man suffering from social anxiety

Most of us, at one time or another, have experienced feeling shy, awkward, uncomfortable or intimidated. When social anxiety takes over your life, it can eliminate joy, prevent or even destroy fulfilling relationships, and impede job performance and satisfaction.

According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada, anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues, with Social Anxiety Disorder itself being the most frequently experienced. The good news is that social anxiety is also highly treatable. Here are 5 ways an Ottawa therapist can help transform your self-talk to overcome social anxiety:

1. Identify negative thought patterns: Social anxiety feeds off the negative self-talk going on in your head; usually such blanket statements as, “I’m such a failure,” “I always humiliate myself in front of others.” Instead of setting yourself up to fail, consider that such negative thoughts are indeed just that—thoughts. Not facts. You haven’t yet had that next meeting, party, or speaking engagement. An Ottawa therapist can help you make it a success by helping you maintain proper perspective.

2. Change your thinking about a situation: Recognize that while you may not be able to change a situation, you have the power to change your thinking about it. Fear of social interactions deceives you into believing that it is the particular event that is escalating your social anxiety, rather than your faulty thinking about it.

3. Stop a thought in its tracks: The moment a thought pops in your head such as, “people will think I’m boring,” “I’m being judged,” “they can tell I’m nervous and embarrassed.” Stop! Challenge it! Is it realistic to think that everyone is scrutinizing you so closely? We are all our own worst enemy, but unfortunately, those suffering from social anxiety have placed themselves on a negative pedestal.

4. Take control: Make a plan! Small talk can be intimidating when you feel you have nothing to offer. Next time you’re part of a social gathering, have some familiar conversation topics top-of-mind. Many Ottawa-area therapists can help you identify your areas of comfort or expertise, as well as brainstorm some conversation starters to “have on hand” for various social settings.

5. Stay engaged: Finally, the best strategy for experiencing success over social anxiety is to not avoid situations that cause it. Like any fear, confronting it head-on with continued practice—and with the support of a local Ottawa therapist—will evidence the diminishing of your anxiety over time. An Ottawa therapist can help you debrief events and build on each success by identifying the positive strategies and self-talk that worked for you. While avoidance of social situations will never let you prove you can do it, embracing them will increase your confidence, build self-esteem and open the door to healthier relationships.