Earlier this week, I opened up a conversation about how social anxiety continues to exist in a pandemic, and how it can be even harder to manage because of it. It’s helpful that I can be more selective about social interactions due to the pandemic, but it also means there are fewer opportunities to try and work through some of that social anxiety and overcome it when I can. Fortunately, there several strategies and tips that I’ve learned over the years that help me manage my anxiety, and they can be helpful in most social situations regardless of the specifics. Here are some of my most-used strategies that help me manage social anxiety on a daily basis!
Understand your symptoms.
I couldn’t start to manage my social anxiety until I recognized how it affected me. Social anxiety, like other forms of anxiety, can bring out different physical and mental symptoms. I started paying more attention to how I felt during social interactions, and I talked to people that know me and my body language well to determine if my anxiety was manifesting itself externally. People might not always know what’s going on in your head, but it’s hard to fake being physically uncomfortable – or when you’re working extremely hard to appear okay.
Know your limits.
As someone who not only lives with anxiety and depression but is quite introverted, I know I have an energy limit that is smaller than most, and it can be even more limiting when the group is large or I don’t know most of the people in the group. Social interactions that aren’t super familiar/simple can be exhausting, but instead of saying no to every single one, I go into interactions knowing I might not be able to stay the entire time or that I can’t be more present the longer we continue. Knowing your limits means you can still participate when you want, but to recognize when enough is enough.
Prepare, prepare, prepare.
Planning ahead of a social interaction is a good way to build more confidence and understanding of the situation before you’re even there. Preparing for social interactions is extremely helpful to me because most of my anxiety comes from not knowing what’s going on in a social situation. But finding out specific details (who’s involved, what the plan is, how long will you have to be social) can help me understand how the interaction might specifically trigger my social anxiety or how long I’ll be able to interact with others before I get too tired/anxious.
Emphasize ‘low-pressure’ interactions.
We’re usually encouraged to start small when managing anxiety, and that still exists with social anxiety. One way to start smaller and build up confidence is by having ‘low-pressure’ interactions. These are the interactions you have in your daily life that most people don’t even notice. Buying groceries, running errands, being on the phone with customer service, etc. Use these opportunities to practice your communication skills and manage your anxiety in your own way. And if the interaction doesn’t go as planned (and it sometimes will), take comfort in knowing that these are ‘low-pressure’ interactions. Embarrassing yourself is easier to handle when you know you’ll likely never talk to that person again.
Put the focus on others.
One of my favorite ways to manage social anxiety is to focus on others during a social interaction. Whether that’s by asking a lot of questions or focusing on being attentive as possible, putting that focus on other means I’m taking it off myself. Negative thoughts can be a persistent symptom of social anxiety, and focusing on others can help you get out of your own head and create a more successful social interaction.
These are just a few of the strategies people use to conquer social anxiety, but I know there are more. What strategies or techniques do you use to conquer social anxiety in your life? Let me know in the comments!