Fight Social Anxiety With These 25 Tips
Social anxiety sucks.
Social anxiety disorder is reported to affect up to 13% of the population. While social anxiety can affect each individual differently, people who suffer from social anxiety disorder suffer in all areas of their lives. They have trouble making friends, finding life partners, maintaining friendships, building a career, and even getting through mundane aspects of everyday life.
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is that nervous, tense, or uncomfortable feeling you get in social situations where other people may be judging you. We've all experienced social anxiety at one point in our lives — whether it was giving a speech in school or saying your wedding vows.
Related - Fighting Social Anxiety With Exercise
Social anxiety disorder can be debilitating, and the best treatment involves combining cognitive-behavioral therapy and/or medication such as an SSRI.
Occasionally feeling nervous around other people can be normal, but it becomes a problem where it is so frequent or intense that important things in your life are falling behind. You may not apply for the job you want or go around family or friends because of what they think of you.
Fortunately, there is a lot of self-help strategies you could perform to help overcome social anxiety. Many self-help strategies draw on the effective components of other more traditional treatment approaches. For example, self-help may include aspects of relaxation, thought reprogramming, and exposing yourself to feared situations.
Do You Have Social Anxiety?
You need to talk to your doctor if you think you have social anxiety. Social anxiety always deals with the fear of being judged negatively by other people. Someone may be nervous in most situations that involve interacting with or performing in front of other people.
Others may experience anxiety only from particular situations like speaking in front of others or hosting an event. Typically, someone who is very outgoing and comfortable talking to strangers at parties may only have social anxiety when giving presentations.
Public speaking is one of the most common specific forms of social anxiety.
If you feel like you are in the rut most of the time, you may suffer from mild to moderate social anxiety. The best way to get out of a rut is to do something. There are many ways you can help tackle social anxiety.
There are many common situations that someone may experience social anxiety.
- Talking to strangers
- Speaking in front of a group
- Being the center of attention - birthday, event host
- Speaking to authority figures - boss, police
- Talking on the phone
- Eating in front of others
- Talking to someone you find attractive
Signs and Symptoms of Social Anxiety
It's a common misconception that people think social anxiety is simply a feeling. There are actually four components of social anxiety —feelings, thoughts, physical sensations, and behaviors.
Most people will find they begin to recognize their social anxiety when they experience physical symptoms such as trembling or crying, accompanied with nervousness.
When you are feeling anxious, the four components build upon each other and create a terrible cycle of anxiety.
Here's how it goes:
Feelings are thoughts that cause you to feel negative emotions such as stress or worry. You know that feeling when you remember about a past due bill?
Your anxiety often starts with a negative thought like "I'm going to screw up," or any other negative thought about yourself. This starts the snowball effect.
Your body reacts to your negative thoughts and feelings — blushing, shaking, or sweating is common.
Everyone does something to reduce their anxiety — consciously or unconsciously. Things like averting your gaze or hiding behind something so no one can see you tremble.
There are different types of behaviors an individual may perform. These are driven by anxiety and someone with social anxiety typically exhibit three types of behaviors.
- Avoidance Behaviors - You stay away from situations that make you anxious. You may turn down a presentation at work, refrain from any activity outside of your home, or refrain from applying to your dream job.
- Escape Behaviors - Leaving situations that make you nervous like a concert or party after just a few minutes of being there. This isn't the lame parties that we found out don't have any chicks or alcohol... I'm talking about the frozen on the couch trying to figure out how you can leave without anyone noticing party.
- Safety Behaviors - These are actions you take to reduce your anxiety in social situations. Some use drinking or drugs to help them feel more comfortable, some may play a game on your phone at lunch, or hiding behind the podium during a presentation are all safety behaviors.
Next time you are feeling tense, stop and check your senses and see what behaviors you exhibit. Recognizing them is part of the process.
25 Tips for Dealing With Social Anxiety
#1 - Control Your Breathing
When you feel anxious, your breathing will become fast and shallow. This increases your anxiety and could get to the point where you feel dizzy or suffocated.
Stop and pay attention to your breathing. Relax and inhale fully and exhale fully. You don't have to make noises or breathe fast — just force yourself to breathe deeper than you are currently.
Spend as much time as you need to compose your thoughts, get your breathing under control, and back focused on your goals.
#2 - Prepare
Social situations can become tolerable if we plan ahead — it helps you feel more confident. You may avoid situations simply due to not being prepared.
Find a mantra or technique to adopt to build your confidence.
Hop online and look at the menu of the restaurant you got invited to. Look on google maps and scout the area out to see where the parking is at. Whatever you are worrying about, prepare for it.
