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Psychologist Christina Gonzalez, of Alliance Counselling in Singapore, says people with social anxiety are not necessarily introverts, or shy. Introverts avoid social events because they don't feel like going. People with social anxiety do so because they worry about being judged and evaluated by others. How to know you might have it: do you find that you're excessively and unreasonably anxious in social situations? Before an event, do you obsess what might happen for days? When in uncomfortable situations, do you feel your heart racing, your muscles tighten, and that you have trouble breathing? Even if the answers are yes, the good news is, you don't have to live with it. Here are some tips on how to overcome the discomfort:
1. Ask yourself if your fears are warranted
"Differentiate facts from thoughts," says Christina. "Repeat to yourself: 'Just because i think I'm embarrassing myself does not mean it's true." For all you know, that woman looking at you strangely might just be guilty of having a resting b*tch face.
2. Talk to someone about how you're feeling
"Family and close friends can give you the support you need," Christina says. But draw the line at talking to your boss and colleagues, who may try to help by covering for you - even if your colleagues are nice enough not to throw a fit about carrying your weight, it's not doing you any favours. You need to resolve the issue, not walk away from it.
3. Get professional help
Cognitive behavioural therapy and medical treatment might work better for you. You'll learn relaxation techniques from a psychologist or psychiatrist, as well as cognitive restructuring (that's medical speak for changing your mindset) to imagine social situations and mentally prep for them. You'll also get to test this out in real-life scenarios.
4. Take five minutes to relax
The moment you start to feel anxious in a social setting, excuse yourself, find a quiet place, and practise muscle relaxation. Start by finding a comfortable place where you can sit down. Then flex your feet, pull your toes towards you, and feel the tension in your calves. Hold for five seconds, then relax. Pause for 10 seconds, then tighten your thighs, press your knees together, and hold for five seconds. Release and pause for 10 seconds. Repeat this process with the muscles in your bum, stomach, lower back and shoulders.
Finally, smile widely, feeling your mouth and cheeks tense. Squint until your eyes are tightly shut and hold for five seconds then release. Imagine a wave of relaxation spreading through your body from your head all the way down to your feet. Feel the weight of your body. Then take three slow breaths in and out.
Once your nerves are steady, go back to working the room.
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This story was originally published in the July 2018 issue of Her World.