How to manage anxiety in social situations

Remind yourself that everyone experiences self-doubt

In Jigsaw, when we work with young people going through this, we start by reassuring them how common it is. A lot of young people experience anxiety in social situations. Even the super confident guy or girl in your class doubts themselves every now and then.

Challenge your thoughts

When you’re being self-critical and those thoughts creep in telling you you’re boring or awkward or whatever, challenge them by saying ‘where’s the evidence?’. Chances are there is no evidence base for these thoughts (remember, mind-reading doesn’t count).

Talk to someone about it

We mentioned earlier that many of us feel this way but pretend we’re fine. There are probably people close to you who have no idea that you’re struggling and would love to help you if you gave them a chance. Try opening up to a friend or an adult that you trust about how you’re feeling. Sometimes just saying things out loud can make us feel better.

Figure out when you do feel relaxed and confident

Have a think about when you feel self-conscious and when you don’t and write them down. You can ask your parents for help making the list.
Say you dread P.E., for example, but always look forward to choir on Saturday mornings. You leave choir feeling relaxed and happy. Could you spend more time with choir friends, like arranging to meet them during the week as well? Having that to look forward to might make P.E. more bearable.
Figure out who are the people and what are the situations where you don’t feel anxious. If you focus on them and spend more time with them, your confidence will grow.

Stop predicting the future

When you have an event or situation coming up you’re nervous about, fight the urge to predict the future and decide it’ll be a disaster. The more we tell ourselves that we’ll mess up, the more likely we are to. Try and be curious about what might happen. You might surprise yourself. It might not be as bad as you think. Remember the future is never set.

Focus on others rather than the anxiety

At a social event or around people, help reduce your self-consciousness by shifting the focus from how you’re feeling to the people around you. Make the conversation about them. Ask questions. Be a good listener. People love talking about themselves (!) and when they relax it can help you relax. By doing this you’ll be less focused on yourself and the way you’re acting.

Check out this TED talk: 7 Ways to Make a Conversation With Anyone

Be kinder to yourself

Watch the way to talk to yourself. Would you ever say those things to a friend? If the answer is no, then you don’t deserve to be spoken to in that way either.
Replace these thoughts with positive statements like; I am doing my best, I have a lot to offer, I am safe in social environments.

If you have a specific question about feeling anxious in social situations you might like to ask it anonymously through ‘Ask Jigsaw‘, where a selection of questions are answered by Jigsaw clinicians on a regular basis.