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How Can I Manage Social Anxiety?

By: Danielle Bertini, LPC

Social anxiety is something that many people often suffer with in silence. It’s much more than just feeling shy or being hesitant to speak up in large groups. It’s something that can really impede on your everyday life. Brotheridge (2020) offers ways to develop new habits to help ease and overcome social anxiety.

  • Challenge your negative and anxious thoughts.

When feeling anxious, it can often feel like there is nothing you can do about the way you feel and how you think. However, there are several things you can try out to help.

Challenging your negative thoughts can be an effective way to reduce symptoms of social anxiety. This starts by identifying the anxious thoughts that pop into your head when you think of social situations. Next, analyze and challenge them. Question why you think like this and if your first reaction is actually how you feel or if you were just assuming the worst. 

  • Be mindful.

Practicing mindful meditation helps you to be present and aware of your thoughts and feelings in a positive and non-judgmental way. Recent studies have shown that meditation has effects on activity in particular areas of the brain and can decrease anxiety levels. 

  • Go to a coffee shop.

If you are someone who enjoys watching movies or catching up on your favorite TV shows, then try taking your laptop to the nearest coffee shop. Do an activity that you feel comfortable with in an environment that would usually make you anxious. You have the familiarity of being able to concentrate only on what you’re doing but will be pushing your boundaries in a safe way.

  • Create an exposure hierarchy.

Identify and rate how different social situations make you feel in terms of anxiety. For example, 0 would mean no anxiety, and 10 would be a full-blown panic attack. Make a list and write down how you think you would feel in every situation. It’s important to write down on a piece of paper your predications so that when the time comes to experience it, you know how you thought you would feel and can compare.

  • Don’t focus on yourself.

We often turn inward and focus on ourselves and how others will perceive us, usually assuming it will be negative. The thought that everyone will be looking at you and judging you when you walk into a room? This isn’t the case. Stop focusing on yourself and what other people are thinking of you. Focus on other people, try to be present, and make genuine connections. 

  • Take a breath.

Physical symptoms of anxiety can include increased heart rate, pounding chest, dizziness, and muscle tension. Learning to take a minute and slow down your breath can help you take control back of your body. 

Take a seat, get comfortable, take a large breath, and hold for four seconds. Then exhale slowly, and push as much air out as possible. Do this a couple times until you you’re your breath slow down to its normal rate. 

  • Find social situations and engage.

Try to make a conscious effort to be more social. This can mean actively looking for supportive social environments that can help you overcome your fears. This could even be something like joining a social skills training class where you can properly practice your social interactions before doing them in the real world. 

  • Be kind to yourself.

Nobody is perfect. Everyone feels embarrassed about something at some point in their life. Overcoming social anxiety is by no means easy, and you’ll have times where you think negatively and slip back into old habits. However, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Take a minute, focus on the present, and practice the techniques you’ve been working on.

  • Face your fears. 

The final tip is to face your fears. It’s impossible to overcome social anxiety if you don’t expose yourself to situations that make you anxious. By using avoidance as a tool to cope, you won’t be helping yourself or encouraging personal growth. 

If you find yourself struggling with social anxiety, you may find it helpful to talk with one of our therapists at Symmetry Counseling. You can contact Symmetry today by calling 312-578-9990 to get matched with one of our licensed counselors. 

References 

Brotheridge, C. (2020, July 17). 12 powerful ways to help overcome social anxiety. Psychology Today. Retrieved December 30, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/calmer-you/202007/12-powerful-ways-help-overcome-social-anxiety 

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