For those of you who have been looking for ways and strategies to get more confident, natural and relaxed in social settings and completely get rid of social anxiety, your call has been answered!
This is not a generic article you normally find on the internet that will give you some superficial tips and quick fixes. As it is the custom here at Online Life Guide that we like to go a bit DEEP. We don’t just have articles, we have GUIDES!
Before we begin, let me tell you that this is coming from someone who has experienced many years of severe crippling social anxiety and then overcame it within a couple of short months.
I totally understand you. I have been there (even more than most people) and I have done that. If I can do it, so can you.
Social anxiety is much more common than we think it is. It’s just that most people never consciously take it into consideration.
The fact that you chose to read this article is an indication of higher self-awareness and being more growth-oriented than most people who will just skip. It shows that deep inside, you are one of those people who want to live their life to the fullest.
Though social anxiety may or may not be as crippling for many people, it still hinders our growth and the rich experiences of life that we never get to experience fully. It is only once we start to experience a life without social anxiety that we truly realize how much we were missing out on.
Those who have been experiencing social anxiety regularly for years often come to a conclusion that it is how it’s supposed to be. Many take it as their introverted nature.
But that’s not true. Trust me.
Much of the social anxiety comes from some sort of deep unconscious imbalances in our mental or spiritual life. We will be taking them into consideration and discuss simple yet powerful solutions in this article today.
I’ll be simplifying my years of experimenting, literally hundreds of trials and errors, and the time when I finally conquered social anxiety, into 7 simple and clearly instructed steps for you to get started today!
By the time you finish reading, you will be equipped with the necessary tools and deeper insights that you can use to get rid of social anxiety once and for all, along with greatly enhancing the quality and experience of life, if you act on them consistently.
1) You have been Breathing the Wrong Way!
The most common physical tendency during the state of anxiety is the tightening of the muscles in our torso (the area in and around the chest and the belly region). When our chest and belly are tightened, they don’t allow the lungs to expand comfortably. When our lungs don’t expand as much as they naturally should, less oxygen is delivered and our body starts to struggle to meet its oxygen needs.
This unconscious internal struggle kind of gets us in a mini-survival mode, and clearly this state is when the anxiety and internal tension keeps on increasing as physically we are not in a harmonious, peaceful and natural state of being.
It is very important to understand and keep reminding ourselves consciously that we must breathe deeply!
Now it’s not just about breathing but breathing properly. You can only breathe deep to your fullest capacity if you breathe in a natural way.
Because most of us live in urban environments dominated by technology, sedentary lifestyle, and un-natural schooling methods, we have been distanced from nature and hence the natural way of living and being.
Most of us, due to this constant un-natural conditioning, have developed un-natural habits and incongruent physical patterns in our day to day activities.
Breathing is one example.
Let’s do a little test here:
Inhale as deep as you can, and exhale fully.
Which area of your torso moves first and raises the most when you inhale?
Is your chest rising more or your belly?
Do it again a couple of times and observe before reading further.
If usually, your chest rises more, it means you have been breathing wrong your whole life!
What?! Can there be a ”wrong” way of breathing?
Well yeah, there is.
As I said, our sedentary lifestyle from school days, when most of us were told to shut-up and sit down, interestingly not much has changed in our adult lives.
We still sit quietly in our offices or homes the whole day without true physical expression. As a result, it has messed up our postures and breathing patterns.
If you look into nature, you’ll notice that when animals and birds breathe, their belly expands. Not their chest. This is the natural pattern of breathing, i.e. breathing into the belly.
It has tremendous mental and physical benefits, and it is very important that we correct our vital function of life so that our system gets fuelled properly.
Here’s How to Breathe CORRECTLY:
Here’s how to develop a Habit of breathing correctly.
- Take 20 gradual deep breaths and focus on breathing into the belly. Make your stomach rise more than your chest. Do this daily ideally after waking up in the morning and before going to bed.As you continue to practice it daily, you will start to loosen up the inner tight muscle of the belly and it will condition your body to breathe in the natural pattern, restoring your natural rhythm.
- Lay down straight and put a book on your belly. Take 10 deep, full breaths and exhale until you empty out. Do it in a manner so your belly lifts the book, while your chest remains as still as possible.Do 3 sets of this with 15 seconds break in between (a total of 30 deep breaths)
You can increase the number of sets as you get used to it.
Do it daily for at least 2 weeks. It will take you less than 5 minutes.
It is ideal to practice both the methods daily for best results.
