30-day Social Anxiety Action Plan
My social anxiety story
Let me confess something. Social anxiety is something I have struggled with my entire life.
From a young age I always felt anxious in social situations. I didn’t know social anxiety was a thing, I thought I was just weird, so I just tried to avoid situations that made me anxious. It started off with small things like not wanting to phone a relative and thank them for a birthday card, or refusing to put my hand up in school lessons to answer a question. Then it grew to bigger things like not wanting to hang out with friends, or not going to my end of secondary school ball (or high school prom for any Americans reading).
The trouble with social anxiety is that it’s hard to spot unless you really know the signs. I was misunderstood and called ‘stand off ish’ or ‘cold’ by people who didn’t really know me. Once a teacher at my school said I acted like I was ‘better than everyone else’ because I didn’t want to go on an overnight trip – bitch I had full blown social anxiety, it was clearly a defense mechanism! I hope nowadays teachers are trained to look for mental health issues like social anxiety, but 10 years ago they weren’t.
Social Anxiety ruined my university experience. I blamed it on just not fitting in, but after uni I reached a stage where I couldn’t even speak to my family or close friends without intrusive thoughts. It was so frustrating, I wanted to speak to people and I knew what I wanted to say, but whenever I spoke I felt so much anxiety I had a physical reaction.
Social anxiety is not being shy
If you’ve never experienced social anxiety it’s difficult to understand what it’s like, sometimes people think it’s made-up, or you are just exaggerating being shy, quiet, or introverted.
For me social anxiety manifests in group conversations, speaking on the phone, meeting new people, asking people for things, and everyday encounters like talking to a cashier in a shop. It intensifies when I’m the centre of attention, like in a group conversation or during a meeting, and that causes me to panic and freeze. I once froze so bad during I meeting I couldn’t even say my name!
Overcoming social anxiety
Life is too short to let anxiety take over. My aim is to take action and resolve my issues with social anxiety before it holds me back any longer. I know it won’t be easy, I still have a long way to go until I stop being so ‘awkward’ in social situations (PS please don’t ever tell a socially anxious person that they are being awkward, it really doesn’t help.)
That’s why I’ve created a 30 day social anxiety action plan. Call me boring but there’s something so satisfying about having directions to follow everyday; perhaps the military life would suit me well.
I know a 30 day challenge won’t be enough to fix years of anxiety, but I’m hoping it will be the catalyst for positive change. Feel free to follow the plan too, and alter any actions to suit your own needs!
30-day social anxiety action plan
Points to remember:
- Face the fear and do it anyway
- Life is short
- Confidence is learnt
- Be present in the moment
- Temporary pain is necessary for future happiness
- Your body language can alter your mood
Day one: Practice good posture, head up, shoulders back, chest high. Walk slowly and purposefully.
Day two: Smile at everyone you pass by
Day three: Speak with people you see often to, e.g receptionist at work
Day four: Sing loudly in your room, in the shower and in the kitchen, Make your voice heard.
Day five: Engage in conversations with people in shops “how is your day?”
Day six: Call up a company up to inquire about something (at home)
Day seven: Call someone you know that you haven’t spoken to for a chat (bonus points if you don’t usually speak on the phone)
Day eight: Ask a stranger on the street for directions/time
Day nine: Look at your posture in mirror and practice talking with your hands
Day 10: Ask someone in a shop for help and then engage them in conversation
Day 11: Do a new class at the gym and talk to the instructor about it.
Day 12: Engage a stranger in further conversation, for example asking for recommendation for a good restaurant.
Day 13: Wear a bold outfit/bright lip colour and make people look at you
Day 14: Suggest a new idea to your boss. Speak confidently and slowly
Day 15: Ask colleague to go for lunch with you and don’t take your phone so you have to engage in conversation
Day 16: Go to a ‘meet up’ group on your own and talk to people.
Day 17: Speak to three people at gym/in a shop
Day 18: Arrange a meeting at work and lead it
Day 19: Ask an acquaintance out for lunch and engage in conversation
Day 20: Ring a company and make a complaint
Day 21: Don’t use the word sorry ALL DAY
Day 22: Eat in a restaurant on your own
Day 23: Speak to 3 new people today
Day 24: Tell a joke in front of a big group of people
Day 25: Spend lunch getting to know a colleague
Day 26: Book a public speaking course
Day 27: Go to a coffee shop and read a book for a few hours. Speak to 3 people.
Day 28: Go to a social event on your own and talk to 3 new people
Day 29: Go for a night out SOBER and dance and talk to people
Day 30: Speak in front of a large audience
Edit: I recently updated this post and gave it some love. Two years on and I can proudly say my social anxiety is a lot more under control from a variety of techniques, such as counselling, mindfulness and forcing myself to do things I don’t want to. However, I do get the occasional bout of anxiety and I think it’s something I’ll always live with.
I hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful if you are suffering with social anxiety too. Just know that it does get better and you can overcome it. Thanks for reading this post I really appreciate everyone who has left me kind messages. Hannah x