Social anxiety is a type of anxiety that causes people who suffer from it to struggle in social settings. While social interaction is important for mental well-being, it can be a source of stress for people with social anxiety disorder. Bustle discusses social anxiety and provides tips for how to manage it.
According to counselor and relationship expert Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC: “Social anxiety is when a person feels highly anxious about being with other people and has a hard time talking to them. They often feel very self-conscious in front of other people and worried about feeling humiliated, embarrassed, or rejected, or fearful of offending others, being very afraid that other people will judge them.”
It is common for people with social anxiety disorder to avoid social events, struggle to make friends, and blush or sweat while in a social setting. However, according to Derichs, it is crucial to manage these symptoms.
“Being able to calm and manage our emotions is an essential aspect of feeling a positive sense of control in life,” she explained.
Below are tips on how to manage social anxiety and help you enjoy your next social event.
- Pay attention to your surroundings
When anxiety starts to set in, it’s easy to forget where you are and start to feel panicked. If this happens, concentrate on taking notice of your surroundings.
This is called a “grounding technique.” You can employ it by concentrating on a painting or the wallpaper. Focus on that and describe the colors, scene, etc. to yourself to quickly distract yourself and calm yourself down.
- Feel your feet on the ground
As stated above, it’s easy to forget where you are when you start to feel anxious. Another tactic to curb the anxiety is to focus on where you physically are and what your body is physically doing. For instance, press your fit more firmly to the ground and focus on that sensation. This will help take you out of your anxious thoughts.
- Challenge your thoughts
When your anxiety starts spiraling and your thoughts are saying that you are in danger of humiliation, rejection, or actual physical harm, try to convince yourself otherwise. Allow your rational thoughts to combat your anxious ones by reminding yourself that you are okay and things are going fine. Stopping the anxious thoughts in their tracks is sometimes all you need.
- Remind yourself you aren’t trapped
If you feel anxious prior to an event, remind yourself that you are not obligated to stay there forever. You aren’t trapped, even if your anxiety tells you that you will be. Often, telling yourself you can leave if you’re uncomfortable or for any other reason is enough to alleviate stress and anxiety and make you more comfortable by the time the event actually occurs.
- Remind yourself that other people get nervous too
No one is perfect and we all feel self-conscious at times. Remind yourself that you are not the only one who is nervous and you will feel less alone and exposed.
- Don’t have unrealistic expectations
High expectations can often make anxiety worse. The idea that you have to talk to everyone or everyone has to talk to you or you have to be seen having fun at all times can stress anyone out. Before the event, lower your expectations.
Derichs says to remind yourself, “I don’t have to talk to everyone and not everyone has to talk to me.” That way, you can enjoy the conversations you do have.
- Use a self-soothing technique
Certain everyday, simple behaviors like using lip balm, putting on hand lotion, or taking a sip out of your drink reminds your brain that you are in a normal and safe situation.
These behaviors are called “self-soothing techniques.” According to Derichs, “this behavior sends signals to the brain that you are not in danger and therefore anxiety decreases.”
- Take deep breaths
A common symptom of anxiety is shallow breathing, which can enhance other symptoms of anxiety. Breathing deeply can help your body stay calm and keep yourself grounded.
“Breath in slowly through the nose, hold for a few seconds, and then slowly exhale through the mouth,” Derichs advised. “This allows you to evaluate your thoughts and hear, feel, and see if there are ways to challenge them.”
- Use visualization techniques
Visualization techniques are an excellent tactic for decreasing anxiety. If you’re nervous about a social event, try visualizing yourself at the event and interacting with people. You can also role-play and think about what you will say. This will help you feel prepared.
- Be logical
When your anxious thoughts start including all the worst-case scenarios that could happen at an event, apply some logic to curb the irrationality. Ask yourself what is the likelihood this terrible thing will happen and if something embarrassing does happen, will it really matter? This will help the anxious thoughts subside.
- Accept your anxiety
Accepting and acknowledging that you are feeling anxious is important because it gives you some control over your anxiety.
“Acknowledge you are feeling anxious,” Lianna Tsangarides, LCSW, suggested. “Acknowledge you are feeling anxious and create a safe space to feel anxiety.”
- Remember when past social events have gone well
Balance the negativity of your anxious thoughts by forcing yourself to remember past events that have gone well. This positivity will help keep the anxiety at bay while also reminding yourself that you can successfully enjoy your upcoming social event because you have done it before.
- Give yourself a moment
If your anxiety is starting to kick in at the event, remove yourself from the situation for a few minutes. Go to the bathroom, step outside to get some air, etc. and then head back in when you’re ready.