Social anxiety affects roughly 15 million people in the United States.
While getting nervous from time to time is just part of life, social anxiety can keep you from the things and people you love the most. To make matters worse, you’ve likely heard all sorts of excuses from “it’s all in your head” to “stop worrying so much.”
Suffice to say, that advice, even when steeped in good intention, isn’t exactly helpful.
We feel your pain. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of five helpful things you can do to start overcoming your social anxiety. Keep reading to learn more!
1. Enlist Some Social Support
There’s a big misconception that people with social anxiety don’t have any friends. On the contrary, while people with SAD may avoid social situations, they often have a close-knit group of people they love and trust.
Overcoming social anxiety can seem impossible alone. Let your friends be your saving grace.
Ask your friends to tag along as you explore social situations. Bringing a friend will make the process a lot less daunting and having their support can mean the world.
2. Don’t Shy Away from Therapy and Medication
Seeking help doesn’t make you weak — it makes you smart.
You wouldn’t chastise a diabetic for seeking treatment for diabetes. Why is mental health any different?
Therapists can help you get the tools you need to manage your anxiety and improve your life.
The same goes for medication. From a clinical standpoint, anxiety disorders are nothing more than a chemical imbalance. People take insulin for diabetes, think of anti-anxiety medication the same way.
At the same time, if you’re uncomfortable with medication, you have other options. CBD oils, for instance, have calming effects and, as CBDChamp points out, they’re all-natural.
3. Break out of Your Comfort Zone a Little Bit at a Time
One common tool therapists use to help patients overcome social anxiety is exposure therapy. The idea is simple: Expose yourself to your fears a little bit at a time. Over time, you’ll start to feel less afraid.
It’s a great idea, and one you can put into practice any time, even if it’s as simple as going to the grocery store.
Be patient with yourself and allow room for growth. In the meantime, add social settings to your daily routine little by little.
4. Stay Aware of Your Thoughts
While social anxiety can be the result of neurons misfiring, many people with anxiety also struggle with what’s known as Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANTs.
The idea is that you’ve told yourself the same negative thing so many times that these thoughts become your default state.
To start breaking the ANT cycle, keep a journal to record your negative thoughts. When you notice an ANT popping up, jot down the feeling, the situation that led to the thought, and whether you think it’s true and why.
Over time, you’ll start to notice patterns which you can then break.
5. Practice Breathing Techniques
Our breath plays an integral component in mood regulation. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of experiencing a panic attack, you know this firsthand.
Next time you start to feel nervous, close your eyes for a moment. Take five deep breaths — as deep as you can — and wait. Your body will naturally calm down.
Overcoming Social Anxiety: Final Thoughts
There are no two ways about it, overcoming social anxiety is one heck of a task. But it’s far from impossible.
Stay diligent, whether it’s by practicing self-care, seeking professional help, or mingling in a public setting. You can do this, and there’s no time like the present to start these changes!
For more helpful advice to improve your daily life, make sure to check out our blog!