Whenever you feel anxious, draw your attention towards your breath. Notice how you’re breathing. You will find that in the state anxiety, our breathing gets very shallow and more up in the chest, instead of deep down in the belly. Fix your breathing on the spot by inhaling deeply into the belly and exhaling fully. Take a few deep breaths right away. This will shift your focus away from anxiety and deeply relax your mind and body.
With these practices, as you re-learn to breathe in your natural rhythm and stick to it with consistency, you will gradually start to notice changes in your behavioral patterns as well. You’ll begin to behave in a more natural and relaxed state in social environments.
2) Lessen the use of Mirrors and Selfies
It’s simple. Spending too much time dressing up in front of the mirror, perfecting your looks, and taking selfies make us overly conscious of our outward physical appearance. It’s plain human psychology;
“Where ever your focus goes, energy flows.”
That’s right, when you focus too much on your physical appearance, much of your mental energy gets centered on how you look. You start to bother too much about what people will think of you. You start to worry about others perception of you.
Notice what you are unconsciously thinking the next time you are in front of the mirror or taking selfies to post on the social media. You’ll find that most of the time, we unconsciously and unknowingly focus on how others will see us.
Isn’t it true that when we take a selfie that is not that good enough, we take many more until we get the perfect one? And if it’s not the perfect one, we don’t post it.
Have you ever wondered, why do you do that? What is your motivation for taking so many selfies? Why do we want to post so many of our pictures on social media?
We want others to see and like them, don’t we?
Why do we spend so much time in front of the mirror, trying to make our looks perfect?
That means we are unconsciously seeking others approval. Isn’t that true?
Why do we want other’s approval? Can’t we just value ourselves unconditionally?
These are a few questions you must consider if you really want to grow out of social anxiety and attain freedom.
We must transcend from this superficial mentality of looks if we want to live a life of freedom.
I’m not suggesting that we don’t dress or look well. We must.
We must dress neatly and decently. Just don’t make it your center of focus and don’t over-do it.
The more neat, clean and simple your appearance, the more at peace you will be.
3) The Best Way to get Better at Anything (Including Social Interactions)
Practice, practice, and practice! That’s it. The only way to get good at anything is to do more of it. If you want to get comfortable with people, you have to meet and interact with people more.
Also, if you notice, this is a switch in the mindset. A different approach towards the situation. Instead of focusing on getting rid of anxiety, I’m offering you to focus on growing forward and getting better at socializing.
When we focus too much on what’s not right, we operate from a deficiency-oriented mindset. That is draining and disempowering. Instead, we must make shifts in the way we approach things so that we begin to operate from a state of growth. A place of power and creativity.
Anything is uncomfortable in the beginning. When we were learning to ride a bicycle or learning to walk, it wasn’t easy in the beginning. We stumbled and fell. We made mistakes. And that is totally okay. That is how we learn.
Socializing is not much different than that! It’s just a skill, like any other thing that we do. It can be learned and mastered. It just needs more practice. The more you do it, the easier it will get. The more comfortable you’ll become. Eventually, it will become a routine thing.
Tip: This formula applies to anything. Even if you want to fly an airplane, it can be done. You just have to take lessons and practice, practice, practice. Soon enough, sitting in the cockpit will become a usual thing for you, and you will be able to fly an airplane, naturally and comfortably. Just as you learned to ride a bicycle or drive a car, or learned to talk.
You are taking a lesson right now by reading this article, all you need to do now is to practice it, again and again, and you’ll become really good at it. It will become easy, natural and comfortable for you.
4) Own Yourself!
We must let go of the need to “act” in front of people. Yes, that’s right. Many of us unconsciously try to act while interacting with people in order to fit in.
We try to portray who we are not.
Become determined to be your natural self. Own yourself with all your imperfections.
The truth is, everyone is indulged in their own stuff. People have their own worries and insecurities to handle. Nobody cares about the imperfections that you get so concerned about.
Here’s the thing. It’s part of human psychology that people unconsciously develop respect for those who really own themselves. Who are comfortable in their own skin, regardless of how they look physically, or how much do they earn or what degrees do they have.
Such secure people emanate a powerful energy that is sensed by other people they interact with, even if they are in a plain old t-shirt and wearing flip-flops. They can have a way more powerful presence than a person who is apparently in a full suit but internally feels insecure and uncomfortable in their own skin.
Whenever you start to think about what people will think of you, shrug your shoulders carelessly and say to yourself “WHO CARES!!?”
