There are many ways to reduce social anxiety. You do not have to ‘just get on with it.' You can actually overcome it.
Social anxiety is a very common thing, and it’s definitely possible to overcome it. That means deciding to go out and do things that scare you, despite how anxious you’re feeling.
With the Holiday season of celebrations and social gatherings approaching, now is the best time to practice these 10 ways to reduce social anxiety.
Soon you will hit the scene with confidence, and dang it, you may really have a good time, too.
10 Ways To Reduce Social Anxiety
I know, learning how to overcome social anxiety is tough. Situations that involve large groups or public speaking can make it worse.
When you give in to the anxiety and avoid these situations, the anxiety continues to grow. Then you're eventually left feeling trapped.
The fear becomes too much to handle, and staying home instead of going out into the real world sounds like the safest option.
You might still feel anxious at times, but knowing the right techniques to push through it will make you believe in yourself more. And sometimes seeking help when you need it. This in return builds up your confidence.
Which gets stronger, and then you're able to trust yourself more and your social anxiety lessens. I have a few tips on how to start overcoming your anxiety so you can feel confident again.
1. Start Challenging Your Thinking
Your thoughts are powerful. They can and will convince you of anything if you let them.
Think you’re going to look stupid in front of the boy you like? That thought turns into a fear, which turns into anxiety.
What you need to do is challenge that thought.
Ok, so you might look stupid in front of a boy you like. What’s the worst that can happen? Does that guy think you’re stupid?
First, if he's that judgemental, he's not worth your time. Second, the feeling of looking or acting stupid is all in your head.
Most people don’t notice the same things you do. We are our harshest critic.
You can easily beat yourself up for not saying the exact perfect thing. Give yourself a break, take a step back and don’t let that thought take over. Practice thinking rationally.
The moment you allow your thoughts to control you, you'll start to avoid the situations that trigger anxiety. Which means it will only continue to grow and get worse.
2. Talk to More People
You don’t have to go up to a complete stranger and force yourself to be super uncomfortable.
Instead, practice talking to your friends or family. Think about questions you can ask them, more about their life.
As you’re doing this, try not to think about you. Focus on other people.
It sounds weird, but usually we get so wrapped up in our own thoughts, we forget how other people are doing around us.
And if you can ask other people questions, you’ll learn more about them and you might be able to relate to them more.
Anxiety can sometimes make you feel incredibly alone. And talking to other people doesn’t always seem like the right thing.
But, focusing your attention on others will create a stronger bond with you and other people. It will also give you a different perspective on what other people are dealing with.
Everyone has problems, fears, and insecurities. If you can learn more about other people close to you, you can start to see that you’re perfectly normal.
3. Practice Relaxation Methods
When you start to feel anxious, your heart begins to race and your breathing shortens. It's partly why we go into panic mode.
Your body is so tensed up, you forget to breathe properly and you literally feel like you're in danger. Yoga, meditation, and breathing are great ways to slow it all down.
Meditation isn’t for everyone, that’s why yoga might be a better solution, because it allows you to fully focus on each movement.
Also, having a breathing regime to focus on when you have social anxiety can help calm you down.
The next time you feel anxious, take a step back.
Imagine a clock in your head coming to a stop. Everything around you is stopping for a second, allowing you to catch up.
Take deep, long breaths and focus on calming your body down. This will help you regain control over your reactions, and lessen your anxiety.
4. Set Achievable Goals
To overcome anxiety, it's a good idea to set some realistic, S.M.A.R.T. goals.
Think about how your social anxiety is holding you back. Do you avoid doing something because it makes you too uncomfortable?
Are you sick of feeling scared of things that most people aren't scared of? If you want to work on your anxiety, then write down some things you want to try that cause anxiety.
For me, I always wanted to go to the gym. But, thinking about trying to use the weight machines when I had no idea how scared me too much.
I didn't want to look like an idiot. I was too worried about what other people would think of me.
Eventually, I forced myself to go and figure it out. It wasn't easy, and at first, it was awkward. But, I looked around and saw that most people didn't care what I was doing.
Once I realized this, and kept going to the gym, my anxiety went away. Setting realistic goals for yourself and taking action can be a great way to overcome your social anxiety.
5. Remember, Social Anxiety Has Some Good to It
Anxiety doesn’t feel good a lot of the time, so finding any positives in it can be impossible.
But, it’s not all bad. Believing anxiety is only bad will make you feel worse for having it.
