Nine Ways to Manage Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is a pervasive problem for those who struggle to manage their emotions and behavior in the company of others. It is not based on a realistic view of the self. But its symptoms are nevertheless painful and overwhelming. The good news is that men and women who feel uncomfortable and inhibited in social situations can eventually overcome the worst effects of their anxiety. There are self-help strategies that work, and mental health care is an additional promising option for those who feel unprepared to handle their social anxiety alone.

At one time, social anxiety was thought of as a form of extreme shyness. Given the symptoms it produces, this view was understandable—but it was wrong.

Social anxiety, which is also known as social phobia, emerges from chronic poor self-esteem and a deep-seated fear of being judged and rejected. It includes but transcends shyness in its intensity, pervasiveness, and capacity to disrupt normal functioning.

If you’ve been living with the debilitating symptoms of social anxiety, you know the problem is both serious and misunderstood. It is unfortunate that society remains largely unaware of the difficulties those who develop social anxiety disorder encounter. Even within their families, people with social anxiety disorder can feel lost and alone.

Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for validation from anyone to do something about your social anxiety issues. It is your health that is at stake, and there’s no reason you should continue to suffer needlessly.

Here are nine social anxiety-reducing strategies you can try that can help you regain control over your emotions, your behavior, and your future:

#1 Learn and Practice Mindfulness and Stress-Reduction Techniques

Activities like yoga, meditation, biofeedback, Tai Chi, acupuncture, and massage therapy can make you more conscious of your feelings and reactions. This self-awareness can give you greater control over anxiety of all types.

If you take in-person classes with skilled and personable instructors, that can be especially effective. This will immerse you in an environment where uplifting social interaction is included in the overall experience.

Many people claim they’ve tried these mind–body healing practices but have been disappointed with the results. What they fail to realize is that it can take several weeks or even months before a transformation can occur. These activities can help you achieve calm states and greater peace of mind. But you’ll only reach that stage if you practice one or more of them on a daily basis.

#2 Find Confidantes You Can Trust to Discuss Your Anxiety Issues

It is vitally important that you not treat your social anxiety like something shameful. Try discussing your social anxiety disorder with the people you love and trust the most. Be as specific as possible, so they can begin to understand your sometimes perplexing reactions and behavior patterns.

When you break the taboo and actually talk about your social anxiety, your condition will lose some of its mystique. Your friends, family members, and other close associates will know your secret, which should help you relax in social situations where they’re also present. Their new insight into your condition will help them be more sensitive, caring, and helpful.

Over time, knowing that everyone around you isn’t judging you or laughing at you can boost your confidence and make you more willing to push your boundaries.

#3 Educate Yourself About the Condition

Social anxiety has had such a disruptive effect on your life. This means you need to learn as much about it as you can. That way, you’ll know exactly what you’re fighting against. You’ll also find out more about the coping strategies other people have used to tame their social phobias.

You can discover the truth about social anxiety disorder by reading books and articles and visiting websites or discussion forums devoted to this topic. Mental health therapists and your fellow social anxiety sufferers form a diverse and well-informed expert community. Their research in one instance and first-hand experiences in the other can shine a light on the mysterious feelings that have prevented you from blossoming personally, socially, academically, and occupationally.

While just knowing the facts won’t make your social anxiety disappear, it can give you the self-comprehension you need to attack the problem intelligently.

#4 Learn to Silence the Inner Voices

Social anxiety thrives on negative interior dialogue. The more you think about your anxiety, the stronger and more in control it will become. Your internal dialogue is likely filled with worry, doubt, and a lack of self-confidence. If you’re like most people with social anxiety issues, you probably spend quite a bit of time reflecting on your past performances and scolding yourself for not handling them differently.

You need to stop doing this. It may take months of practice to conquer this self-sabotaging tendency. But if you make it a point to cut these negative and self-judging thoughts off as soon as you notice them, eventually you’ll learn to notice them more quickly and terminate them more effectively.