Neutralize your breathing as we discussed above.
After you’re physically comfortable and relaxed, shift your focus away from yourself and start focusing on other things, like being curious to know more about the person you are conversing with. Be genuinely curious about other people’s interest and get into a learning state of mind. Ask them genuine questions. Take interest in them.
Even if you are not in a place to start conversations, start to curiously observe your surroundings and other people.
We are in a way more productive and positive state when we are operating from a Learning-Mindset.
This will make your mind, body, and soul work in different dimension. And as you can guess, there will be no room for anxiety or anything of that sort. It will rather become an interesting experience, plus you will be learning and increasing your knowledge and understanding of things.
5) Loosen up
One of the major things that contribute towards social anxiety is the stiffening of our body.
The way to avoid that is to loosen and open up our muscular structure through regular stretching (ideally daily in the morning) and consciously practice deep breathing as we discussed above.
Make a habit of stretching your body every morning. Our body gets quite stiff and tight while we sleep. It is important that you take on your day with an open, relaxed and fully functional muscular structure.
Emphasise more on stretching the neck, chest, abdomen, back, and feet. I have compiled some important morning stretches to kick-start your day in this article.
7 Morning Stretches You Must Do Every day
6) Start Meditation
Any kind of anxiety, whether it be social anxiety or other, is caused when our brain processes excessive thoughts at abnormal speeds.
In the digital age, many times we don’t even need to be in a tough or uncomfortable situation to experience anxiety. Just the information overload due to so much exposure to digital media has made our brains develop a nasty habit of processing too many thoughts at one time. Because of that, many people experience anxiety for no apparent reason even when they’re in a comfortable, secure environment and nothing stressful is happening around them.
Practicing mindfulness and meditation on a daily routine teaches and trains our brain to slow down a bit, and learn to be calm, composed and focused.
WHAT IS MEDITATION?
Meditation is a practice of fixing your focus on one thing and avoiding all distractions of mind. Meditation also means to contemplate something, which again comes when you deeply focus on that particular thing and avoid all sorts of distractions.
Through meditation, you gradually learn to take charge of your own thought processes rather than being a victim of your thoughts.
As you practice meditation on a daily routine, you start to live with more conscious awareness, composure, and calm. You also start to become aware of your unconscious thinking patterns and thoughts that you never took into notice before.
As you gain a heightened awareness of your own mind, you can gradually and naturally begin to sort out your thoughts and thinking patterns and redesign the working of your mind.
This takes practice. It’s not an over-night thing. It’s a gradual and natural process that requires you to practice regularly.
As you start to spend time with yourself on a regular basis, you’ll gain interesting insights on the state of your heart and soul. You can use this heightened awareness to direct yourself towards the direction that is good for you.
How to Meditate?
Don’t make meditation complicated by going all too philosophical. It is a simple practice that only requires you to fix your focus on one thing. That’s it. Simple enough?
A common way many people do it is by sitting in a relaxed and comfortable position with eyes closed and focusing on the breathing for 10-15 minutes a day while avoiding any external distracting thoughts during that time.
When you get distracted, just bring your attention back to your breathing.
You will get distracted a lot in the beginning. That’s okay. No need to beat yourself up about it, it’s natural and it will lessen as you continue to practice and train your mind to focus.
This constant practice of bringing attention back to breathing during meditation trains and conditions you to focus on the present and let go of any unnecessary thoughts.
I would suggest that you use a guided mindfulness-meditation app such as HeadSpace or Calm. I personally only like to do guided meditation instead of doing it on my own as it helps in being consistent and makes it more interesting and something to look forward to.
Personally speaking, as a Muslim, I have some other opportunities to meditate throughout the day which helped me a lot to overcome social anxiety. The 5 daily prayers, the supplications (azkaar) after prayers, plus the supplications for the morning and evening, if done mindfully are calming, peace-inducing, and meditative.
If you are a religious person and you pray, instead of getting done with it, stay there for a while and meditate over the meanings of what you just prayed and supplicated. Strengthen your connection with God by remembering Him consciously while you pray. Forget everything else for the time and just focus on connecting with Him, asking from Him, being grateful towards Him for your life, and all the blessings in it.
Those who have believed and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of God, Verily, in the remembrance of God do hearts find rest.
7) Start Living up to your True Standards
The fact is that many of us are not living up to our truest potentials. Deep inside we know that we can be so much more. There’s a lot more that we can do.
