Coping With Social Anxiety - 10 Practical Tips
Updated: Jan 18, 2021
Social anxiety can be difficult to deal with at the best of times.
However, with the regulations of lockdown slowly easing up and people being encouraged to go back outside and socialise, this may have a huge impact on some peoples mental health as we try to adjust to the changes.
I have experienced symptoms of social anxiety on and off for many years but only really identified them as being social anxiety after I was diagnosed with an Underactive Thyroid (Hypothyroidism) in 2010 and researched its long list of symptoms of which anxiety happened to be one of them.
Although I’ve managed to regulate my thyroid condition (watch out for that blog soon to come!), I’ve had to still try my hardest to manage intermittent symptoms of anxiety where I am often unnecessarily worried before, during and after some social situations.
The 10 pointers below are just some things that have helped me manage my symptoms over time and may just work for you too!
1. Know Your Triggers
There may be some things that trigger you to feel more anxious than others. It is important to try and identify these things when you do feel uncomfortable in order to try your best to avoid or navigate the situation and give yourself more control in the future. Here are a few examples of what to keep an eye out for:
The people you hang or communicate with both socially and in a work or school setting.
Location - Bar vs Club, House visit vs pub, a brisk walk on your break or gossip in staff room!
Stress or workload - Heightened stress can cause anxiety, try to manage stress loads to avoid this being a trigger;
Planning ahead is one way to do this. Plan around stressful times (Menstruation cycles) or events (Birthdays) and structure your day accordingly.
Substances such as alcohol, smoking & caffeine. Although sometimes used to loosen us up, the use of certain substances can sometimes act as triggers either during their use or after.
Social Media – WhatsApp groups or social app feeds with people bombarding you with negative videos or constant images of people’s seemingly “picture perfect” lives when you are not in a good place can lower your mood. Try to manage who you follow and like as well as what groups you are in.
2. Give Yourself Time And Find Your Comforts.
As well as knowing your triggers it is essential to know where and when you feel the most comfortable as well. Indulge in your comforts as often as you can so you can feel at peace and settled within yourself. This can help better prepare yourself for the uncomfortable encounters or at least give you something to look forward to after. This could be anything from:
Meditation & Positive self-talk
Talking to or being with people that make you feel safe
Listening to music you like
A favourite location. Mine is currently the park as I feel calmer connecting with nature.
3. Have An Exit Strategy
Sometimes it can be daunting thinking how to get out of an uncomfortable social situation without looking bad or rude. Trying to be as prepared as possible in the event that you may need to leave will help you to feel more in control.
Make sure you are driving your own car , have money to get a cab or a clear plan to get home.
Make your early exit known to others prior to the event so that if you do leave early there isn’t a big deal made out of it.
Confide in a friend or colleague so that they can say the goodbyes for you if you have to make a quick exit.
Don’t leave your important belongings (I.D , Bank card, house keys) in someone else’s possession. The last thing you want to be doing is be searching for someone before you can leave.
4. Crystals and Aromatherapy
I guess this may depend on your beliefs and level of spirituality. Some people use crystals in jewellery along with natural essential oils such as Lavender, bergamot orange or chamomile to relax themselves.
There are bracelets you can use specifically for anxiety that calm you. I have one myself and I’m not sure if it is a placebo effect or not but it seems to be working for me so far! If you do not want to wear jewellery there are also some great oil diffuser humidifiers you can buy that release the aromas into the room intermittently .
5. Do Not Explain Yourself.
Do not feel the need to give an explanation for everything.
I always used to feel that I had to give a detailed explanation as to why I couldn’t make it somewhere. I then slowly realised that despite all the things I’d travelled to, come rain or shine, regardless of how I felt or how out of my way it was, I’d always feel bad if I couldn’t make it somewhere and felt I had to explain myself in detail. Whereas cancellations or declines from other people for things I had arranged were plentiful and extremely vague!
I realised over time that a simple “sorry I won’t be able to make it this time” or “I have some prior commitments” or “I’m going to get some rest” were really the only information I needed to give. Even if your prior commitments are snuggling up at home binge watching box sets tending to your mental health that is still valid!
6. Energy Doesn’t Lie.
If you are in a situation where the vibe is not right or the tone changes making you feel uncomfortable. Don’t feel like you have to stay or return to the situation in future. If once you leave particular peoples company you are questioning your worth or left severely distressed, whether it is family ,friends or acquaintances you really need to reconsider your circle or at least think to yourself why their presence makes you feel that way.
7. Embrace Your Fears
Sometimes doing something new can leave you feeling worried about the “what ifs” and the mind can go into overdrive overthinking everything. As well as being aware of your triggers as mentioned before, it is also important to realise the difference between what is causing or enhancing your anxiety (a trigger) and what is just a natural feeling of anticipation, nerves and fear of the unknown. This can be quite difficult to decipher, but in the case of the latter we often feel we need to wait until we no longer feel that way to pursue a goal. I would often hold back from opportunities for this reason, until I heard someone say that the fear they felt when doing new things didn’t ever go away, they just pushed themselves to do it whilst still feeling the fear.
Not everything will be perfect first time round
They recognised that feeling fear and worry about something new was natural. Waiting until you are no longer scared to do something can sometimes really stunt your personal growth. Not everything will be perfect first time round and to at least attempt something new is showing that you took the first step and will hopefully make the next time that little bit easier.
8. Look After Your Health
Exercise and diet have a proven effect on mental health as well as physical health. Exercise encourages your brain to release serotonin, which can improve your mood naturally. The NHS recommends you should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week.
It is also a good idea to check your diet.
Not only are there foods, vitamins or minerals that can improve your mood and may be missing from your diet, but there may be things you eat or drink currently that are actively bringing your mood down. Perhaps a dairy or glucose intolerance or too much red meat or processed foods. These are all things to look into. I know it is easier said than done when you already feel demotivated but any small step can make a difference.
9. Talk To Someone
Sometimes just saying things out loud can make sense of all the thoughts going round inside your head. If you have someone you can trust that will not be judgmental then talk to them about how you are feeling. Be clear on whether you want advice or just a sympathetic ear to listen. For people that are religious, prayer or speaking to other people in your congregation are also an option. If you feel like you do not have anyone to speak to there are alternatives such as anxiety help lines or apps.
Journaling is also something you can do if you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger. Noting down your feelings, triggers, moods and goals in a journal or note book can often be just as effective as speaking to someone.
If you feel that your symptoms are becoming a hindrance to everyday tasks and are causing you overwhelming distress mentally or even physically then book an appointment with your local GP. They will ask you in more depth about your symptoms to find out if you have a diagnosed disorder that can be treated or if there is something else physically causing or enhancing your symptoms. This could be treated through things such as medication ,treatments, support groups or counselling.
I hope this has been helpful for anyone experiencing anxiety or people that know someone that suffers from it. These are just some things that help me personally so please comment below and let me know what other things have been helpful to you in trying to cope with or manage your anxiety.
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Also check out the links below for more information and support on anxiety.
Check out your symptoms on the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/generalised-anxiety-disorder/symptoms/