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7 Simple Tips to Conquer Social Anxiety

January 18, 2014

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If I have to speak at a meeting or feel all eyes on me in a room full of people, my brain kicks into “fight or flight” mode. I picture myself sprinting out of the room and running all the way home. Just thinking about leaving calms my nerves. 

When you’re feeling socially anxious, or even just really shy, it’s tough to work through it. You may struggle to make small talk and may have visible symptoms of anxiety such as sweating, stuttering, and blushing. This stress response may be triggered by a phobia of public speaking, social interactions like parties and dates, or in public settings such as at work or at a restaurant where you feel like you’re being watched and judged by others.

Simple strategies and coping techniques may be just what you need to say adios to your anxiety or overcome your shyness. Here are some tips to help you keep your cool and stay committed to your social calendar!

Sit in silence. Try meditation to quiet your anxious mind. Many people with anxiety have very active brains that are working overtime. They have a million thoughts bouncing through their head all at once. Practice meditating and give yourself space to clear your mind to gain some control over your anxiety when your fears escalate.

Celebrate your bravery. If you attend an intimidating party, pat yourself on the back. It’s important to celebrate your successes rather than avoid your fears and reinforce negative behaviors associated with your anxiety. Whether it’s watching your favorite movie the next night or meeting up with your best friend, you’ll feel extra good about acknowledging your break-through.

Pull out your yoga mat. Exercise is generally helpful for managing stress-related conditions and depression, but certain relaxation poses in yoga such as bridge pose, child’s pose, and eagle pose may be especially helpful for managing anxiety. These asanas focus on releasing tension, calming the mind, and energizing the body. Focus on a positive mantra, such as “You are strong and confident,” while holding these poses. 

Practice positive affirmations. Jot down anynegative thoughts or self-talk you use when you’re feeling socially anxious and then write some positive affirmations in their place.  Notice what lines you repeatedly use when your anxiety peaks. For example, if you often think, “I’m going to say something stupid,” replace it with, “I always choose words well when I’m calm and focused.”

Try a class or support group. Enroll in a public speaking course or a social anxiety support group to confront your fears in a very real way. This is the premise of exposure therapy, or placing yourself directly into situations that cause you the most discomfort. It may be super challenging at first, but with time, your brain will identify these situations as less of a threat. Plus, you’ll gain some valuable life- and coping- skills, too.

Do something for social good. Sign up to be part of a service activity in your community to take the focus off yourself and instead place it on those in need. Helping others might make your worries seem much smaller and provide you with a healthier, macrocosmic perspective.

Comfort your body, so your mind follows suit. Carve out ten minutes of your day to be overly comfortable. Sit in a soothing bubble bath or change into cozy clothes and plop right into a plush armchair. Or both!  Then, try to carry that feeling with you. Rub on a relaxing essential oil like lavender or juniper, or wear an article of clothing you most associate with comfort. Sometimes a pair of flats is all I need to feel more calm and grounded.

How do you manage shyness or feelings of social anxiety? Have any tricks that work for you?