You should strive to replace harsh self-assessments with positive thoughts or inner silence. You can boost your efforts to do this by focusing on what’s going on around you, taking your attention off yourself. Over time, your mental detachment from your anxiety will become more natural, even when you’re in potentially stressful social situations.

#5 Practice Some Carefully Controlled Exposure Therapy

Therapists and close acquaintances alike will tell you to expose yourself to social situations that make you feel uncomfortable, in small doses first and more frequently later on. Each time you’ll include some type of social interaction in your exposure, to train yourself to communicate more effectively.

This type of exposure therapy can be highly effective, as long as you keep your expectations modest and your short-term goals reasonable. Ideally, you should have people you trust accompany you when you try exposure therapy. Their encouragement will make you more likely to follow through on your plans. Their support can also help you get over it more quickly if anything goes wrong.

To become more self-confident and more flexible in your social skills, you should alternate between being prepared and being spontaneous. In other words, in some situations you should know ahead of time what you plan to say, who you plan to say it to, and how you plan to say it. Other times, you should enter social environments with no expectations at all. In these instances, you’ll use your listening skills as a guide and let the social interactions unfold in a natural way.

#6 Adopt a Healthy, Self-Improvement-Oriented Lifestyle

Social anxiety thrives on low self-esteem. People who are uncertain in social situations are uncertain of themselves in general. Their failures only reinforce their self-doubt.

Your campaign to overcome social anxiety will be enhanced if you take steps to build your self-esteem and self-confidence. There are many ways to do this. You can take classes (online or in person) to learn new skills or expand your knowledge base. You can try challenging hobbies that will truly test your limits. You can take courses that promise to improve your social skills or speaking skills specifically, although learning how to cook, skydive, sail, sculpt, dance, or a thousand other things can serve you just as well in the long run. The idea is that as you pile up more accomplishments, your sense of self-worth will inevitably increase.

Another way to improve your self-image is to work on becoming fit and healthy. You can change your diet by eliminating processed junk and replacing it with only the most nutritious foods. Exercise or practice active sports regularly and increase your commitment as you get in better shape. Make it a point to get all the sleep you need. A healthy body will promote a healthier mind, increasing your feelings of optimism and hopefulness.

#7 Identify the Triggers That Provoke the Strongest Social Anxiety Response

While social anxiety is ubiquitous, there will be specific social situations that cause you stronger feelings of dread and nervousness. For example, you may be triggered by encounters with authority figures. Or you may become tongue tied and have trouble thinking in the presence of someone who interests you romantically. You may get especially nervous trying to make friends. New and unpredictable environments may leave you feeling overwhelmed and unworthy.

To identify these triggers, you should keep a daily diary and write about your social anxiety. Include as much detail as possible, and search for patterns that connect your anxious responses. Eventually you’ll develop a clearer understanding of what intimidates you or inhibits you the most. This knowledge can help you create a detailed plan of action that addresses the specific manifestations of your social anxiety problem.

What you discover can determine what kind of exposure therapy you decide to try. It can let you know when you need to meditate or use other relaxation techniques before entering a potentially stressful situation. It can help you alter your approach to certain types of encounters, to reduce the level of anxiety you feel. Or it can help you explain to your therapist (if you have one or get one) exactly how social anxiety is hindering your personal development.

Getting Inpatient Care Can Help

Many people can address social anxiety on their own and enjoy encouraging results. But you should also be aware that individuals with social anxiety issues can be helped tremendously by inpatient care at a mental health facility like BrightQuest.

If your attempts to manage your social phobia on your own meet with only limited success, is especially severe or long-lasting, and/ or co-occurs with other mental health disorders, you should strongly consider seeking more e intensive help to aid you in better managing and coping with your symptoms.

When social anxiety is accompanied by debilitating conditions like depression, panic disorder, or substance abuse, intensive residential care may be the best option.