#3 - Try Exercise or Progressive Muscle Relaxation Techniques
Studies suggest that certain physical activities like jogging can help lower your anxiety levels. Walking or any other moderate-intensity cardio exercise triggers your body to release "feel good" hormones.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation involves flexing and releasing groups of muscles in your body while you keep your attention on the feeling of that release.
Yoga can also help you calm those nerves. Many types of yoga involve deep breathing techniques and can help lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Studies have shown that performing yoga for a few months helps lower overall anxiety levels.
One class may help improve your mood and anxiety.
#4 - Start Small
Don't jump into a beehive to start out. Grab a lunch with a close friend so you can get used to eating in public. Be confident and go out of your way to make eye contact with someone on the street or to greet someone in the grocery store.
If someone chats you up, ask them about their hobbies or their favorite travel destination — everyone loves talking about themselves.
You can start from there and build up. This will take time to tackle your social anxiety so don't take on too much too soon — this could cause more anxiety.
When I say start small, I mean make eye contact with someone at the stop light... even if you are wearing sunglasses. Push yourself to look around, say hi to the person you have to say "excuse me" to get around.
#5 - Squash Negative Thoughts
Negative thoughts are generally about people or situations, and may even be automatic. We can misread someone's facial expressions and could make you assume people are thinking things about you that they aren't.
I always envy the people who think they are the best. They genuinely know they are the best. It may be far from the truth, but in his head, he is the best.
Many of us harbor negative thoughts about many things — that singer you hate, the restaurant that screwed up your order, or that ugly car. Many have negative thoughts about themselves.
If you aren't your own fan, how do you expect anyone else to be? It's hard to refrain from being hard on yourself or negative, but if you start telling yourself positive thoughts, it can make a difference.
#6 - Stop and Smell the Roses
Our anxiety can get so bad that it overtakes all of our thoughts. We get wrapped up in our head and before we know it we have a headache and four hours have passed.
Sit down and use your senses. Sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste are all senses that can help us calm down in the moment. Look at your favorite photo, smell your husband's cologne, try turning on your favorite tunes, have a piece of gum, or go snuggle with your fur baby.
#7 - Get Yourself Out There
If you didn't feel any anxiety or self-doubt when you go out, would you go out more? If you never felt anxiety, would you walk around the store? Go to a concert? If you don't get out there and you simply avoid being social, things don't get better. Trust me. Accept invitations to parties and go places that make you uncomfortable.
Prepare yourself for the outing and go conquer it.
#8 - Get Some Help
It doesn't matter if you are currently in a rut or if you just have climbed out of one, make an appointment today and talk to a professional. If you're too embarrassed to call your doctor, you can talk to a mental health helpline to get you started.
To some people, talking to a completely anonymous stranger is less intimidating and could help you receive the help you need.
#9 - Take Control of Your Health
Don't let poor health be the reason you have anxiety. Exercise more often and lift some weights. Make better food choices, and start cutting down on the sugars.
Create a competition with yourself, create a goal, and get to work. Start a program and hold yourself to it. As you start progressing and noticing a change in your body, you will feel more compelled to build your social skills.
You don't need a fancy gym or expensive equipment in your home — simply going for a walk, practicing yoga at home, or riding your bike will help.
#10 - Write Down Your Goals
If you want to be rich and be fit, those are great goals... but you need to be more specific.
How much money do you want to have or make? Show me a picture of who you want to look like. Be specific about your goals. What color and what interior color does your dream car have?
The more specific, the better.
Write down real, measurable, specific, and time-based goals and start planning on how to achieve them. Reverse engineer your goal and come up with ways to achieve them.
#11 - Keep a Journal
Start a journal and write down your thoughts. Jot down your experiences, how you felt, doodle if you want. Get the thoughts onto paper and you can use this journal to help you find negative-thinking patterns.
#12 - Take Your Wins
Take your wins. I can't say this enough. Be proud of your accomplishments no matter how big or small. I checked my mail today and there were neighbors and kids all around. I hated it, but I did it. I got a win.
No matter how dumb or insignificant you think your "woohoo I did it" is, take it. You face a lot of challenges and you need to feel good about your accomplishments.
If you are proud you made it out of the house, good. Build on those small achievements and you will start to feel better about yourself.
#13 - Work on Your Social Skills
You don't have to be the most interesting person in the room to have basic social skills. Practice making introductions, learn how to make better eye contact, start remembering names, and toss out the occasional compliment.
Whatever fears you have that bring you the anxiety, work on them.