Often, we might not be thinking about it on a conscious level, but deep inside our unconscious mind recognizes that we are not operating on the standards that we should.
We all have a lot of “shoulds” in our lives. Things that we know are good for us and that we should do them. But we don’t. Potentials and possibilities that we are internally aware of but never really tap into.
We procrastinate and leave it for some other day. It may be because of laziness or pain of leaving the comfort zone.
This creates disharmony inside our souls. A lot of social anxiety, depression, frustrations, and discords in our lives are a result of this inner contradiction. The contradiction between what we know is right, and what we actually do.
Again, many of us might not consider it as a problem on a conscious level, but the fact is that it is actually limiting our lives on an unconscious level, and we aren’t even aware of it.
Often times we keep on wondering about the causes and search for solutions on an outward, superficial level. But never really recognize the deeper causes that might have its root at the subconscious level.
Here’s what to do:
Grab a pen and paper and make a list of all the things that you believe are good for you and that should be the part of a healthy and fulfilled life. Things that you’ve been putting off for some other day, write them all down. Be brave and confront the things that you always tried to escape.
For now, only list the things that you have influence over. As you start to live life to your true potentials you’ll find that eventually, your influence will expand over the things which might currently seem out of control.
Here’s an example of a list of good and healthy Shoulds:
- I should wake up early.
- I should exercise regularly.
- I should eat healthy and clean foods.
- I should pray.
- I should read at least one book on personal growth every month.
- I should start to work on that idea (any creative ideas that you might be putting off).
- I should spend more quality time with family.
- I should spend a couple of hours in nature, every week.
- I should sleep early.
- I should lessen my use of digital devices and develop healthy hobbies instead.
- I should do more acts of kindness.
- I should be more kind, caring, understanding, and non-judgemental toward my spouse (or any personal or professional relation).
- I should start learning that particular skill that I always wanted to learn.
Take your time and write thoroughly. It might feel uncomfortable at first but eventually, it will give you a sense of relief as you confront the causes of the inner unconscious discords.
What you have done by writing this list of shoulds is that you actually responded and paid attention to your inner guidance system, your conscience that was trying so hard to communicate to you and bring your attention towards these things.
But this is not it.
It’s not enough to acknowledge. Acknowledgment is the first step, but it is the Action that you will take that will make all the difference in your life.
What action to take?
Start turning these good and healthy shoulds into MUSTS, practically.
One by one, pick the things on your list that you think is good for you and simply start doing them. Don’t wait any longer!
Do you want to keep on living with anxiety, frustrations, and inner discords?
If No, then start taking action NOW!
The sooner you take action and start living to your true potentials, the sooner you’ll attain inner freedom and peace.
Two things thing to remember while you make this list:
- These ‘shoulds’ must be related to your own self. Not based on circumstance or other people.
Don’t write statements like, “that person should be like that” or “my circumstances should be like that”.
List only the things that you think YOU should do. Things that are good for you and will increase the quality and experience of your life.
- They must be your own standards. Not because somebody else told you that you should be like someone. Those are the “shoulds” of other people that they try to impose upon you. Unless they are healthy and positive, you must free yourself from them and use your own brain.
You decide what you should and must do. You decide what kind of a person you want to become. Take charge and responsibility of yourself.
Take action and live up to these positive standards. Become your best self, one step at a time. Start with one thing, do it consistently until you form a habit. Then pick up another thing and start working towards developing that as a habit.
This will be the start of your journey to phenomenal personal growth.
A journey to becoming the strongest version of yourself.
Once you are on this journey, you’ll feel a level of contentment, inner confidence, and satisfaction that you may have never experienced before.
You will not even have to worry about social anxiety, as that will be thrown out of the window automatically, as you naturally come in harmony to your true self.
Some effort is required in the beginning, as is the case with anything that we want to accomplish, but eventually, it becomes a smooth, effortless, natural, and enjoyable process.
Conclusion (Key Points)
- Condition yourself to breathe correctly. Breath deep into the belly.
- Lessen the use of mirrors and selfies.
- Practice, practice, practice. Keep putting yourself in the action-zone.
- Own yourself, be who you really are.
No need to act to fit-in or meet people’s expectations.
If you’re awkward, be it! Who cares?!
- Loosen up physically. Do the linked exercises/stretches.
- Meditate. Slow down. Learn to calm your mind and direct your attention/focus.
Pay deep attention and reflection in prayer.
- Live up to your True Standards. Start doing things that you think will benefit you but you’ve been putting off.
Until next time.