As part of Men’s Health Week 2019, influencer, model and mental health advocate Max Hovey talks about his journey with social anxiety, and gives his 4 top tips to helping you cope with it.
Did they just look at me? I don’t feel comfortable today. No clothes suit me. What if I annoy them? What if they don’t want to talk to me anymore? Am I being too needy? What if I’m not needy enough? Do I look ok? There are too many people here. Why don’t I look like them?
Social anxiety. I’m not saying you need to have said ALL of the above to yourself to have social anxiety – don’t worry, it’s not a checklist. What I have learned over the years is that social anxiety can manifest in so many different ways, and everyone can experience it differently. I’m Max by the way, and I struggle with social anxiety.
A few years ago, my friend told me that she did too, way before I even knew what it was. When she told me, I remember thinking to myself ‘she’s always so confident? She loves performing in front of people? She seems so confident in her appearance? She always seems so bubbly and happy to speak out?’ This can be a pretty common misconception about social anxiety – that you can’t have any confidence and don’t like public speaking or ANY form of attention.
Over the years I have been learning a lot about myself and have realized that I have social anxiety. It’s weird, because for anyone that knows me personally or that follows my Instagram, they will probably see me as being quite confident, and happy to put myself forward publicly. I also love public speaking and talking in front of groups, and I’m also pretty confident in front of a camera (duh).
Whilst all that is true, it doesn’t mean I don’t have anxiety. My social anxiety stems from relationships. I can be in a great place, feeling confident, happy with my appearance, career, education, and generally feeling pretty damn wonderful in my life. Then a boy comes on the scene, and holy shit everything changes. My confidence is shattered, and I end up critically judging everything, from what I say, to how I act, to what I wear. My self-esteem can just evaporate. Anxiety can be a lot to deal with, and I am still a work in progress, but I still wanted to share my tips for dealing with it.
Max’s Top Tips for Dealing with Social Anxiety
Am I going to wake up, be fierce and achieve everything today? OR am I going to wake up with a crushing pain in my stomach, panic in brain and just want to cry? WHO KNOWS! My point is that no one should stereotype or stigmatize social anxiety. Everyone experiences it differently, everyone has good and bad days, and everyone copes with it differently. Here are a few things you could try to try to take the edge off.
1) Be kind
We have no idea what a person may be going through. Give them that compliment, boost their mood, make someone smile for NO reason at all other than the fact that you can.
2) Talk to someone
Like I said, we have no idea what someone is going through, and that includes you. We can give you compliments; we can try and boost your mood and make you smile, but sometimes what can really help is allowing us to understand how you’re truly feeling. So, open up to someone you can trust, believe me, it helps.
3) Try a thought diary
Literally type CBT thought diary into an app store and you’re bound to find it. It’s a great way of writing down what’s going through your head, and training your brain to spot your irrational thoughts, and turn them into something positive before you get carried away. I’ve tried it and believe me it works.
Like you’d think it’d be obvious but you have no idea the impact that it can have. Focusing on your breath brings you into the present, as we know anxiety is normally worrying about something that has not and may not even happen, so just taking a moment to breath can help you distance yourself from those thoughts. It can also calm your physical symptoms too, bringing your heartbeat back to normal, and halting that feeling of panic.
I’m not saying this is necessarily going to work for you. Sometimes these techniques don’t work for me, so I try something else. But the main thing is to practice, keep trying the same and new methods. Things will not get better over the night, but one thing is certain – they will get better.
For more from Max, check out his Instagram @max_hovey
If you are struggling with anxiety, or have anything else going on that you want to talk about, you can reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here.