One of the consequences of social anxiety is isolation. Fearing the judgment or rejection of others in a social context, millions of people with social anxiety tend to deal with the issue by avoiding social events. And while this might make coping with the issue easier at times, it can have sad repercussions on a person’s life satisfaction. With this in mind, here are four tips for beating social anxiety.
First tip: avoid negative coping strategies. When finding themselves in an unavoidable social situation — such as an office event — many people try to blunt the symptoms of their social anxiety through negative coping strategies, particularly drinking alcohol. And while the first glass or two of wine may indeed seem like the best antidote against compulsive worry, drinking too much will likely end up making anxiety worse.
Second tip: face your fears, don’t hide from them. Another go-to for people who experience social anxiety is to avoid engaging in social situations by checking social media or doing other activities on their smartphones. A study from 2016 looked at data on 367 young adult participants who were smartphone users. It found “significant positive correlations” between excessive smartphone use and the presence of social anxiety. Although it may seem counterintuitive and even scary at first, it is far better to face social anxiety face-on, through gradual exposure to increasingly complex social situations.
Third tip: reframe your understanding of the stress you are experiencing. One study in 2013 found that understanding how your body responds to certain stressors, such as public speaking, can help lessen stress in uncomfortable social situations. Your body is bound to react when facing a social situation: understanding that these are natural, yet false alarms that we all feel can help you feel more at ease when you need to do something that usually brings about anxiety.
Fourth tip: distract yourself from your social worries and negative thoughts by doing something nice for someone else. According to a study published in the journal Motivation and Emotion in 2015, selfless acts could help people who have social anxiety to feel more at ease in social situations, turning the negative narrative into your head into a positive one.