The thought of happening upon an unexpected social situation make seem like fun to some. But to others, this can be an unwelcome and overwhelming feeling that triggers their social anxiety.
There’s nothing wrong with shying away from these kinds of engagements. However, for many with social anxiety, having to engage with others in this manner can be incredibly upsetting. Thankfully, there are several effective ways to combat this anxiety.
Social Anxiety Tips from a Psychotherapist
The best anxiety tips show others how they can overcome their fear of certain social interactions and be their best selves whether they’re alone or in a room full of strangers. Read on for the following 10 social anxiety tips.
1. Prepare a Social Strategy
Going into any social situation unprepared can be stressful for anyone. While you’ll want to avoid being in your head too much, some level of preparation is helpful.
Many psychotherapists recommend that having a strategy in mind is a key tool to combat anxiety. It’s possible that everything likely won’t go exactly according to plan. However, having a loose strategy in place will help you to feel more confident and in control of the situation.
Part of this plan should include finding a calming area as a go-to within a space to turn to if the environment feels too hectic. This area can be the patio or any other area inside a space that gives you a bit more breathing room.
2. Create a Calming Mantra
Calming mantras are another effective tool to use to avoid anxiety in certain social situations.
When you feel the anxiety start to overtake you, start repeating your calming word or phrase that will serve as your friendly reminder that your anxiety is something you have control over.
This phrase should serve as instilling positive self-talk and to help realign your thoughts and calm your mind. Choose from words like “you’re cool” to reminders like “no big deal.” Remember that these mantras are there to help you find your happy place if you feel this anxiety start to creep up on you again.
The more you repeat these mantras, the more habitual this type of thinking will become. Over time, you’ll automatically begin to think this way, which will transform the way you approach these social situations.
3. Map out an Escape Route
When social anxiety overtakes you, the room starts to feel smaller and everything feels incredibly constricting. To combat this type of feeling, experts suggest that one of the best social anxiety tips is mapping out an escape route the moment you enter a new space.
While this type of tip may seem particularly dramatic, it is an important way to make you feel more at peace when out at an event.
Though an escape room can refer to the door you’ll exit through if things are too overwhelming at an event, it can also be a plan for your transportation when leaving an event. For example, if you catch a ride to an event, consider all alternate methods of transportation if you want to leave before the driver is ready.
By making plans that allow you to leave when you want to and choose how you’ll get back home, you’ll feel more in control of every situation and have a way out when it’s time to go.
4. Burn Off Adrenaline Beforehand
Since burning off adrenaline by working out helps to relieve stress, experts recommend that working out before a big social situation is a great way to help you stay calm and collected.
Whether you hit the gym, go for a run, or lift some weights, getting your anxiety out through physical exertion will help prepare your mind and body to remain calm at any upcoming event.
While you don’t have to tire yourself out completely, make sure to get most of your jitters out before it’s time to go to your event.
5. Listen More
Not sure what to say when meeting new people? Try listening instead.
Licensed psychotherapists recommend that listening more is one of the best social anxiety tips. Instead of tiring to piece together interesting topics to talk about, making a point to ask questions and listen more will help to take away the stress of feeling like you have to make the conversation work.
To become the best listener possible, come prepared with a few questions to help get things flowing. As you get ready to launch into your conversations, remember that it’s important to pay attention to what the other person is saying. As it is easy to often zone out, part of listening effectively requires you to focus 100% on the person speaking.
Not sure what people to approach for conversation? Consider finding a natural “entertainer”. This person generally enjoys sharing stories with anyone willing to listen. All you need to do is make listening noises, laugh, and keep the conversation going by asking more questions.
6. Prepare Conversation Starters
As you consider what questions to ask at certain social gatherings, start preparing other conversation starters as well. While you needn’t arrive with a set of cue cards, thinking of interesting stories that you can use as starting points when talking with strangers.
These conversation starters can be certain things that reveal more about you as a person and your interests or something that will encourage other people to talk more about themselves.
One guaranteed conversation starter is a compliment. By telling someone you’re a fan of their outfit, hairstyle, or something similar, you’ll immediately endear yourself to them and open the door for further conversation.
7. Breathe Through Anxiety
If you feel anxiety at the moment, it can be very easy to let these feelings take over. However, one of the most important social anxiety tips is to focus on breathing calmly through this anxiety to help center yourself and avoid a disastrous situation.
Experts suggest that breathing slowly and meditatively will help one feel a sense of peace and tranquility.
Condition yourself to automatically focus on your breathing at the hint of any anxiety. Oftentimes, when we’re stressed, we don’t realize that our breathing can become shallow, which forces our bodies into feeling tense, further adding to the stress you feel.
By focusing your efforts on breathing slowly and intentionally, you’ll be able to ground yourself and eliminate unnecessary anxiety.
8. Proceed with Caution
Many people feel that the only way to address social anxiety is to go all in. However, this can be incredibly triggering for someone with anxiety.
Instead of jumping into unfamiliar social situations, experts recommend that individuals take baby steps.
It’s important to proceed with caution and set small incremental goals to overcome this anxiety. Start with initial exposure and put yourself out there slowly. Whether it’s showing up to a friend’s birthday party or going to a local bar for a game night, making a small effort now to work through your anxiety will pay off later on when you’re able to experience bigger leaps with your socialization efforts.
9. Take in the Surroundings
Shifting your focus when in potentially stressful social situations is easier said than done. However, you can do just that by taking a second to analyze your surroundings after arriving at an event.
By looking around where you are and taking in the atmosphere, you’ll be able to settle any uneasy feels you sense creeping up.
Psychotherapists encourage their clients to engage their five senses if they start experiencing any anxiety in social situations. By focusing on what they taste, feel, see, hear, and smell at the moment, they’ll be able to better process what’s going on, which can have a calming effect overall. Do this by looking around and focusing on experiencing these senses. Through this process, you’ll stop focusing on what to do, think, or say and begin enjoying the moment in a new and rewarding way.
10. Challenge Distorted Thinking
We all have certain thoughts that run through our heads when in different social scenarios. However, it is our job to realize that many of these negative thoughts aren’t accurate.
Many people that deal with anxiety in social situations often worry that everyone is judging them or that they sound boring or stupid. In reality, all of these thoughts are all in our heads.
The best way to overcome these types of thoughts is to challenge them. If you start to feel yourself thinking in this manner, stop yourself and respond with a question.
For example, if you begin to think “I’m so boring”, respond with the questions “Is this true? How likely is this? What would happen if it was true? What is more likely to be true?”. The answers to these types of questions will help combat the root of your anxiety. And, they will help you to feel more confident and present in any situation you are in.
Additionally, remember that you’re likely the only one thinking this. Most people in social situations will never aim these sorts of criticisms towards you. Take heart in this fact and work on transforming your negative self talk to one of positivity and reassurance.
Final Thoughts on Social Anxiety Tips
Though social anxiety won’t disappear overnight, working at it bit by bit will help improve your ability to respond positively to these situations.
While there’s no right or wrong way to feel in social situations, you deserve to feel comfortable. If you find yourself struggling with social interactions, keep these 10 tips in mind. Then start shifting to approaching these situations with a sense of peace.