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6 Tips for Dealing With Social Anxiety When You Have a Chronic Illness

Social anxiety is the fear of social situations that involve interaction with other people. Social anxiety could be triggered when you develop a health condition that draws attention to your appearance or voice.

For me, sickle cell disease brought people’s attention to my appearance. As someone living with sickle cell disease, it is very common to look younger and smaller than their peers. In some cases like mine, really skinny. And it is seen as poor growth, a complication very common here in Africa.

Unfortunately, I grew up as the smallest in my class while in secondary school and I was bullied. Bigger guys would always make me feel insecure and weak. I hated my body and I wouldn’t dare look into the mirror. So, I was forced to become quiet and gentle in public and social situations.

It was tough for me to talk, even when I knew I love talking. People saw me as shy and introverted when I know I am just finding it difficult interact with people in public and social situations.

A lot of us are like this. We are forced to stay quiet and just observe because of our illness.

We hate social gatherings, but we are a life of the party to our small circle of friends.

Here are my tips to help you deal with social anxiety.

1. Join a support group.

The advantage of joining a support group is so enormous. Seeing people who can relate with your illness and pain is therapeutic. Some of us are not really shy; instead, we just need a time to be comfortable with strangers who won’t judge us by appearance or illness. These are the people who could help you find your voice again and make you comfortable around them.

2. Love yourself.

Loving yourself would help you accept your body, and everything you see as a flaw. Always remember that everyone has a flaw, so love yours.

3. Practice breathing.

This one has helped me so much, especially when I have to speak at events. Deep breathing helps us relax and get more comfortable.

Breathe in with your nose and make sure to fill your lungs. Focus on your belly expanding and then slowly release the breath through your mouth.

It has helped me get more comfortable countless times.

4. Face your fears.

Facing your fears can help you beat social anxiety. The first time I spoke at an event as a speaker, I almost collapsed, but when I was done it wasn’t so harmful.

I read in a book Jamie Foxx recommended about facing your fear. Whenever you feel that fear of something, ask yourself: What is on the other side of fear? Nothing. Truly, there is nothing on the other side. Face your fear, whatever it is.

5. Get healthier.

For someone living with sickle cell disease, you need to eat really good food, exercise lightly and live a healthy lifestyle.

6. Open up.

There are different ways you can be open about your illness or anxiety. I began with writing; you can begin by talking about it with someone close, or drawing. Opening up can really help in dealing with social anxiety, as it will make you get more comfortable.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Photo by Sam Burriss on Unsplash