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Do you feel like your social skills have gotten a bit rusty over the last 18 months? You’re not alone. Anecdotally, therapists are noting a marked uptick in people seeking counseling for social anxiety. A growing amount of research is backing up that observation.
For people who were inclined to be uneasy in social settings — especially with a new group of acquaintances — getting back to a semblance of normality is proving to be a challenge. Writing for Healthline, Meagan Drillinger says, “Social anxiety stems from having an excessive fear of being judged by people, whether the worry is that you won’t be liked or that you’ll do something humiliating… When it comes to making new friends, people with social anxiety may find themselves paralyzed, afraid of saying the wrong thing, or being harshly judged.”
There are ways to cope, though, suggests Drillinger, offering these six tips for making friends even if you’re feeling ill at ease.
Agree to disagree with your negative thoughts. If you have a negative thought — These people won’t care to talk with me — try to acknowledge the thought and then put it in the back of your mind. Practice telling yourself, well that’s just a thought, and I don’t necessarily agree with that thought.
Fight, not flight. It’s natural to want to avoid situations that frighten you. But it is possible to deal with a fear rather than run from it. One way to do that is through practice. Start by facing a small fear repeatedly. It will help you expand your comfort zone.
Monitor your tech intake. Especially over the last 18 months it’s been easy to substitute online socializing for in-person contact. Talking by phone or Facetime or Zoom is better than sitting in a room alone, but it can’t compare to face-to-face socializing. If you’re leaning on technology for your social interaction, stop rationalizing — it’s time to socialize in person.
Try a test run. If you’re going to attend a social event at a restaurant, for example, drop by the restaurant in advance. It’s always best to have a concrete idea about an upcoming social situation so that you don’t start imagining things.
Open up to CBT therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a proven way to deal with social anxiety. This is a fairly advanced process, though, so please give us a call if you think this might be a good way to go for you.
Always remember self-care. Overcoming social anxiety is a process. Give yourself a break if you’re not seeing huge progress immediately. Being kind to yourself invites others to do so as well.
After you click through to the article, scroll down on the page for a fuller discussion about social anxiety.