Blogger | Teacher
Do you suffer from social anxiety that makes it difficult to be happy in most social situations? Have you canceled plans at least once this week because the idea of being around others makes you nervous or stressed? Do you tell yourself that you are unlikeable, that people don’t really want to be around you and only hang out with you because they have to?
Social anxiety can make everyday social interactions incredibly difficult, and the negative thinking and stress you experience can make it seem like every time you’re around others, you’re fighting a losing battle. I know how this feels, and have experienced intense social anxiety most of my life that made normal, everyday interactions seem like a difficult mountain I was trying to climb alone.
Over time, I’ve learned a few skills and strategies to help me manage my social anxiety. I hope these tips and ideas can help you find ways to make social interactions less of a struggle and more of a fun, worthwhile experience!
Rationalize Your Negative Thinking
The worst part about social anxiety is the negative thinking that seems to take over your thoughts. For me, negative thinking is a constant cycle of “they don’t really like me,” “they don’t really want to hang out with me,” or “I did something to make them angry with me.”
Regardless of whether I actually have a basis for these negative thoughts, most of the time they make it impossible for me to enjoy a social setting. So one way I try to manage my social anxiety is by rationalizing my negative thoughts.
For example, when my brain tries to tell me someone is mad at me, I ask myself for a reason why they would be mad at me. If I can’t find one, I put those negative thoughts away and consider them unproductive. It’s important when dealing with social anxiety to recognize when your negative thoughts are valid and when they are simply an irrational fear.
Find a “Safe Space”
In every social setting, there is a “safe space,” or a place you can go to be alone if your social anxiety is acting up. Whether that’s in the kitchen around the food, in an empty bedroom, or on a secluded bench when you’re out shopping with your friends, make sure that you find a “safe space” to rest and breathe if you need it.
And, if things begin to feel like too much social interaction in general, don’t be afraid to go home a little early! Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone doesn’t mean you should make yourself uncomfortable or anxious – the fact that you went out at all is a big step. So if you’re feeling a little worn down and you just need to go back to the safety of things you know, don’t feel ashamed to leave a little early. Your needs and comfort are incredibly important.
Be Open about What You’re Feeling
One amazing way of managing social anxiety is learning to be honest about your feelings. When you are uncomfortable or anxious, don’t be afraid to voice those concerns to the people around you. Being honest about your feelings can make you feel much more relieved and in control.
For example, I tend to feel intense social anxiety when plans change on me very quickly and I have to reestablish what’s happening. Recently, I explained this to a friend that had changed our plans multiple times, and she understood that in order for me not to feel uncomfortable, it was important that plans be more concise and clear.
It’s okay to set boundaries in your social interactions and be honest about your feelings. Your comfort and needs are just as important as anyone else’s.
Try to Encourage Yourself to Participate in Difficult Situations
Something I learned recently that really helped me manage my social anxiety was that I needed to put myself in situations that were difficult in order to show myself that I was able to handle anything.
For me, moving to Japan actually really helped my social anxiety. Because I have a hard time communicating with most people due to the language barrier, whenever I meet someone that I can talk to, I’m much more excited and open to talking with strangers. Essentially, the language separation gave me a bigger motivation to make friends and speak to people whenever I can.
Participating in difficult situations or in circumstances that seem especially hard can be a great way to prove to yourself that you’re able to handle any social interaction life throws at you.
Say “Yes” Even if You May Want to Say “No”
This tip is for people who constantly cancel plans with friends because of their social anxiety. Sometimes it can be incredibly appealing to say “no” to fun plans with friends in order to stay at home and enjoy your own company. However, you may be missing out on an incredibly fun, super rewarding experience.
I know how nice it can be to spend the weekend alone – and you definitely should take some “you” time when you need to. But don’t avoid all the possibly exciting situations that are offered to you!
Social anxiety can be a crippling problem that can keep you away from having a good time with the people that you care about. So every once in a while, when you feel the want to say “no,” then you should try saying “yes” and see what happens!
Know Your Limits
One important tip for managing social anxiety is to know your limits. While it’s necessary to push yourself and try new things, you also have to be able to recognize when you need a break.
If your social meter has been stretched too far and the idea of being around people seems too difficult, it’s alright to take a mental health day. Canceling plans isn’t something you should do all the time, but it’s okay to recognize your limits and do what’s best for you, regardless of other people’s wants for you.
Never be afraid to acknowledge your limits and set boundaries for your own health. Being around people and enjoying yourself is only fun if you have the energy to be there.
Choose People Who Make You Comfortable
Something I learned that really helps me manage my social anxiety was choosing to associate with people who made me feel comfortable. I have spent a lot of my life feeling like I didn’t get to have a choice on who I was around – that I was required to hang out with people just because they were in my general vicinity.
However, you can always choose to not associate with people who make you uncomfortable or make you feel like you have to put on an “act.” Choose friends that enjoy you the way you are without any expectations or requirements – if you do that, you’re much more likely to enjoy being in social situations that may have made you anxious before.
Tell Yourself You’re Worthy
At the end of the day, social anxiety can make you feel like you don’t want to be around others because you are somehow unworthy of them. You’re not interesting enough, not funny enough, or not cool enough for people to want to hang out with you, so you should obviously choose to stay alone, right?
If you take nothing else from this article, I hope you’ll at least recognize the fact that that’s not true at all. You are not “worthy” or “unworthy” of anyone – you are simply a complete and wonderful person and people choose to be around you because they enjoy your company, not because they need something from you.
And while I don’t believe that people are “worthy” of other people, I do believe that every person is worthy of love and kindness and consideration. Never let your social anxiety tell you any differently.
Do you have more tips for managing social anxiety? Tell us in the comments!
About Draven Jackson
Draven is an avid writer and reader who enjoys sharing her opinions on movies, books, and music with the rest of the world. She will soon be working as a teacher in Japan and hopes to use her experience to connect with other teachers and students around the globe. Draven spends most of her time at home with her family, her dogs, and her ferret.
To see more, view all posts by Draven Jackson here.