Struggling with social anxiety? All you have to do is S.P.E.A.K.

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Struggling with social anxiety? All you have to do is S.P.E.A.K.

Poster advertising the 2nd Floor Youth Helpline

Poster advertising the 2nd Floor Youth Helpline

Poster advertising the 2nd Floor Youth Helpline

Poster advertising the 2nd Floor Youth Helpline

Sarah Rasimowicz, Fall Editor

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Sitting in the back, breathing heavy, biting your lips, praying that the teacher won’t call on you, but she does. You freeze. You know the answer but it’s like the words are glued to your tongue. You feel like everyone’s staring, waiting for an answer. You gain all your courage and finally squeak out an answer. If you can relate to this, you probably have social anxiety. Here’s some tips to ensure this NEVER happens again.

To help people with this sensitive topic, I’ve created a simple acronym. Project S.P.E.A.K. Stands for Self Evaluation, Plan,Exercise,Act Now,Know Your Limits. This is a step by step guide to conquering social anxiety.

Step one: Self Evaluation

Take a minute to ask yourself how easy you feel it is to make friends.This is a good start to figure out how you can improve your social skills. Ask yourself this question: Am I struggling to hold conversations?  If the answer is yes, here are some tips.

Step two: Have a Plan

 Now that you know what you struggle with, it’s time to improve yourself. Don’t be afraid to grab a notebook and write this all down! Sometimes it’s easier to make a list of things to do, when you can see it visually. Make a checklist of your goals. If your goal is to have a successful conversation with someone you normally wouldn’t, write it down. There are countless ways to organize you checklist, but a popular way is to go from smallest to largest goals. For example:

  1. Raise my hand more in class
  2. Smile at everyone I pass on the street
  3. Hold my head up higher when I walk 
  4. Interact more at lunch
  5. Hold a conversation without fidgeting
  6. Make a new friend

Integrate these goals into your everyday life. 

HELPFUL CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • How are you?- This is a great way to find out what direction your conversation is going to go in. If the person is already in a bad mood, you are going to want to talk about different, more positive things.
  • What do you like to do in your spare time?- This is a way to see if you have anything in common with the person you’re speaking to.
  • How was your day?-This shows you are interested in the other person.
  • Tell a joke!-This can really break the ice if you’re struggling with conversation topics. 
  • Compliment them! Start the conversation off positive. This will brighten them up a little and the conversation will flow better.

Step Three: Exercise your Plan

Every plan needs time to play out. As you complete these goals, check them off.Eventually, you will complete your checklist. Don’t worry if you don’t finish your checklist right away! Conquering anxiety isn’t easy. These things WILL take time. Patience is a MAJOR part of overcoming this fear. The subconscious mind is mysterious and we as humans can actually subliminally control how conversations go. Here are some cool psychology tricks:

  • When you first meet someone, try to notice the color of their eyes. It shows that you’re paying attention and showing appreciation to the little things without coming off as creepy. 
  • Make deep eye contact. When you make eye contact, the person who you’re talking to will feel more of a connection and is more likely to open up more. 
  • Ask someone how their day was! This shows you care about them. It will make you seem more interested in them and they’ll grow to like you more. (This can also relieve any pressure being put on you) 
  • Keep your feet pointed towards the person you’re speaking with. If your feet are pointed diagonally in either direction, it could come off as you wanting to get out of the conversation. This may be a red flag for someone you’re talking to and it might make the conversation more awkward. You can also use this trick to your advantage. Keep an eye on the other person’s feet. Don’t stare at them, but quickly glance down and see how their feet are angled. This can eliminate any unwanted conversation.

Step Four: ACT NOW 

The faster you start to improve yourself,the faster you will see results. Think of it like jumping into a swimming pool. Yes the water is cold, but the sooner you jump in, the sooner your body will get used to the change. Social anxiety is the same way. Yes it’s hard, yes it’s scary, but the sooner you push yourself and start the process, the sooner you will succeed. 

Step Five: Know your Limits 

I know you’re going to want to push yourself, and you should. But just remember that as much as you might feel invincible, you’re not. Anxiety can still strike at any moment. Don’t throw yourself into any situations you’re not prepared for. This can cause a major anxiety attack.Take it slow and don’t stray too far away outside of your comfort zone. 

Remember! Anxiety is something a lot of people deal with. You are NEVER alone. If you are seeking help with dealing with stress and anxiety, you can talk to a parent, a guidance counselor or call the 2nd Floor Youth Helpline. This is an anonymous 24/7 hotline for youth and young adults. If you need someone to talk to about something you don’t want to talk to your parents about, you can call or text 888-222-2228 for advice. Good luck on your journey to overcoming Anxiety! Never forget to S.P.E.A.K.!

 

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