Coping with Social Anxiety: A Guide

It can happen in the middle of a party, during a conversation with a stranger, or at a work meeting. You’re speaking to someone and you notice your heart is racing, palms are sweating, and an immense sense of worry sets in. You begin to think, “this person is going to think I’m stupid. I shouldn’t even speak. What am I going to say to them? They’re going to hate me.” If this happens to you often, it’s possible that you experience social anxiety.

People with social anxiety have a tendency to feel self-conscious in social settings, worrying that they will be judged or criticized by others. Sometimes, there is a fear that they are “too awkward” and that other people will not like them. Social anxiety can also trigger physical reactions, such as blushing, rapid heart rate, sweating, shaking, and nausea. Being around other people can feel so terrifying that people with social anxiety may avoid social situations altogether.

While the distress can feel overwhelming, coping with social anxiety is possible. Here are a three social anxiety support techniques to help make your anxiety more manageable.

1.) Recognize Your Social Anxiety Triggers

What social scenarios make you feel most anxious? For example, some people may only experience anxiety when engaging in public speaking. Others may experience anxiety when having conversations with friends or coworkers.

Notice which specific situations make you feel anxious. Increasing your emotional self-awareness makes coping with social anxiety easier, as you are able prepare for scenarios and respond better in the moment.

2.) Relax Your Body

One of the clearest ways social anxiety signals its arrival is in the form of tension and physical discomfort within our bodies. One of the most effective ways to reverse these feelings and relax your body is through deep breathing.

While there are many different types of deep breathing exercises, one of the simplest techniques is to breathe in for three seconds through your nose and out for three seconds through your mouth (repeating as many times as needed).

Try practicing deep breathing when you are already feeling calm. The more you rehearse a technique in a safe setting, the easier it will be to use during anxiety-provoking scenarios. Take the time to experiment and find the deep breathing exercise that works best for you.

3.) Combat Negative Self-Talk

Part of what makes social anxiety so distressing are the negative thoughts that circulate in the mind. But instead of trying to eliminate or ignore these feelings, start by simply noticing your negative thought patterns in social settings. Then, when you identify a negative thought, try challenging it.

For example, if you are speaking in a group setting and notice yourself blushing, you might think, “everyone is going to notice that blushing and see that I’m nervous. They’re going to think that I have no idea what I’m talking about.”

Try challenging these thoughts by asking yourself, “Have I ever judged someone for blushing? What is the likelihood that everyone noticed my blushing? What is the worst thing that would happen if someone noticed I’m blushing? Is that really likely to happen?” Remind yourself that thoughts are not facts. You have the power to change your thoughts.

Recognizing triggers, mindfully calming your body, and combating negative self-talk are all strategies that can empower your to take control of your social anxiety. If you are interested in social anxiety support, book a session with one of our skilled clinicians who specialize in anxiety.