#14 - Learn to Say Yes and No
If you've been avoiding everyone and everything, start saying "yes" to an invitation. Make a habit of saying yes to invitations you'd like to go to if you didn't have anxiety. The more you say yes to, the easier it will become.
But don't let people walk on you. If you feel like a pushover and you have to meet unrealistic demands or get treated poorly, it's time to start saying "no." Be more assertive, and know that you don't have to go along with what everyone wants.
It's time to start clearly communicating what you want and need. No one is going to know what you are thinking. It's going to suck, but don't be afraid to stand up for yourself.
#15 - Buy Some New Threads
Retail therapy really isn't a cure for social anxiety, but you can make some great changes in how you feel about yourself with some new clothes.
Buy something outside of your comfort zone or find a unique accessory to start wearing. It will be something new and will give others a conversation starter when they first meet you.
Buy that shirt you've been wanting. Allow your inner geek to come out and buy a cool t-shirt.
#16 - Enjoy Your Alone Time
A lot of people with social anxiety disorder are introverts. They recharge their emotional batteries by spending time alone instead of around others.
You don't need to be a social butterfly to avoid social anxiety, you just need to be comfortable with who you are. Be alone with your thoughts, journal them, and start taking control of your life.
#17 - Try Some Place New
If you take the same routine day in and day out, it's time to change it up. You hit up the same gas station, eat at the same restaurant, go to the same grocery store, or walk the same route every time.
Break out of that routine and go somewhere new. This is going to challenge your anxiety, but you will discover the spark you've been missing out on.
#18 - Read a Book
Reading a book can help calm our thoughts. Try reading a motivational story or self-help book and start making the change as you read about it.
Read all of the self-help and social anxiety books you can find and learn about the stories of people who have been there and done that. Reading motivational books in general help channel positive energy and can help give you the inspiration to make huge changes in your life.
#19 - Take a Vacation
A change of scenery can do a lot for us. If you are stuck in your mindset, try taking off for a weekend to a new place — even if it is by yourself.
Find a cool spot to check out and make it happen.
#20 - Strike up a Conversation
If you shy away from strangers and hide in your phone, avoid eye contact, or constantly stare at your feet, this is going to sound impossible... but strike up a conversation.
Engage in some small talk just for the sake of getting some practice. Worst case if it goes horribly, you have a funny story to tell your friends later.
#21 - Learn to Shake a Hand
Nobody likes shaking someone's hand and grabbing a wet floppy fish. Those limp noodle handshakes won't cut it — start giving a firm, solid handshake with great eye contact.
This is easy to learn and this helps you give the best first impression.
#22 - Quit Complaining
You may have been dealt a bad hand in life. All of these life experiences may have contributed to your social anxiety, but you can't let them control and influence the rest of your life.
Complaining is focusing on the negative, which is what we need to stop. Negative thoughts will come but if you just accept what you thought and move on, it gets forgotten.
I've chased off many people in my life due to complaining. Everyone is fighting their own battles, they just all don't complain about it.
#23 - Be Mindful
Your thoughts and feelings you have can become automatic. They become an unconscious habit. Do you notice a daily cycle of feelings? Chances are, there are thoughts that run through your head so often that it has become a habit.
Take time to focus on what's at hand. These thoughts simply pass through your mind and you only need to focus on what thoughts serve you. Write in your journal and start capturing these patterns so you can recognize and stop them.
#24 - Quit Procrastinating
Whatever you are envisioning for your future after you can conquer your fears, it's time to get to work. Maybe you have to wait until you are older or have more money.
The reality is there's no better time than now to start. The longer you procrastinate, the longer that anxiety has to build. Change the path of your journey today and start reaping the rewards.
#25 - Reward Yourself
You need to reward yourself for your efforts. Splurge and buy some nice coffee, eat at the fancy restaurant, or buy yourself that watch you like. Indulging in celebration for positive changes in your life is great. Book that vacation you're dreaming of.
Wrapping It Up
Dealing with the constant anxiety being out in public is hard. Some can let it overcome them to the point they sometimes go without certain necessities because they can’t bring themselves to go to the store. Whatever social anxiety struggles you are having, taking advantage of these tips can help you overcome them.
If you are feeling self-conscious — you aren't alone. Have you ever sat at a mall and just people watched? If you have social anxiety you may scoff at that (I've not been to a mall in at least 10 years) but next time you are out, look at other people.
You'll see people who mess with their hair in their car for what seems like forever. You'll see those who don't like their body type and wear baggy clothes to try to hide it. You'll see people who you feel couldn't have any self-doubt in the world stare in the mirror trying to build up the courage to go inside.
You can make great strides in your social anxiety by realizing that everyone is self-conscious. Don't let it overcome you.