Most of the people I know have suffered from social anxiety at one point of another in their lives. Although it is completely normal to be shy when in a new situation, sometimes, it’s more than that. Social anxiety is a diagnosable disorder, but just like anything else, it can be dealt with and solved.
Below are five steps you can follow to ease your anxiety.
1. Compare the anticipated with the actual.
A lot of the times imagining the social situation you will encounter feels a lot worse than when you are truly there. Our brains have the habit of jumping into worst-case scenarios making us highly agitated and nervous when thinking about an upcoming event. So, the next time you are in a social gathering, try to compare the actual results with what you've anticipated, you’ll notice that your brain might have over-exaggerated a little. Things aren't as bad as you thought.
2. Take an active role.
When we’re invited to a party or an event, standing there alone definitely is awkward. But the thing is, a lot of the awkwardness stems from not having a defined role, so try to have one. Volunteer to play host or help out with the tasks; it helps you have a purpose and dilutes the nervousness you feel. You can round up people to take pictures, you can usher people in, and other roles as well. The thing is, when you are forced to interact with people, it becomes less scary.
Related: What are anxiety disorders exactly?
3. Push yourself a little bit further every time.
If you’re afraid of water, you’ll probably start off at the shallow end, so do the same with social anxiety. You can’t expect yourself to jump right into a crowded lecture and openly ask questions, but you can start by asking your professor after class, then asking a question in a small class, and so on.
4. Ask questions.
One good way to interact with others without having to talk a lot is asking open-ended questions. "What would you recommend I read?" or "I am planning on going on a vacation, do you have any suggestions?". These are good examples of questions to ask to fuel a conversation but have the other party participate more. People love nothing more than talking about themselves and their past experiences, so ask these questions to give them that chance.
5. Keep on attending.
No matter how annoyed you might feel at first, keep attending the social gatherings, maybe try to find gatherings that fit into your personal interests. If you like singing, try joining a choir, if you like reading, join a book club in your town. The most important thing it, keep showing up and keep trying.