Everyone feels insecure and anxious at times. A common mistake is to think that the way to cure that social anxiety is to present a facade and be someone you are not. That couldn't be more unreal. To calm down in social situations, you have to be relaxed and comfortable with yourself. These are some easy ways to calm down and be yourself.
Method 1 of 3: Relax in social situations
Step 1. When you feel nervous or anxious, take a few seconds to focus on your breathing
Deep breathing is the best relaxation technique. Inhale deeply through your nose, hold your breath for three seconds, and slowly exhale through your mouth. Repeat this three times and feel the stress melt away. Do this every time you start to feel anxious or stressed.
- You can even use this method in the middle of a conversation.
- Practice on your own. It seems simple enough, but deep breathing is a skill. Practice breathing with your diaphragm, which is just below your rib cage and above your stomach. Diaphragm breathing is the most relaxing and calming way to breathe.
- Be aware of your breathing. When you start to get nervous or frustrated, you will find that your breathing is strong and fast, and your heart is pounding. This upsets the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide, leading to more anxiety problems such as dizziness and muscle tension. When you are calm, your breathing is slow and deliberate.
- Meditate to focus on your breath. Sit and stay still in a quiet place and focus on your rhythmic breathing until all your thoughts float away.
Step 2. Focus on the current conversation
Too often, you can think obsessively about negative social interactions or focus on your appearance. This distracts you from the current social situation and you lose the confidence to start new conversations.
- Remember that social anxiety is barely visible. Other people cannot know that you are nervous. If you act confident and outgoing, people will think you are.
- Listen carefully and think of some things to say while the other person is speaking. Look her in the eye. He nods his head. From time to time, he responds or affirms some things that he says, saying "great" or "wow". This will instantly make you a better conversationalist.
- Be aware of your thoughts when you are in a social situation. If you find yourself having negative thoughts over and over again, like "I was bored in that last conversation" or "No one wanted to talk to me," replace those thoughts with positive ones. Remember how well you connected a while ago or how strong the current conversation is. After all, your negative thoughts are likely based on the wrong ideas.
Step 3. Look for social situations in which you feel comfortable and gradually develop confidence in social situations in which you do not feel comfortable
This will help you create security. If you feel better playing sports with your friends, studying in a group, or lounging on the beach, actively pursue those activities. If you feel less comfortable at parties, start by going to small parties that your friends throw and only hang out with people you know. Little by little, go to parties where you feel further out of your comfort zone.
- Make a list of the two types of social situations. Rank environments and people from most comfortable to least comfortable. In this way, you will know your strengths. Give priority to the activities at the top of the list.
- Slowly get involved in the activities that are at the bottom of the list. Ask your friends to come with you and tell them if you feel uncomfortable. They will help you continue.
- If there are activities in which you are sure you will never feel comfortable, feel free to avoid them altogether.
Step 4. Identify your "safe behaviors" and work to overcome them
Safety behaviors are the crutches you use in social situations. Common safety behaviors include: drinking to encourage safety, avoiding eye contact, or frequently making excuses to leave conversations. Although you can use these behaviors productively, they can also be very damaging because they allow you to avoid the fundamental problem.
- Write down all the safety behaviors you use. Look over the list and see if you abuse any of those behaviors. For example, if you have to drink before exposing yourself to any social environment where you feel uncomfortable, that is abuse and you have to stop.
- Slowly eliminate safety behaviors that you identify as harmful. Do it by facing your fears. If you avoid eye contact, make an effort to look people in the eye. Start small and practice eye contact with your friends. Make an effort to do it gradually with strangers.
- Identify what safety behaviors you use and when you do it. The situations in which you compensate the most are the situations you fear the most. Face these fears last. Work on the smallest fears first and work your way up gradually.
Step 5. Stop trying to please others by being someone you are not
Others like you for being who you are. Nobody likes a fake person. If you go out of your way to make people like you or fit in, people will notice and you won't feel happy. Focus on your own happiness first and that will spread and make others happy too!
- If you find that you say a phrase simply because others say it, remove that phrase from your vocabulary.
- Follow your intuition and avoid overthinking. Excessive thoughts will only stagnate you. Instead, act spontaneously. Unforeseen decisions are more likely to allow you to express yourself and not be the person that society wants you to be.
- Do not repeat parts of a conversation, unless it is to remember something that you did very well.
