How to Cope with Social Anxiety

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By Ngwe-Chantal Njiwah

Thinking back to my college years, I guess I did have social anxiety. But mine wasn’t as bad and I’ve since learned to control it. How? By paying attention to my thoughts. I also practiced a very helpful technique which I will detai below.

We often forget or don’t seem to realize that our thoughts create our reality. I’ve learned that whatever we focus our attention on expands. For example, I used to be super terrified each time I had to give a presentation. Instead of focusing on doing the necessary research and practicing my presentation, I focused on how awful I may sound, how ill-prepared I may appear to be, or what if my presentation doesn’t cover enough details. All of these worries (that I created for myself by the way) kept me from focusing on the important things. I would let these thoughts linger in my mind until the day of the presentation. And guess what?! I sometimes would stutter (just out of fear), or I would take long pauses trying to remember words, or I would speak really fast because in my mind no one could understand me, so why not just hurry up and get this over with?! Debilitating is an understatement for how this would make me feel sometimes!

Right before I graduated from undergrad, I decided enough was enough! I mean, here I was, about to start graduate school, which meant even more presentations (at least for my major, MPA). So I had to get over my fear (that I created for myself) and take charge! Here is what I did to overcome my anxiety:

Practice deep breathing everyday: This really helps especially right in the moment of anxiety. Breathe in positive thoughts and breathe out negative thoughts. While doing this, remember that you’re in control of your thoughts. Begin to tell yourself positive and encouraging things until you don’t feel anxious anymore. Do this everyday and you’ll notice significant changes.

If you’d like to do a mental check, answer this; What were your thoughts just now? What were you thinking about just now? Was it positive or negative? Do you think your current thoughts reflect your current mood?

If I was able to conquer my fears, I know plenty others will be able to do the same. Remember, it’s all in your mind.