With anxiety comes a deeper understanding of yourself and other people. You’re more aware of things around you, like social cues, people’s emotions, and body language.
It’s almost like a superpower. Being hyper-aware is difficult because it’s easier to just not care.
But, you’re probably a really good friend that listens well and knows how to have a deeper, meaningful conversation.
Think about what good anxiety can bring and keep that in your mind. Anxiety doesn't have to be so black & white.
6. Eliminate Safety Behaviors
Safety behaviors are what we use as a shield to protect us from anxiety.
Anxiety is unpleasant a lot of the time. It makes sense that you'd want to find something to make it a little easier to deal with.
But, safety behaviors are just a crutch that trick you into thinking you're “safe”.
And they only help for a small amount of time. They do nothing for getting rid of the fears associated with anxiety.
And if you rely on a safety behavior to get you through anxious moments, you'll never learn how to build the confidence to properly deal with anxiety on your own.
Some examples of safety behaviors are:
- Avoiding a harmless situation that makes you anxious
- Seeking constant reassurance from others that you're doing ok
- Using a substance (like alcohol or drugs) to make a situation bearable
- Over-preparing for a situation so you can avoid anxiety from coming in
7. Stay Mindful
Always work on staying in the present moment.
Be aware of what is around you. Anxiety will take you to a completely different reality if you let it.
Practicing mindfulness is a great way to think about what is real, vs what is made up in your mind.
Try to take 10 minutes every day (preferably when you're anxious) to take a step back, shut your eyes, and think the now.
- What do you hear?
- What do you smell?
- What do you feel?
- Why are you feeling anxious?
- Is there any evidence that your worries are real?
Get a free copy of my mindfulness activities.
8. Let Go of Perfection
Perfection isn't real. You can't predict how every situation is going to go. Pleasing everyone isn't possible.
Making mistakes in life is inevitable. And trying to avoid every mistake will make it so much harder to swallow when it does happen.
Perfectionism makes social anxiety worse because you're always trying to be aware of everything.
Work on letting go of trying to be perfect.
This will allow you to accept yourself for who you are, flaws and all. It will take work to let go of those things, but it will allow you to relax more and enjoy your life more.
9. Don't Let Your Fears Hold You Back
Once you let your fears stop you from doing things, you begin to make your anxiety stronger. I know how scary it is to do something when your fear is crippling.
Even if it's something you really want to do, if you're too scared to do it, you'll come up with an excuse not to do it. Fear is like a bully.
Threatening something bad will happen to you if you don't listen to it. Unless it really is a situation that is putting you in danger, the fear forming in your mind isn't real.
The only way to truly overcome your anxiety is by not letting these fear hold you back, and stepping out of your comfort zone.
Doing things, despite how terrifying it feels.
When I finally decided to face my fears and go to the gym, my anxiety diminished. And that's because when you're in a fearful situation, at first it's scary.
But, when you sit in it and look around long enough, your anxiety will fade. You get bored eventually, and so used to being in that moment that it's not scary anymore.
10. Talk to a Therapist
I've had moments where I just couldn't deal with my anxious thoughts on my own.
Sometimes, you aren't capable of handling it all by yourself. And that's ok.
When you have no idea where to start, talking to a professional can help a lot. If you let someone guide you in the right direction, you'll reduce your social anxiety faster.
It's similar to taking a class to help teach you more about how to sew.
Therapy is about giving you the proper tools to know how to deal with anxiety. So that eventually, you will know what to do during those moments.
I know that it's sometimes weird going in and talking to a therapist. That's why I always recommend using BetterHelp.
BetterHelp matches you with a licensed therapist who has professional experience in teaching you how to get through social anxiety.
The cool part is you can connect with your therapist any time you need to.
If you have any questions throughout the week, you can just shoot them an email or a message, and they usually get back to you within a day or two.
When I used to go to in-person therapy, it was only once a week, which sucked when I really needed to talk to someone.
I would also sometimes forget what I needed to talk about, and end up remembering later and would have to wait another week to talk about it again.
BetterHelp is there for you when you really need it.
If you're interested in learning more about BetterHelp, you can click here and get a free account.
10 Ways To Reduce Social Anxiety – Conclusion
It takes practice, but these clever ways to reduce social anxiety really can help you become more calm and confident in social situations. And the more you practice it, the less anxious you will become.
Do you have more questions about overcoming social anxiety? Leave them in the comments below!