- Remember that silences are not your fault, nor are they necessarily bad. All conversations have pauses. Both parties have a responsibility to carry on a conversation.
Step 6. Fake it until you get it done
This is a tried and true method. Even if you don't feel happy or confident, smile and direct your body in a confident way. This will trick your mind into believing that you feel happy and secure and in no time you will be truly happy and secure.
- Smile in the mirror. Try to do it every morning and even every time you go to the bathroom. Some studies show that smiling, even when you are not happy, will help you calm down and be happy.
- In the same way, strike a "powerful pose" in the mirror. Put your chest out, stretch your arms out to the sides, or put your hands on your hips and lift your chin. This will trick the mind into believing that you feel safe. Practice it regularly and you will really start to feel confident.
- Practice correct posture throughout the day. Keep your shoulders back and your spine straight. Don't stoop and keep your head up. This will make you appear more confident.
- Act outgoing and friendly, even when you don't feel like it. This will create a habit and make others see you more friendly and happy. Your perception will quickly become a reality.
Step 7. Meet new people and show them your best side
Every new person you meet is an opportunity to show him who you really are. If he doesn't like you, it's not the end of the world. It doesn't have to like you either. The important thing is that you have tried. The more friendly or recognizable faces you see in a room, the more comfortable and confident you will feel.
- At parties or social gatherings, say something important to socialize and meet new people. Ask a friend to introduce you.
- Join clubs and groups. This is the best way to meet new people. If you like sailing, join a sailing club. If you are a great reader, join a book club.
- Exchange phone numbers with mutual friends and make time to meet them for coffee or lunch.
- Stay in touch with the people you know by texting them every now and then.
Method 2 of 3: Learn to be yourself
Step 1. Keep a journal
Get in touch with yourself by writing down your thoughts and events in your life. This introspection will be therapeutic and help you feel comfortable with yourself.
- Write anything and everything you want. Nothing you write can be wrong. Write the first thing that comes to mind.
- Write your most personal ideas and thoughts. Don't be shy with what you write. You will be the only one who will see it.
- Write about yourself. Know your thoughts and actions more intimately. Instead of going through life without thinking about what you are doing, be aware of your actions and why you are doing them. If you don't like what you do and think, you will learn that from yourself. You will also find areas of yourself that you will love!
- Make a list of the things you like and don't like about yourself. For each item, write a way to keep doing the positive or a way to improve the negative.
Step 2. Be aware of your thoughts
One of the biggest challenges in being yourself is persistent negative thoughts. These negative thoughts are almost always baseless and self-destructive. When you are aware of your negative thoughts you can overcome them. Make an effort to replace them with positive thoughts!
- Write down your negative thoughts when they occur to you. Once they are written, you can work on changing them.
- Analyze those negative thoughts. Why do you have them? Are they even true? Are there contrary examples? Are they productive or destructive? Are those thoughts haunting you? Answer these questions and more about every negative thought you have. Before long, you will begin to realize how absurd and counterproductive your negative thoughts are.
- Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Instead of thinking, "I'm always excluded from conversations," think "I had a great conversation a while ago" or "I had so many interesting and fun things to say, but I decided not to." Instead of thinking, "Nobody thinks I'm smart," think about the time you made a great pun and everyone laughed out loud. Make focusing on the positive become a habit.
- Laugh at yourself. Laughter really is the best medicine. When you can identify your negative thoughts, you will begin to realize that they are unfounded. After a while, those thoughts can be funny. When you can laugh at your negative thoughts, you will have overcome them.
Step 3. Build positive relationships and learn about yourself through others
Actively seek new relationships and strive to improve your current relationships. Organize meetings with your friends or strangers. Lastly, reflect on your relationships and your communication skills and deficiencies. Observe the patterns of the people you decide to date and look for more people like that. Take note of the way you speak and interact and work to improve that.
- If you prefer people who do active things with you like skiing or bowling, that means you are probably an active person too. Keep having active social gatherings.
- If you have trouble staying in a relationship or starting a conversation, practice those skills with your friends. Take social skills classes. They are often offered at local adult education centers and can be very beneficial.
- Play to your strengths. If you find that people laugh at your jokes frequently, make the center of communication the jokes.
- Ask your friends about yourself. Have an honest conversation with them about your personality. Ask them what you can improve and what are you doing well. One of the best ways to learn about yourself is through other people.
