What is social anxiety? Social anxiety is a chronic mental health condition in which social interactions cause irrational anxiety. For people with this disorder, everyday social interactions cause heightened anxiety, fear, self-consciousness, and embarrassment.
I was in tenth grade when I first realized I had social anxiety, after experiencing my first real heartbreak. I was secretly dating a boy from my high school throughout ninth grade because our parents told us our relationship was not allowed. We dated for almost eleven months until he called it off because his mother found out right before my 16th birthday.
Everyone tells me not to count that as a relationship, but it truly was a heartbreak, because I never endured so much pain before then.
I started noticing my social anxiety during the first couple of days of tenth grade. I wasn't upset about the breakup at first because I thought I was better off and needed to move on from him. However, every time I saw my ex in the hallways, my heart would start racing uncontrollably. It didn't feel very good, and I wanted to get to the bottom of that pain.
After these panicky feelings began taking over my life, I finally explained my predicament to my mother. She told me I was experiencing social anxiety, and reassured me that it was normal. I also found out that my stepfather faced the same kind of stress daily. It was nice to know he endured the same thing. Nevertheless, I still couldn't help but feel like something was wrong with me due to my irrational fears. As the leaves fell and the air grew colder, my anxiety felt as if it deepened inside of me. Although I could finally name social anxiety as the culprit of my problems, I still felt a paralyzing lack of control.
During the heartbreak, I asked my mother if I could start seeing a therapist. I needed to talk to someone about what was going on with me. She declined, of course, saying I was too young to have one.
To this day, I still want a therapist, because I don't believe there is anything wrong with having a person who will listen to you and walk you through your feelings. People assume that they can talk to their significant other about their issues, but your partner can't always figure out what's going on with you. They aren’t trained medical professionals.
Over the years, I have been learning new ways to deal with my social anxiety. Every day, I take baby steps, learning new coping mechanisms that work for me. Here are five ideas I strongly recommend for anyone that is trying to overcome social anxiety:
Writing down your thoughts and getting your feelings out of your head will help you calm down. It won't exactly fix the issue, but it will help clear your mind. I want to be a writer one day, which is the best way to get my mind off my anxiety.
2. Listen to music
Many people can say that listening to music is a huge escape from anxiety and stress. Of course, choose your songs wisely, but it's a great tool when you are trying to get your mind off of something. Music has been my number one escape when it comes down to coping with my anxiety.
Reading is an excellent passtime for people. I mostly enjoy reading because it keeps my mind off of my problems and stress. I much rather engage myself in someone else's journey instead of overthinking about mine.
4. Get a therapist
Therapists are there for a reason. A friend of mine recently told me how she got one, and it was the best decision she ever made. She also said that she believes that everyone should have one. It's nice having that one person you can talk to about your feelings and what's going on with you. Friends, family, and your significant other aren't always the best recommendations. Therapists are judgment-free, which is why many people enjoy talking to them and feel so comfortable being around them.
Drawing is so relaxing, and not enough people take advantage of this. Writing and listening to music is nice, but drawing is so peaceful and clears your mind. It’s the perfect way to express your emotions, or escape from your present anxiety.
These methods might not work for everyone facing social anxiety, but I think they are helpful tools for coping! My only hope is this message reaches someone who is currently facing the same issue. You can overcome this!
Written by: Audre Arnett