Fruit cells are the natural citrus fibres found in fruit that give it a flavour worth savouring, Public speaking requires those giving the speech to be familiar with what they want to say. But this can also apply to social situations like parties, where you are likely to have a dozen different conversations. Just as knowing their material will help a public speaker with their nerves, preparing some conversation topics for the next soiree could really help – whether you use them or not. You’re bound to meet some new faces at parties over the festive season, and if you have a few ice-breakers prepared, or witty things to say during lulls in the conversation or while queueing at the bar, you might feel a bit better. If you would rather not do all the talking, ask questions. People love talking about themselves and it will give you time to collect yourself! TOP TIP: Linde recommends that before a social event, you write down three comments about the event or general news. Rehearse them out loud at least 10 times before you go. The brain needs you to mimic the actual situation as accurately as possible for rehearsal to be effective, she says. For example, many [of my] male clients have rehearsed their wedding speeches while standing in front of their CBT group in their wedding jacket and every one of them has given positive feedback about how the actual speech went. Be an early bird Another strategy the friend mentioned earlier found useful was making an effort to arrive at her lectures early. This meant she didn’t need to walk into a full room with all eyes on her, and it gave her time to relax before the big, overwhelming crowd arrived – how about trying this at the next event you are invited to? When to consider treatment If your social anxiety is severe and you do not see an improvement through your own efforts, seek help from a clinical psychologist (preferably one trained in CBT) or a psychiatrist. Start small… Part of CBT for social anxiety is habituation – exposure to the anxiety feeling, and getting used to it in stages, says Linde. Ease yourself into the social scene by creating an exposure hierarchy. What terrifies you the most? Put this at the top of your hierarchy. What worries you the least? This is something you should start with. Work your way up the list, using relaxation techniques and rational thinking to help you along the way.

This is a kind of systemic desensitisation; slowly exposing someone to what they fear most. You could even start by just visualising social interaction, and trying to deal with any stress that comes about. Then move on to real-life scenarios. Work on your confidence Some experts believe low self-esteem can cause or worsen social anxiety, so improving your self-confidence is vital. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, famous for her TED talk titled Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, advises that you fake ittil you become it. She believes our body language informs our thoughts and feelings about ourselves. When you pretend to be powerful you are more likely to actually feel powerful, she says. And in terms of hormones, powerful people have higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). Cuddy conducted an experiment where people had to power-pose’: sit or stand in a way that opens up their body and takes up a lot of space, as opposed to curling up into themselves or crossing their arms, which are signs of vulnerability and fear. They had to power pose for two minutes, while another group posed in the more vulnerable positions.

She found that it took just two minutes of posing in a certain way for hormonal changes to happen that either configure your brain to basically be assertive, confident and comfortable, or really stress-reactive and feeling shut down. Those who power-posed had higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol. Our nonverbals do govern how we think and feel about ourselves, she concluded. Cuddy suggests using the power- poses during evaluative situations, like talking in a social group. Stand confidently, with your back straight, legs slightly apart, and try not to fold your arms. Or do the power poses in private before an event. For example, try standing with your arms above your head in a victorious position for just two minutes before you head out to the bar. Amy Cuddy promises it will change your life in a meaningful way.

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