With the festive season fast approaching opportunities for social situations increase. End of year work parties, Christmas parties, New Year’s Eve celebrations and summer BBQs - the list goes on! Whilst many people look forward to these events, there are also many who dread them. Social events can trigger anxiety for some people, especially those who are prone to being very shy.
If you describe yourself as shy, then you’re certainly not alone. In fact, research shows that almost half the population would describe themselves as being shy. When anxiety goes beyond typical shyness and significantly interferes with life it is described as social anxiety disorder. Those suffering from social anxiety disorder feel extremely anxious in social situations, worry about being negatively judged by others and may regularly avoid social situations out of fearing the anxiety and being seen to be anxious. Up to almost 5% of Australians have social anxiety disorder.
This year Psychology Week (November 11-17) puts loneliness under the spotlight with a focus of how psychologists can help people reduce loneliness. The aim of Psychology Week is to draw attention to the physical and mental health problems that can be associated with loneliness and draw attention to the power that human connections have for good mental and physical health. Of course, being shy or feeling anxious in a social situation doesn’t necessarily equal loneliness. But, if shyness or social anxiety leads to social situations being regularly avoided then the risk of loneliness can increase.
Psychology Week is well timed with the festive season approaching. Its emphasis on the importance of social connections may encourage those struggling with social anxiety to diminish their anxiety and get the benefits of connection by attending social events that they may otherwise keep away from. We hope these tips are helpful for anyone concerned about upcoming social situations.
Tips to help Connect and Manage Social Anxiety;
Practice listening. Ask questions and really listen to the answers. Shifting your focus to the other person can help prevent dwelling on worries about how you are perceived.
Practice simple stress management techniques, such as breathing deeply and slowly, to help keep your stress in check through awkward moments.
Remember that the first is usually the worst. The beginning part of a social situation is usually the toughest, but once the anticipation of the event is over and the situation has begun anxiety often decreases. Learning to tolerate discomfort and ride the wave of the initial anxiety is a skill that can be learnt.