The number of people suffering with anxiety is on a major increase and a large portion of those people are struggling with social anxiety. Different people suffer in different ways but regardless of the severity, it can make life incredibly hard.
My anxiety diagnosis at the start was social anxiety which affected me at school so much so that I couldn't be around any of my friends. That anxiety then seeped into the rest of my life making it difficult to be out with people.
It's taken many years to get to where I am at the moment and I still struggle a lot some days (like today), but that's why I'm hoping to be able to share some of the tips I use to cope with it on the days that are really hard.
1. Sip some water (ideally have a bottle)
Sipping water helps to regulate breathing but for me, it is also a distraction. Having a bottle gives me something that I can focus on and the drinking also helps relax a few muscles.
2. Have a mint/sweet
This is similar to the water in the sense of it serves as a distraction. I never really liked mints but when I was at university, I ended up having almost a pack of polo mints a day. I was worried about my teeth but it was just to cope with the short term. As time went on, I needed less and less mints. In fact, by the third year, I didn't have mints at all in the end.
3. Tensing and relaxing muscles
When experiencing high levels of anxiety, we often don't realise how tense we are. One of the things I would do is ball up my fist as hard as I can and then let it go after ten seconds or so. I would also bring my shoulders to my ears and hold them there for ten seconds or so. It felt great on the release and it helped to bring a sense of relaxation which would bring down the anxiety temporarily. You could go one step further and try out progressive muscle relaxation.
4. Going for a walk
This is less desirable as it involves you leaving the situation but for a long time, it was the only way I could cope with anxiety. Anxiety brings adrenaline and it kicks in the fight-or-flight instinct. If you just sit there and do nothing about it, it can send you into a downward spiral as you feel more and more overwhelmed. Your subconscious is telling you that you need to get out of that situation and you aren't doing anything about it. I would often be in and out of class to go for a walk to try and burn off that energy and then go back into the situation to try again. It can be classed as avoidance but it kept me going and it still does at times. The main downside is that it is both physically and mentally tiring.
5. Going home
Officially, this is something that you shouldn't do as it classes as avoidance which in theory, reaffirms the anxiety and makes it worse next time. However, I have found that there are certain times when the best thing to do is give yourself a break. You don't have to fight it everyday and by giving yourself some time alone where you don't feel anxious, your mental state should be in a healthier place so that next time you are determined to try again. In my experience, it didn't matter how much I wanted to stay, I just couldn't. Going home would feel like a disappointment but it was something that I needed.
Hopefully these tips will help you cope with your anxiety. These are just 5 quick ways to cope with social anxiety. It is important to tackle anxiety in the long run so that you can have an enjoyable life but there are times we just need a quick solution to make it bearable.
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