Social anxiety is a common issue that many people face, and it can make it difficult to engage in social situations and enjoy your life to the fullest. If you're someone who struggles with social anxiety, you're not alone. In fact, research has shown that up to 13% of the population may experience social anxiety at some point in their lives (1).
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to overcome your social anxiety and improve your quality of life. Here are four strategies that can help:
Challenge your negative thoughts: People with social anxiety often have negative thoughts about themselves and the social situations they find themselves in. These thoughts can fuel their anxiety and make it harder to cope. One way to overcome this is to challenge those negative thoughts. This can involve asking yourself whether your thoughts are realistic and based on evidence, or whether they're just assumptions. If they're assumptions, try to come up with alternative, more positive thoughts.
Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment, without judgment. It can help you to focus on the here and now, rather than getting caught up in your thoughts and worries. Research has shown that mindfulness can be effective in reducing symptoms of social anxiety (2). To practice mindfulness, try to focus on your breath or a simple object, and notice any thoughts or sensations that arise without judging them.
Engage in regular physical activity: Exercise has many benefits for mental health, including reducing anxiety. In one study, people who engaged in regular physical activity reported less social anxiety and greater feelings of self-worth (3). You don't have to be a fitness enthusiast to reap the benefits of exercise – even moderate levels of physical activity, such as going for a walk or bike ride, can make a difference.
Seek support from friends, family, or a therapist: It can be helpful to talk to someone about your social anxiety, whether it's a friend, family member, or a mental health professional. A therapist can provide you with specific strategies for overcoming your anxiety, and support you through the process.
Overall, social anxiety is a common issue that can be overcome with the right strategies. By challenging your negative thoughts, practicing mindfulness, engaging in regular physical activity, and seeking support, you can improve your quality of life and feel more confident in social situations.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub.
Hofmann, S. G., Sawyer, A. T., Witt, A. A., & Oh, D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(2), 169–183. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0018555
Mead, H. K., Morley, W., Campbell, P., Greig, C. A., McMurdo, M., & Lawlor, D. A. (2009). Exercise for depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (3). https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD004366.pub3