Social anxiety is fear of social situations (talking to other people, meeting new people), fear of being observed (drinking, eating), or fear of performance situations (giving a presentation, speech) where embarrassment may occur. Exposure to social situations and the anticipation of being in a social situation brings on an immediate anxiety response. The following are 22 great ways to deal with social anxiety:
- Exposure to feared social situation
- Gradual exposure
- Visualize a relaxing scene
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Play games
- Aerobic exercise
- Mind-body exercise (qigong, tai chi, yoga)
- Fellowship with people you love and enjoy
- Rest, sleep
- Eat a great meal
- Use the restroom
- Get fresh air
- Support Group
- Natural Supplements
- Medication treatment
- Propanolol for performance anxiety
The only way to address social anxiety is to expose yourself to the feared social situation. If you have anxiety with speaking in front of a group of people, join Toastmasters to hone your presentation skills and public speaking skills. If you have social anxiety and have fear of social scrutiny, then join a church group or a group based on your favorite hobby.
If you have social anxiety, chances are you isolate yourself at home, for fear of embarrassment by crowds of people. Gradually try to expose yourself to social situations where people are around you. For example, go for a drive to the congested downtown area. When you get comfortable with driving downtown after a few times, then consider parking your car downtown and walking the sidewalks. After you find a comfort level with that, then consider going into some shops where there are crowds of people. Ultimately, try having coffee and meals there, and hang out where people are around you. This is an example of gradual exposure, and the best way to handle extreme social anxiety which makes you avoid social situations and isolate.
Try relaxing to help calm down the social anxiety and overall anxiety level. Try listening to calm, soothing music, light some candles with a nice fragrance, soak in the tub, get a massage, etc.
Try to visualize a relaxing scene, like a day at the beach, relaxing on a hammock, etc. This can help to distract one from the triggers of social anxiety, and to decrease overall anxiety levels.
Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and relaxing specific muscle groups, and this is done in a systematic matter until all muscles groups are addressed. This exercise helps one to recognize what a tense muscle group feels like, and also helps one to recognize what a relaxed muscle group feels like. Progressive muscle relaxation helps to reduce stress and anxiety levels.
Playing games like board games, charades, or playing catch with a baseball outside is an awesome way to deal with social anxiety. Also, when playing with another person, it helps to alleviate the anxiety with social situations. Playing games gives one a sense of mastery over their play environment, and let’s one remove themselves from their stressful situations. In addition, games can improve self-esteem and can just be plain fun! Video/internet games and other solitary games may be less effective, as solitary activities tend to isolate the socially-anxious person.
Working up a good sweat can decrease anxiety. Natural endorphins are released in the body after exercise, so this gives one the feeling of a natural ‘high.’ And when one is anxious, feeling good helps one to address their problems better. Exercise improves self-esteem and general well-being, and helps to distract one from their anxious thoughts. A recent comprehensive review found that exercise was effective for anxiety as an adjunct treatment (Jayakody et al., 2014). Many psychiatrists recommend exercise to their anxious patients as part of the behavioral therapy component of the treatment plan.
There is evidence that mind-body exercises such as qigong, tai chi and yoga may be helpful for anxiety (Wang et al., 2014). Mind-body exercises help one to be mindful of posture, movement, muscle tone, relationship of body parts to one another, and breathing. This helps to distract one from distressing thoughts and removes one from their stressful environment.
There is research to suggest that meditation may be effective for anxiety (Orme-Johnson and Barnes, 2014). Meditation helps one to effectively deal with all the stress by quieting down the noise in one’s mind, and focusing on posture and breathing. This helps to give one a sense of inner peace, which helps one to more effectively deal with their external stressors.
There is preliminary evidence that acupuncture may be helpful for anxiety (McPherson and McGraw, 2013; Bussell, 2013; Zhou et al., 2013). In any event, acupuncture can be stress-relieving and can be an important part of self-care. The focus here is on the pressure points of the needle insertions and focusing on breathing.
Preliminary research indicates that massage may have a clinically important effect on anxiety (Sherman et al., 2010; Billhult and Määttä, 2009). Regardless, massage is helpful for self-care, and takes away stress. With massage, the focus is on the relief of muscle tension. And muscle tension can represent the physical manifestation of anxiety, so relief of muscle tension may lead to the relief of anxiety.
When one has social anxiety, it seems like a chore to spend time with friends. However, once the anticipation of seeing a friend is over and one finally goes to see a friend, usually the barriers that kept one from socializing seem to disappear. Seeing a friend is helpful for support and problem solving. A sense of belonging also is reassuring, which is helpful to one who is anxious. There is research to suggest that the quality of one’s friendships predicts how one responds to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety (Baker and Hudson, 2013). So if one has good quality friendships, then it correlates with better anxiety treatment outcome with CBT.
There is preliminary research that quiet rest is helpful for anxiety (Raglin and Morgan, 1987). Good sleep also predicts improved response to CBT for social anxiety disorder (Zalta et al., 2013). Rest and adequate sleep are very helpful to someone who is anxious, as it helps one to recover and to incorporate new techniques to combat anxiety.
Anxiety tends to make one eat less than someone who is relaxed (Steere and Cooper, 1993). So anxiety tends to make one not hungry, and not eat as much. Eating a great meal addresses the anorexic effects of anxiety, and eating helps to replenish calories and nutrients needed for recovery from anxiety.
Voiding and ridding self of toxins can be helpful. Also, a splash of water on the face and neck can cool oneself down. Using the restroom can also be a place to get away from the crowds which may be triggering social anxiety.
Walking can help to distract one from the intense social anxiety symptoms. Walking also serves to regulate breathing, when one is actively synchronizing the rhythm of their walking with their breathing. In addition, walking serves to remove one from the triggers of their social anxiety, like crowds of people.
In the midst of having social anxiety, going outside for fresh air can help one to regulate breathing. It can also help one to remove themselves from the trigger of the social anxiety, like crowds of people.
Going to a counsellor can be helpful, as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective for dealing with social anxiety. In CBT, one learns relaxation techniques, realistic thinking, exposure to fears, and identifying triggers.
Support groups can be helpful, as it is a safe forum for people to tell their stories and how they solve their problems. It is also validating and reassuring to people, knowing there are others who have similar problems, and the support group becomes a haven for reassurance, fellowship, and solutions. Going to support groups is also an exercise in exposure work, as one with social anxiety needs exposure to social situations.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid in the human diet. Tryptophan has been shown to be effective for social anxiety disorder (Hudson et al., 2007). The advantages of natural supplements are that they tend to have less side effects and are less expensive than prescription medications for anxiety treatment.
Prescription medications can help with social anxiety. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are effective over the long term for social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia. Benzodiazepines, like lorazepam or diazepam, are effective for social phobia over the short term, but should only be a temporary solution until another treatment can address the social phobia over the long term, given the addiction potential of benzodiazepines. Please contact your own physician about this option, as it requires medical guidance and a prescription from your doctor.
Propanolol (Inderal) can be effective for performance anxiety, which is anxiety brought about by giving speeches in front of an audience. Propanolol can be given 1 hour before having a speech, anywhere from 20mg to 40mg. It addresses the physical symptoms of performance anxiety, which include increased heart beat. For people who have never tried propanolol for performance anxiety, it is recommended you have a test dose well before the actual event, in case there are side effects. Please contact your own physician about this option, as it requires medical guidance and a prescription from your doctor.
In summary, social anxiety is fear of social scrutiny and embarrassment in social situations. For people with social anxiety, social situations or the anticipation of social situations can induce anxiety to the point where they avoid those social situations. This list provides comprehensive solutions to social anxiety.