As someone who has social anxiety, I know how it feels to pretend that you're okay on the outside but are actually having an excessive fear on the inside. It's even harder when you have to explain it to other people why you couldn't do something or go somewhere because you know they wouldn't understand the struggle you're facing every single day, that's why sometimes you make excuses. And of course, it takes a toll on us when we see the amount of amazing opportunities we have let go of because of this.
For those moments you just want to end spending your days inside your room, I have five self-care tips that I, myself, have used in numerous situations to get out of being drowned in my thoughts.
1. Realize that your thoughts aren't always facts.
When you have anxiety, it's hard to distinguish what's real and what's exaggerated since you're getting overwhelmed by your thoughts. You often end up not wanting to deal with it anymore. Breathe in, breathe out—realize that these dangers and consequences you're filling your mind with are not real. It doesn't mean you have to think positive, but just be realistic. When you look around and notice that other people don't really see how nervous you are, you didn't make any mistake, and they're not making fun of you—your mind goes back to being clear again.
2. Shift your focus towards something else.
One of the things that we hate the most is having an anxiety attack in public. We're not already comfortable dealing with it on our own, so what more when we have to deal with it around other people or even strangers? When I'm placed in situations like this, what I do is that I shut down my thoughts and distract myself with my surroundings—may it be staring on an item or trying to listen to other people's conversation. It's like a mechanism wherein you wouldn't feed your anxiety the idea that it's right all along. The most annoying thing about it is that if you focus on it, it would build uncontrollably.
3. As much as possible, get out there.
Whether it's going to a party or doing something you're absolutely terrified of, get out there and explore. Some of the best and most helpful moments happen by doing something so different from what we're used to. In my situation, I didn't like going to far places especially when I'm alone since I'm scared I wouldn't be able to find my way back home even if I've already asked everyone and researched enough for directions. But I promised myself this year that I would make it a goal to go to far places that I wanted to visit even if I'm alone. Yes, I still get a mild anxiety attack the night before but my day always ends with a smile on my face. It's because of this that I know I shouldn't let my anxiety ruin a lot of amazing days.
4. Talk to people when you're ready.
You don't have to do this if you think no one would care, the essence of talking to people is to vent out your thoughts so it ends with you finally erasing it in your mind. If you're not comfortable with the idea, don't do it because it would just make it worse. But if you really think talking to people helps you a lot, you can start with only one person you trust. The only people who know about my anxiety when I was in college were my two friends who I'm always with in every course and I know are going through the same thing. It took me three years before I was able to tell my childhood best friend. It doesn't matter if it takes months or years for you to be able to open up to other people. Even if they're the most important person to you, don't feel like you're entitled to tell the people you love about it because it will always boil down to what you can only take.
5. Write down your thoughts.
If letting other people know about your anxiety scares you, the alternative is by writing your thoughts down and re-reading everything until you feel relaxed. Then after doing so, write down the scenarios you think triggered your anxiety and things you think you can do to handle it better next time. Although, you wouldn't hear any advice on what you can do, you'll still be able to help yourself evaluate your actions. Writing is also a good antidote to distract yourself because you're doing an activity that needs your full attention.
Before you follow these self-care tips, remember that all of the things I've said are just methods that you can use to help you cope with your social anxiety. These are not cures. There will still be days when you would have to face it— and that's okay. Don't be hard on yourself if you're still figuring it out. In the end, the best way to recover from it is by seeking professional help especially if your situation only gets worse. One thing I'm sure of is we can get through this. I promise you that it's going to get better. So don't give up.
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