing with your hair or sipping constantly from your drink. See whether this makes you feel any better and gauge your anxiety on a scale of one to ten, this will at least distract your mind from some of your more uncomfortable thoughts.
Practice mindfulness meditation. Although you’d normally do this in quiet surroundings, you can practice mindfulness meditation when sat on a bus (just remember not to miss your stop!) or waking down the street. Simply focus your attention on the sights and sounds in the present moment, and observe your thoughts as passing cars arriving and then disappearing into the distance.
Distracting your mind from feeling self-conscious long enough for your anxiety to reduce isn’t easy. But it’s a valuable skill which you can practice and get better at over time.
Gradually, being able to focus on the world around you and less on yourself will make social situations more enjoyable and conversations easier without allowing anxious thoughts to get in the way.