Social anxiety is a disorder that causes intense feelings of fear and stress around groups or in public settings.
Although social anxiety can’t be cured or prevented, there are a number of management techniques people can adopt to help control their symptoms, including identifying your triggers, improving your communication skills, and stepping out of your comfort zone.
Speaking to a mental health professional about social anxiety also helps. They can provide more tailored guidance and recommend an appropriate treatment plan for your specific situation.
People with this condition may experience an intense fear of social situations and actively avoid participating in group activities.
Living with social anxiety can be extremely difficult — especially if you don’t know how to overcome it.
Luckily, there are several healthy coping mechanisms that help to reduce your social anxiety symptoms and improve your quality of life.
5. Practice relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques may be useful in helping you manage any physical symptoms associated with social anxiety. These methods focus on breathing and may help you calm down by promoting progressive muscle relaxation.
You can also try meditating in the mornings or evenings. Meditation is a great way to check in with yourself and practice building a resilient mind.
When you are mentally strong, it might be easier to convince yourself that you don’t need to fear certain situations, which can help you overcome anxiety.
6. Challenge your thoughts
For people with social anxiety, negative thoughts are usually common during recreational situations, and these beliefs can contribute to feelings of intense fear.
It might seem difficult at first, but try to challenge these thoughts the next time they come up by following these steps:
- Identify the automatic thoughts that arise when you’re in a social situation. For example, “People will think that I am stupid.”
- Ask yourself questions about these thoughts, such as “Why would people think that of me?” and “Will people really associate nervousness with incompetence?”
These steps help you to logically assess your thoughts and to determine if your concerns are valid or not. Over time, you can learn to replace these thoughts with a more realistic and positive outlook.
7. Reduce your intake of alcohol
Although having a drink to soothe your nerves before a social situation can make you feel more relaxed, it’s not a healthy coping mechanism.
Consistently reaching for alcohol to deal with your symptoms could lead you to a point where you may find it impossible to socialize without a drink. You may also need to consume more and more alcohol to see the same effect, which may result in developing a drinking problem.
Alcohol may also intensify your feelings of anxiety and leave you feeling much worse. To avoid this, you can try to drink more mindfully and avoid doing it just to calm yourself down.
8. Go to therapy
Despite what some people may think, social anxiety goes far beyond just feeling shy or nervous. It’s a mental health condition that often requires professional medical help to overcome.
Although you can also do a lot on your own for managing and treating social anxiety disorder, speaking to a therapist is a good place to start.
A trained mental health professional can:
- Offer you more insight into your condition
- Help you identify your triggers and suggest healthy coping mechanisms
- Teach you coping strategies that can help you overcome anxiety
- Offer guidance on reframing your negative thoughts
They may also recommend different types of therapy and treatment methods to help you work through your social anxiety. These may include:
- Group therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Exposure therapy
- Medication to help you manage severe symptoms
- Online therapy programs
- Gratitude practices
- Setting goals
- Other psychological and pharmacological interventions specific to your condition
A therapist may also recommend strategies like talking to a family member when you feel anxious and doing things like getting more physical exercise to alleviate your symptoms.
9. Be kind to yourself
Overcoming social anxiety can be a long and frustrating process — especially if it’s not happening as fast as you’d like.
When you start feeling stuck or demotivated, remember to avoid negative self-talk and focus on what you’ve achieved instead.
You can also reflect on situations where you may have experienced anxious feelings and determine how you can be more proactive next time.
For example, you may have experienced social anxiety in the middle of a crowd when attending a concert. Next time, you can try to sit in the back or closer to the aisle, where you can find an exit route if you’re feeling too closed in.