You’re in the grocery store doing your weekly shopping. Suddenly, you feel hot, sweaty, and an overwhelming sensation makes you feel impending doom. Your senses go into overdrive as you listen to the cartwheels screech and the chatter of those around you.
The lights seem blinding, and the noise unbearable. You’re not dying, but the social anxiety symptoms you experience make shopping extremely uncomfortable. Some find it hard to breathe and struggle to catch their breath, while others become dizzy and have chest pains.
Social anxiety disorder is quite common, and according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it affects around 15 million people in this country. Roughly seven percent of the population deals with these uncomfortable sensations daily. The good news is that this condition is treatable.
The problem is that when it’s left untreated for long periods, it can morph into agoraphobia, which is the fear of being in social settings. People with agoraphobia tend to find a safe place, like their home, and they don’t want to leave. They become reclusive and avoid social gatherings for fear of another attack.
Agoraphobia is a severe mental health condition that makes life unbearable. You’re not living when you’re so afraid that you won’t go outside your home or to a family gathering. Thankfully, there are ways to combat these feelings to retrain the brain not to fear social interaction.
Twenty Useful Ways to Combat Social Anxiety
However, you have the power to stop these sensations by merely standing up and fighting against this mental illness. The more you push yourself to get out and socialize, the easier it becomes. Here are the top ways to combat the uncomfortable effects of social anxiety.
1. Journal Your Thoughts and Feelings
Social anxiety symptoms will cripple you if you allow them. Thankfully, you can combat the negative-thinking patterns by journaling. Journaling gives you a space to get out all the negativity as well as chart your progress. It serves as a place where you can let everything out and let it go.
2. Try an Herbal Supplement
Many herbal supplements serve as excellent aids to anxiety. Things like lavender, kava, lemongrass, chamomile, and valerian can help balance your brain chemicals, easing the symptoms you feel.
One of the issues that people with social anxiety have is that they spend so much time worrying they don’t laugh or even smile much. Laughter is very healing for you, and when you are belly laughing, you’re releasing those feel-good hormones into your system. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter can be as effective as some other treatment methods that come with unwanted side effects.
4. Avoid Sugar
Few people know that sugar and anxiety are connected. When your blood glucose levels rise, it automatically causes an increase in pressure. If you experience panic attacks after consuming a lot of sweets, it’s because sugar messes with the body’s natural physiology.
5. Set Goals
Make small obtainable goals for yourself that increase with time. For instance, today, you will sit in the car for 15 minutes. Tomorrow, you may drive down the street for two blocks. Don’t expect your social anxiety symptoms to go away overnight, but you can start using exposure therapy to inch your way back to a normal life.
6. Take a Vacation
Sometimes social anxiety shows up during times of intense stress. It may be that you need a change of scenery. Why not take a vacation and regroup? Your brain may be overloaded and requires some downtime.
7. Spend Time in Nature
Is there anything more perfect than spending time in the great outdoors? There’s something wonderfully healing about sunshine and a gentle breeze. If you’re cooped up inside too much, one of the ways to start the healing process is to get outside and soak up some Vitamin D.
8. Ditch the Caffeinated Drinks
Caffeine is a stimulant drug that can increase your heart rate as well as you’re breathing. Alone this drug can make you anxious, but it can be a nightmare when you add an anxiety disorder to the mix. Avoid caffeinated drinks and see if your anxiety improves.
9. Start Saying Yes
Your friends and family members might not ask you to do things anymore because the answer is always no. Start saying yes to invitations, and don’t back out at the last minute either.
10. Join a Support Group
Remember, you’re not alone in this fight. Nearly seven percent of the population is suffering from anxiety. Find an online support group to share your stories and get tips on how to overcome them.
Once you make a few steps towards reacclimating with society, congratulate yourself. The brain’s reward centers respond positively to praise, so go ahead and pat yourself on the back.
12. Replace Negativity with Positivity
Part of social anxiety symptoms that is hard to overcome is all the toxic negativities. You think things like:
- I’m going to pass out.
- I feel like I can’t breathe.
- People are looking at me funny.
- The atmosphere seems weird.
Every time a negative thought enters your mind, stop it cold in its tracks. Replace them with a positive one. For instance, when your brain tells you that you’re going to pass out, you remind yourself that you haven’t passed out this far with this disorder, so it’s doubtful you will now.
13. Talk It Out in Counseling
Counseling is an excellent tool to get all that negativity to the outside. It would help if you got to the crux of what’s causing the heightened anxiety so that you can combat it.
14. Realize You’re Not Perfect
Did you know that perfectionism and social anxiety often coexist? You must realize that you or anyone else on this planet is not perfect. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself to be something impossible.
15. Use Positive Affirmations
Start each morning by combating your social anxiety symptoms before they begin. Say things like:
• I will not fear going to the store today.
•I will accomplish all my errands without anxiety.
•Anxiety will no longer dictate my day.
•I won’t let any anxious feelings stop me from doing what I love.
When you start feeding your mind and soul with positive affirmations, it will change your life.
16. Retail Therapy
While you don’t want to trade one issue for another, retail therapy can help. You can push yourself by telling yourself that you will buy yourself a new outfit if you make it today to get out of the house. While you can’t do this every day, little rewards give you an incentive and a reason to keep going.
17. Visualize What You Want
Have you tried the new virtual reality games? Experts have begun using these in therapy as it helps with exposure. You don’t need to invest in an expensive game system to visualize an alternative reality. Imagine yourself walking through the store, aisle by aisle, without issue.
Since most of the battle takes place in your mind, then that’s where you should start to combat these opposing forces. If you visualize yourself free of social anxiety symptoms, then it won’t be long till it happens.
18. Practice Being Present in The Moment
If you’re at a social gathering, and you feel those anxiety symptoms creep in, then it’s an excellent time to practice grounding. Find things in the space you notice, such as the flowing, paint color, art on the walls, and other details. By shifting your focus to something that ground you in this space, then you will release some of the social anxiety symptoms you feel.
19. Cherish Alone Time
Did you know that many people with social anxiety are natural introverts? Introverts need time to recharge their emotional batteries, and they can do this by only spending time alone. It’s okay to be alone sometimes; make sure there’s time for socializing too.
20. Use Self-Talk
Self-talk is one of the most excellent tools you have against anxiety. If you get overwhelmed at a traffic light, you can talk yourself down from this heightened state. Telling yourself that you’ve been to tens of thousands of traffic lights in your life and they never harmed you will help to dispel the fears that anxiety fills in your mind.
It’s challenging to combat social anxiety symptoms. Some folks may struggle with SAD for a short period, while others may have a lifelong battle. Just give yourself time and the proper tools to handle this disorder, and soon you will be taking charge of your life.
Anxiety doesn’t have to win. You may be down, but you certainly don’t have to be out. Your home may seem like a haven, but there’s a beautiful and exciting world out there just waiting for you to explore, but first, you must learn to control your anxiety.