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7 Things To Start Doing If You Have Social Anxiety


Social anxiety is more than your occasional shyness or nervousness. It’s an intense fear of certain social situations-especially ones that you’re not familiar with or ones where other people evaluate you.


If you feel like your social anxiety has taken over your life, the good news is that there are plenty of things you can start doing on your own to cope and ultimately overcome social anxiety. Here are a few:

1. Explore specific situations that trigger anxiety.

Social anxiety doesn’t show up the same way in everyone. You may feel anxious about another judging you, ordering food at a restaurant, and sharing your opinion in a work meeting.

On the other hand, you could feel totally fine being around other people as long as they don’t expect you to contribute or share your thoughts.

Pinpointing when and why you feel the most anxiety can help you take the first step towards finding a solution.

Tip: Start by thinking about which situations cause the most amount of discomfort, the ones you feel unable to face. A few examples could be:

      • Job interviews
      • Meeting with your supervisor or manager
      • Talking to someone you’re attracted to

2. Keep a daily journal.

Start keeping track of your thoughts and experiences on a day-to-day basis. Pay attention to any recurring negative thoughts that pop up and how you feel on a day-to-day basis. Although these small changes seem insignificant now, over time, you’ll be able to catch yourself falling into old negative thinking patterns and habits, as well as how much you’ve improved.

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3. Take small steps.

There’s nothing wrong with starting small. You don’t have to lead a whole meeting or strike up a conversation with every person you meet.

A few ideas to try:

  • At the store, skip the self-checkout line and challenge yourself to make small talk with the cashier instead.
  • Share your ideas in a work meeting.
  • Compliment a co-worker’s outfit.
  • Have a social gathering at your place-socializing in your own space can help you be more comfortable.

So instead of thinking, “I feel so anxious about tonight,” try telling yourself, “I’m eager to see what people are actually like when we’re not at work!” instead.

4. Watch out for subtler types of avoidance.

Okay, so you probably know that avoiding uncomfortable social situations entirely isn’t going to do any good. But you’ll also want to refrain from tactics and habits that keep your participation superficial. For example:

  • Keeping busy in the kitchen during parties (preparing food, washing dishes, etc.)
  • When you get into a conversation, you turn the conversation around onto the other person and refrain from talking about yourself.
  • In groups, you stick to yourself and look at your phone, so nobody talks to you.

Although you may feel safer in a crowd when you show up without engaging, it ultimately doesn’t do you any good when it comes to overcoming social anxiety. People may accept you, but they also can’t get to know the real you unless you make an effort to interact with them.

Releasing these not so helpful coping mechanisms can feel challenging at first, but when you reap the reward, you’ll know your efforts were well worth it.

5. Limit your alcohol intake.

One or two drinks can seem like a perfect way to ease social anxiety and make you feel more comfortable in social settings. While it certainly makes you feel more relaxed, it can also intensify your anxiety and ultimately leave you feeling worse than before.

If you regularly use alcohol to manage your anxiety, it’s possible to reach a point where it feels impossible to socialize without it. Consider trying out a mindful drinking approach, where you pay attention to when you drink, how much you drink, or how it makes you feel. 

6. Practice acts of kindness.

A 2015 study showed that students living with social anxiety and who performed small acts of kindness for a month helped reduce their urge to avoid social situations.

The connection between kindness and social anxiety may not be easily recognizable, but it makes sense if you think about it.

Generally, Social anxiety involves some fear of rejection or disapproval. But suppose you’ve just done something kind or considerate, like bringing a sick co-worker’s favorite soup or offering to pick up your neighbor’s groceries at the store. In that case, the person you help is far more likely to think and feel positively towards you than negatively.

Earning this approval regularly can help reduce your fears in social situations to find interacting with others becomes more accessible and easier over time.

7. Ask for help.

Despite what some people might believe, social anxiety goes beyond being shy or feeling nervous around new people. It’s a mental health condition, and it’s not always easy to work through your symptoms on your own. Getting professional help will always be an excellent place to start.

A trained mental health professional can:

  • Offer some insight on the difference between social anxiety and shyness
  • Help you identify your triggers for social anxiety 
  • Teach you healthy coping strategies, social skills, or relaxation strategies
  • Offer guidance with challenging or reframing negative thoughts


The bottom line

It’s okay to want to be single or have a few friends. But when social anxiety holds you back from trying to build relationships, even the smallest of changes can make the most significant differences.

And remember, it’s okay that some people may not like you.  It happens. But the more you put yourself out there, the more likely you are to meet people who do like you and welcome you with open arms.

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Take this quick quiz to find out whether your overthinking habit is holding you back from getting the success (you know) you deserve.