5 Tips for How to Deal with Social Anxiety

Raising awareness can help those suffering to seek treatment and improve the lives of millions.

Oct 18, 2018
Special Collections: MINDFUL LIVING

Meeting new people, showing up at work, going on a first date, or even using a public restroom are some of the small pleasures of life that most of us take for granted. For people social anxiety, however, the same experiences produce a feeling of dread and even humiliation.

Although social anxiety is a highly treatable disorder, a large portion of those who suffer from it does not seek help. The following approaches can help those dealing with social anxiety improve their quality of life and get on the path toward recovery.

1. Talk to a Therapist

According to a 2007 survey conducted by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), an astonishing 36% of people with social anxiety disorder report experiencing symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help. This can lead to severe emotional distress and interfere with the ability to participate in and enjoy life.

Although disabling, social anxiety is a highly common and treatable disorder. Working with a cognitive behavior therapist or joining a social anxiety support group in your area can help to conquer social fears and reverse the effects of negative thinking.

2. Practice Meditation

Philippe Goldin, psychology researcher a research scientist and head of the Clinically Applied Affective Neuroscience Group in the Department of Psychology at Stanford University, headed a two-month training course teaching Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. In after just nine meditation sessions, participants with social phobia expressed feeling less anxious and depressed with improved self-esteem.

Meditation has many benefits on mental health including reducing stress and anxiety, improving emotional health, increasing attention span, and boosting positive feelings toward yourself and others. In fact, many therapists incorporate meditation and mindfulness into their treatment for anxiety and other mental health issues.

You can find many guided meditations with apps like Insight Timer. Many yoga studios or centers also offer meditation classes or courses. Wellness retreats nearby or in far-off destinations provide more immersive opportunities to practice meditation and promote health.

3. Talk to Friends and Family

Suppressing social phobia can actually increase anxiety. That’s why confiding in people you can trust, like friends and family, can help alleviate all that stress and emotion.

Friendships and close connections with others form a crucial element in protecting mental health. Talking out loud about thoughts with those closest to us helps us feel loved and supported while keeping things in perspective. Although friends and family can’t replace a professional, they can at least give the opportunity to listen and provide support in overcoming social fears.

4. Limit Exposure to Devices & Social Networks

The internet gives those with social anxiety disorder more of an opportunity to hide away from society which can lead to further isolation. On social media, people may seek approval and feel disappointed when they don’t receive enough “likes”. Meanwhile, users may compare their popularity to others and feel inadequate. Interacting online can take people away from in-person connection and further exacerbate the level of discomfort when actually interacting face-to-face.

Limiting exposure to social media and disconnecting with technology can alleviate symptoms of social anxiety. Below, you can find some tips for dialing back on social network and technology use:

•Turn off push and sound notifications
•Disable social media accounts, even if just temporarily. When you feel comfortable, slowly wean yourself back onto accounts and limit use.
•Put your phone out of reach while sleeping or when charging
•Use apps to monitor and limit phone use
•Don’t use your phone as an alarm clock

5. Put Less Pressure on Yourself to Be Perfect

Psychologists have linked perfectionism to social anxiety disorder as well as a whole host of clinical issues like depression and anxiety, agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, insomnia, hoarding, and even early mortality, and suicide.

Perfectionism is a way of thinking. Learning to reverse negative self-talk and switching to positive affirmations can remedy this thought pattern. Making health a priority can also change the focus to care for ourselves and avoid unhealthy environments, whether in work, at home, or anywhere else. Allow imperfection to happen and to accept your surroundings and yourself for what they are.

ALLISON MICHELLE DIENSTMAN, CONTRIBUTOR
Working from her laptop as a freelance writer, Allison lives as a digital nomad, exploring the world while sharing positivity and laughter. She is a lover of language, travel, music, and creativity with a degree in Chinese language and literature.

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