Step 4. Get in touch with your younger self
Over time, you socialize to be someone you are not. This happens to all people. But when you are young, social norms have not been exemplified in you. Remember what it feels like to be young and carefree again and channel that pure version of yourself into social settings.
- Within reason, try to act on impulse. Your intuitive actions are more likely to represent your true self and not your socialized self.
- Don't worry about being judged. Just do what you want and forget about hateful people.
- Appreciate the moment. Don't obsess over the past or focus on the future. Love every moment and stay trapped in the present.
- When you were young, you didn't care what other people thought. You listened to the music you wanted, you read what you wanted, you said what you wanted, and you did what you wanted. Try to get that mentality back.
- Read old books that you liked or do things you liked when you were a kid. Do cartwheels or build a sand castle!
Method 3 of 3: Get comfortable with your body
Step 1. Try yoga and meditation
Your breathing and your thoughts largely determine your behavior. Get up early and do 15 minutes of yoga every morning. When you feel stressed, take a break and meditate. This can be very calming. You will feel more comfortable and your body will relax.
- Learn to do yoga with an online video or take a class in your area.
- Learn to meditate by practicing calming breathing techniques in a quiet place.
- You can do yoga or meditation practically anywhere, even during conversation. Do yoga stretches on the plane or meditate for a few seconds when you're feeling nervous at a party.
Step 2. Exercise
It is scientifically proven that physical activity reduces stress, fights anxiety, and improves self-esteem. Exercise also releases pleasure-inducing endorphins. Even just 15 minutes of exercise a day can help you calm down and be happy.
- You don't need to exercise in the gym. You can go for a run or play basketball with your friends. In fact, exercising with your friends can be more fun and more beneficial than doing it alone.
- Create an exercise plan and stick to it. Decide when and how often you want to exercise. Try to exercise meaningfully four times a week and get some physical activity every day.
- Walk or bike to work instead of driving; it's a great way to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
- Exercise also has great health benefits, such as increased energy levels and a stronger heart, which will help you calm down and feel more confident.
Step 3. Get enough sleep
Doctors recommend getting seven to nine hours of sleep every night. When you don't sleep, you are at a higher risk for anxiety and depression. However, when you are well rested, you are more likely to remain calm and collected in social situations.
- Beware of sleeping too much. Sleeping ten hours or more can make problems worse.
- Avoid caffeine and chocolate because they will keep you up late and act independently as stimulants that increase anxiety symptoms.
Step 4. Stop smoking and drink alcohol in moderation
Nicotine is a stimulant that increases anxiety levels and lowers self-esteem. Drinking alcohol also acts as a harmful crutch. It may seem like a good solution, but alcohol actually increases your chances of having an anxiety attack.
- Make a plan to quit smoking. Tell your family and friends what you are doing and go to the meetings. Wear nicotine patches and reward yourself when you don't smoke.
- In the same way, make a plan to stop drinking or reduce it significantly. Always be aware of how much you drink. If you have problems, consider going to Alcoholics Anonymous.
Step 5. If these steps don't work, consider going to a therapist or taking medicine
About 13 percent of the population suffers from some form of social anxiety, so you are not alone. Self-help doesn't work for everyone and at some point you have to ask for help.
- Tell your family and friends about your condition first. They will want to help you and can give you the same help as a therapist or even better help.
- Don't self-medicate. See your doctor first for a referral to a specialist who can give you beta-blockers or antidepressants to combat the symptoms of social anxiety. However, these medications will not combat the root cause. If you stop taking the medicine, the problem will likely return in full force.
- Always try self-help methods first, but you don't have to be embarrassed about seeking professional help. In fact, it can be a very difficult and courageous thing to do.
- You can solve mental problems with bodily solutions. Exercise and meditation will provide you with great mental health benefits. A relaxed body almost always leads to a relaxed mind.
- Read self-help books or even just regular fiction. Reading is therapeutic and can help you learn a lot about yourself.
- If you smile you can go far in life. Not only will you be happier, but other people will like you more as well.
- Face your fears. Running away only makes the problem worse.
- Don't wait to tell someone if you have suicidal thoughts. Seek professional help and tell your family.
- Do not abuse alcohol or antidepressants. You can easily become dependent on drugs and they will never help you solve problems, they only make the situation worse.