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3 Tips to Manage Your Social Anxiety Instead of Letting It Manage You

More people have social anxiety than you may realize. Many people you encounter throughout the day have it. They have just figured out how to manage it effectively. They work with it and work around it. There are strategies that you can use to live your life in spite of social anxiety, instead of letting social anxiety dictate what you do.   

You can have social anxiety without having a full-fledged diagnosis of it. Since it exists on a continuum, many can understand the concept, but everyone might experience it differently. If you think about it on a scale of 1 to 100, where 100 is the most intense anxiety, some might never describe it as going over 60, while others might feel like they are hovering at a rating of 100 almost all of the time.

Out of respect for those who are in the top highest percentage of those experiencing social anxiety, I imagine the following tips might seem like ideas that would not be manageable until a lot of other groundwork is covered to address the very foundation of your social anxiety symptoms. These tips might help further down the road. The tips I will describe are more for those with that general non-diagnostic sense of social anxiety, where a person experiences fear, dread, or embarrassment when encountering certain social situations. They also experience some of the physical symptoms, like racing heart or nausea. It can be a little different for each person. Whether your experience of it is chronic or limited to only occurring in certain situations, the symptoms can still be painful.

 Some people think of social anxiety from an all-or-nothing perspective and assume they need to fully extinguish it or else it will overpower them. You could google celebrities and social anxiety to see the names that pop up about people who have it and function well. The goal is to not decide that you will hold off on embracing your life until it is gone. Instead, a goal can be to start living your life on your own terms, regardless of the social anxiety.

The following are some tips to help you manage your social anxiety.

Tip 1: Think of dealing with it the way you would deal with a small brush-fire:

If there is a small brush-fire, we put it out by using water or a fire extinguisher. If the fire is ignored, it grows. Social anxiety is the same way. People don’t get over anxiety by avoiding what makes them anxious. They conquer it by deciding to do it anxious.

Even though approaching what makes you anxious helps to reduce social anxiety, you don’t need to torture yourself. You can extinguish some of the social anxiety gradually. There is often not a need to even get rid of it completely. There is benefit to accepting that some social anxiety may remain.

Some people have gotten so used to having social anxiety their whole lives that it seems terrifying to get rid of it. A little bit of anxiety can be like the energizer that charges our batteries enough for us to do well. It is just that too much anxiety can cause us to get overwhelmed and freeze. So, that is why we are just focusing on managing it and not eliminating it completely.

Tip 2: Learn from the expert:

The expert on your social anxiety is you. Notice when you have it the most and when you have it the least. That will help you to determine what are your biggest triggers and what helps you the most to prevail over your social anxiety. This is different for everyone. You may notice that some people are really anxious about situations that do not bother you. Then others who claim to have social anxiety appear perfectly comfortable in situations that you would find terrifying. We are all unique, with different histories and experiences, so, naturally, social anxiety will be experienced differently for each person.

Tip 3: Strategize a work-around for your social anxiety:

Once you determine some of the factors that seem to reduce your social anxiety, make those factors work for you. Be intentional about spending more time with people and in situations that don’t trigger your anxiety. You can then build on that. Break down all of the factors and learn from them.

Start asking yourself questions about your social anxiety in order to figure out what drives it for you specifically. Does getting places early help you to reduce the social anxiety? If so, then get places early. For some it feels better to be one of the first in the room instead of walking into a crowd at the last minute. Does bringing a friend help? If so, then bring a friend. Even if you don’t know the friend well, you might get to know them better just through them attending an event with you. Are there certain settings that feel safer? For example, if you are anxious at work, but not in the office lunch room, then make that your place to get to know people. Eat there often. Are you more comfortable at a party when you have something to do? If that sounds like you, then volunteer to help at the party. It will give you something specific to talk about with people as you help out. This can be your ice breaker that leads to other conversations.

The key with using a work-around strategy is that it still helps you to get more comfortable in different situations. If you maintain a growth mindset, you can still challenge yourself to get to know more people in every situation. Each time you stretch yourself and get slightly outside of your comfort zone, you are training your body to not activate the physical symptoms of social anxiety so much in that social setting. You’re just doing it on your terms.

The take-away:

Your social anxiety does not have to end in order for your life to begin. Any step that you take to reduce your social anxiety by even one degree would mean one less degree of distress that you experience. This takes you one step closer to living your life on your own terms and doing what makes you happy.