Updated: Jun 22
Social anxiety is affecting more and more of us. The thing is, people are involved in our daily lives, whether in a work environment or a leisure one. It’s getting easier now to avoid people and social situations. We can now order food online, do long distance courses and there are a number of jobs that can be done from home. Although this may seem appealing, it’s not a healthy way to live and it can stop us living life to its full potential. Suffering with anxiety myself for over seven years, I’ve found a few tips that help me deal with it when I’m in social situations.
1. Having a drink with you
Having a water bottle with me was really helpful when I was at university. Sipping water kept me busy and would help to control my breathing. One of the pieces of advice I got very early on, on my anxiety journey, was to sip water. As it’s impossible for you to breathe and drink at the same time, you can alter your breathing and prevent hyperventilating by drinking water.
It also helped by giving me something to hold and focus on. I found it easier to deal with anxiety when I would be gripping something. I would also trace the patterns on the label or on the bottle. That would help take my mind away from feeling trapped in a classroom, and focusing on something simple would help reduce the anxiety a little bit.
Mints also helped me during lectures. I think it was because it gave me a distraction.
2. Being in an open space or being close to a door
A lot of my issues with social anxiety were when I would feel trapped. It can be incredibly overwhelming to be stuck in a closed space with people, whether they are friends or strangers. I found that my anxiety levels would be really low if I was outdoors with people and ideally walking as that would burn off the adrenaline created by anxiety. Being outdoors with friends would give me a chance to be around people without too much pressure.
There were a lot of times that it wasn’t possible to be outdoors though (such as lectures). In those situations, I would do my best to sit as close as possible to an exit. That would help with feeling less trapped.
3. Progressive muscle relaxation
This was something that mostly helped me get to sleep and relax at home when I would be feeling anxious about something the next day. It’s also something that I sometimes implemented when out as you can do it sitting down. You tense up individual muscle groups and then focus on the tingly feeling when you release the tension. Forcing your body to tense and relax, helps to induce that relaxed state which then reduces the feelings of anxiety.
It’s easiest when lying down as your body weight is distributed evenly. However, you can do it when you are in a social situation and are sat down. Most of the muscle groups won’t be noticeable to other people and if there are ones that are (such as facial muscles), you can skip them.
4. Mini goals
Goals are something that helped me majorly with anxiety. Although goal setting is a long term thing, it can also be used in anxiety-provoking situations. For example, if I was suffering with severe anxiety in a lecture, I would set myself a goal of staying five minutes before having to leave. I’d then repeat that as many times as I could. More often than not, my anxiety would reduce enough that I felt as though I could stay.
By setting yourself mini-goals, you can focus on completing them, rather than being faced with a daunting situation. By completing them, your motivation and confidence will also increase.
5. Talking to someone about it
This one may not seem like it’ll help a lot but it worked for me. By speaking about it to someone who was with me at the time, it became easier to deal with. One of the hardest parts of dealing with anxiety is the pressure of hiding it. I always felt that I shouldn’t tell people that I was struggling or that they would think I’m weird because of how I’m acting. Once I explained to people, it was like a weight was lifted from my shoulders (I know, it sounds really cheesy). People usually weren’t that bothered, but not having to hide it meant that it was less of a problem.