Social anxiety can affect people in different ways and to varying degrees. It can range from feeling self-conscious or nervous occasionally, especially in unfamiliar situations or when you think you’ll be evaluated by others—to feelings of intense and debilitating fear.
Some situations may be so frightening that you get anxious just thinking about them and go to great lengths to avoid them.
There are tools and techniques you can try to lessen social anxiety and even help you overcome it.
Try these five and see what works best for you.
1. Monitor Your Thoughts
Your thoughts have power. They influence your emotions and your actions. That’s why it’s vital to monitor your thoughts and challenge your negative and anxious thought patterns. At times you may feel like there’s nothing you can do about the way you feel and how you think. Although, in reality, monitoring your thoughts is a step toward control.
What direction do your thoughts tend to lead? Identifying and challenging your negative thoughts can be an effective way to reduce symptoms of social anxiety.
You may notice anxious thoughts automatically popping into your head when you think of specific social situations. Analyze these thoughts and challenge them. Do you tend to assume the worst in these situations?
Through this logical evaluation of your thoughts, you can gradually replace negative thinking with more realistic and positive ways of looking at social situations that trigger your anxiety. Changing the way you think takes time, patience and practice, but it’s a powerful tool in overcoming social anxiety.
2. Practice Relaxation Techniques
Meditation, yoga and focused breathing are techniques that can help relax you and ease social anxiety.
There are many forms of meditation, included progressive relaxation, mindfulness, visualization, mantra and more. It’s not the type of meditation you choose that’s important; it’s the consistency in which you practice. For example, daily meditation (even for 5 minutes at a time) is more beneficial than weekly meditation for an hour.
Yoga is a practice that can also lead to increased relaxation. Like, meditation, yoga is most effective when practiced regularly. If you’re comfortable, taking an in-person group yoga class can have the added benefit of experiencing relaxation in a social setting.
The easiest and quickest relaxation technique of the three is focused breathing. There are numerous techniques, such as belly breathing, box breathing and alternate nostril breathing, to name a few popular methods. Focused breathing can be done virtually anywhere, any time and can have immediate effects.
3. Face Your Fears with Baby Steps
One of the most helpful things you can do to overcome social anxiety is to face the situations you fear rather than avoiding them. Avoidance keeps social anxiety alive and can even cause it to grow.
Make a conscious effort to face your fears. Any action is a step in the right direction. Actively look for supportive social environments that only slightly provoke your anxiety. As you feel more comfortable and build your confidence and coping skills, you can progress to more challenging situations.
4. Talk it Through
You don’t have to struggle with social anxiety alone. Sometimes it helps just to voice your feelings to a supportive listener. Talking with a therapist can help you identify underlying beliefs that may contribute to your social anxiety. A therapist can work with you on a personalized plan to overcome your fear and help you become more comfortable in social situations.
5. Celebrate Your Wins
As you implement these tools and techniques into your life throughout your journey, it’s essential to recognize and celebrate every step forward—no matter how small. These celebrations will give you confidence and encourage you to keep going—moving toward a life free of fear.
If you need help with social anxiety, visit Help Therapy and connect with a mental health therapist online or in-person.