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  • Lyn Reed

Are you a party animal (who feels anxious and worried)?

What do these two faces suggest to you? Made up as they are, who knows what is going on inside their heads?

Deep down, many of us feel we are sensitive and emotional; we often prefer to take a back seat. There are a lot of human qualities associated with being like this: compassion, thoughtfulness, caring.

Issues can arise when today's world seems to prize loudness, being 'out there', sharing everything and everybody on social media. It can be hard to be self-contained and be 'ok' with it.

So it can be challenging for individuals who feel different to struggle in groups and public places.

Social anxiety is an irrational fear of being in public and of social interaction with peers and strangers. We can become overwhelmed with self-consciousness alongside a fear of being judged and humiliated. If this is not addressed. such fears can lead to low self-esteem, isolation and depression.

When people feel anxious they often avoid situations. They tend to run away (and if they can't they will disengage in order to protect their own feelings). This strategy can be useful.

But when we start worrying (or anticipating) how we are going to interact with others, we can become stressed, start sweating, and get other physical signs. If we keep hiding from ourselves we can experience panic attacks. We can develop phobias.

We literally start fearing the fear of socialising itself.

We need to learn to manage our own anxiety as no one else can do it for us. We need to find a way to cope. And our way of coping is unique to each one of us. Social anxiety exists for many different reasons and a careful assessment by a professional could help identify the causes.

When we are anxious, our brain loses the capacity for rational thought. We start listening to our negative thoughts. It's a good idea to listen to what we tell ourselves.

Professional help can teach us to change our way of thinking; we can become the person we want to be by challenging our thoughts. It follows then, that we need to pay attention to them.

If we take a holistic view, as I do, we need to consider what effect our anxiety is having on our physical health - and find ways to relax so that we can switch our brains off.

This is not avoidance - this is taking a conscious step towards reducing our social anxiety and consciously putting a strategy in place to deal with it.

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