Also called social phobia, social anxiety disorder is intense anxiety, fear, self-consciousness, and embarrassment toward everyday interactions for fear of being judged or scrutinized by others.
It is common to feel nervous in social situations like job interviews, meeting new people, or giving presentations. However, avoiding social situations altogether out of fear and experiencing intense physical symptoms are signs of social anxiety disorder.
The first step is to seek help. If you think you may have social anxiety disorder talk with a therapist or primary care doctor about what you can do. There are ways to help make daily social situations more manageable. Here are a few tips we gathered to help work through social anxiety.
Evaluate your current routines, is there something in your day-to-day that could potentially be triggering anxiety? Reflecting on the current situation or environment at hand is the first step in learning how to manage something. Setting up healthy routines and habits like getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, eating healthy, limiting caffeine, and avoiding alcohol can have positive impacts on mental health. Establishing daily routines can help manage potential stressors by knowing what to expect and eliminating the unknown. New routines and habits take time, remember to be patient with yourself.
Identify situations that cause anxiety and develop a plan for how to work through them. Begin with the simple ones first and work your way up to the bigger ones that may take time. It’s important to take it slow and to let yourself feel success. When we feel we have accomplished something we are more likely to do it and try something else. Start with daily or weekly goals in typical situations like eating with a close relative or calling a friend to make plans. By practicing these activities, you’ll gradually get better at managing anxiety-inducing social situations.
Develop a plan to prepare yourself for upcoming social engagements that could be anxiety-inducing. If you have a therapist, this could be a great activity to do in your next session! If not, working with someone who you can trust is the next best thing. Think of situations where your anxiety could start to rise during the event and plan accordingly. It can be helpful to use past experiences as an example.
Identify people and places that will help you feel the most comfortable during the event before you feel your anxiety coming on. If you are in a familiar environment, plan safe spaces you can retreat to if you start to feel overwhelmed. If you are in a new environment, use people you are most comfortable around to act as a safe space. Huffington Post.
Before going to a social event, plan for the worst. Plan an escape route before you arrive so you have the comfort of knowing you can leave at any time. For example instead of carpooling to a party, drive on your own!
If you have found yourself in a situation where you can’t get to the spaces or people that make you feel safe, try reciting a mantra. This can be one word such as “calm” or a phrase such as, “It will pass”. Recite this a few times to help calm yourself and give yourself a feeling of control. Practice this skill at home by saying your mantra when you feel calm.
Practicing coping skills like routinely socializing with friends, family, or a counselor can help ease your anxiety. Confide in those closest to you about what you’re experiencing. Chances are you are not alone! 15 Million American adults experience Social Anxiety Disorder. Joining a support group and participating in hobbies with like-minded peers is a great way to connect and learn.
Mastering how to manage social anxiety disorder does not happen overnight and can be a bit scary at first. It is important to reminder yourself that you CAN learn to manage your anxiety. You have done hard things before and you can do this too.
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