31 Unexpected Hacks For Coping With Social Anxiety, According To Reddit
We all get nervous in social settings from time to time, whether that comes in the form of fretting over a first date or worrying about a work presentation. But dealing with your nerves during those occasional moments of anxiety is not the same as coping with social anxiety disorder — something that 15 million Americans are doing every day, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
"Social anxiety is an excessive fear of being judged, disliked, misunderstood, rejected, and/or unintentionally offending others — and it can occur in work and/or social settings," Toni Coleman, LCSW, Psychotherapist, and Relationship Expert, tells Bustle. "This can be treated with the help of medication and therapy — but the most effective approaches are cognitive/behavioral."
But what exactly does it mean to take a "cognitive approach" to coping with your anxiety? According to Coleman, that simply means thinking through your feelings, labeling them, and then deciding how you'll deal with those feelings in specific settings, such as work or a social event.
"Thinking about something makes it conscious, and allows for a thought-out and rational approach — which is very different than responding from an emotional or unconscious place, which is really out of a person’s control then," Coleman says. "It is also believed that repeated exposure and more successful outcomes will lessen symptoms and perhaps even provide a cure."
If you're suffering from social anxiety and want to boost your confidence in social settings, here are 31 unexpected cognitive/behavioral coping techniques from Reddit that are worth trying out — because what do you have to lose by taking a new approach?
1. Have More Face-To-Face Interactions
If you want to practice your people skills, getting a retail job and having face-to-face interactions with customers works like a charm.
2. Set Small Goals For Yourself
You can't overcome social anxiety overnight — so set small, baby-step goals for yourself, that way you don't get overwhelmed.
3. Volunteer At An Animal Shelter
If you're an animal lover, there's no better way to get out of your shell than volunteering at a shelter or pet adoption center.
4. Stop Caring About What Everyone Thinks Of You
This one is definitely easier said than done, but it's important to stop worrying about what everyone thinks of you in any given social situation, and simply be.
5. Make Eye Contact When Talking
When you're having a conversation, making eye contact is crucial to forming a connection, and will make you seem more confident than if your focus is elsewhere.
6. Keep Yourself Busy
Instead of sitting around worrying about all the things that *might* happen in a given situation, try keeping yourself busy so you don't have time to over-think.
7. Keep An "Anxiety Journal"
If writing is your jam, try writing down your thoughts/fears in an "anxiety journal" as a way to help you rationalize your anxieties and keep track of your progress.
8. Fake It Til You Make It
When all else fails, sometimes faking it til you make it can work wonders.
9. Condition Yourself To New Environments
Being thrown into a new environment when you have social anxiety can feel overwhelming, so take it one step at a time and allow yourself to slowly adjust to new places.
10. Take A Trusted Friend To Big Events
When you're feeling anxious at a social event, having a buddy to lean on can really help calm you down.
11. Practice The Things You're Afraid Of
If there's one specific thing that makes you anxious (like talking on the phone), find ways to work up to conquering that fear bit by bit.
12. Take Up An Empowering Physical Activity
Being physically active can help boost your confidence, and doing a group activity or class also gives you a chance to meet and interact with new people.
13. Remember It's OK To Mess Up
When you have social anxiety, every screw-up can feel like the end of the world — but it's important to keep in mind that no one is perfect, and (most) mistakes are really NBD.
14. Say Hi To Everyone At A Party
If parties overwhelm you, try this Redditor's trick: say hi to everyone, leave the room and take a moment for yourself, and then return feeling more prepared to deal with the situation.
15. Take Time To Recharge
If you have anxiety, it's so important to make sure you're taking time to relax and recharge, in whatever way works best for you.
16. Try Meditation
When you need help calming down or ridding your brain of negative, anxiety-induced thoughts, practicing meditation and mindfulness can really help.
17. Seek Out Conversations
Instead of letting others come to you, go and seek out conversations with people — even if it's the cashier at the grocery store — so you can practice socializing in a low-pressure way.
18. Embrace Your Awkwardness
We're all a little awkward and weird — so why not embrace that instead of agonizing over it?
19. Spend More Time With A Dog
Having an active pet like a dog will force you to get out of the house — and a cute furry friend is the perfect talking point. If adopting one is not in the cards, considering walking one or spending time with a friend's dog.
20. Ask People About Themselves
If you're having trouble coming up with a conversation topic, just remember that there's one thing all people love to talk about: themselves.
21. Work On Your Posture
Sometimes, the easiest way to feel confident in a social setting is to *look* confident — so keep an eye on your posture.
22. Attend A Convention Or Conference
Conventions, like ComicCons ,can seem overwhelming because of how crowded they are, but they're also a great way to interact with others and bond over your shared interests.
23. Go On Vacation By Yourself
There's nothing that will force you to confront your anxieties faster than taking a solo vacation to a foreign country.
24. Join A Toastmasters Group
If you have trouble with public speaking, joining a local Toastmasters group can give you the tools and opportunity to practice talking in front of people in a safe space.
25. Do Things To Better Yourself
The more time you spend working on improving yourself, the more confident you'll become — which, in turn, can help you feel less anxious socially.
26. Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
If you want to learn what tools will work best for your social anxiety specifically, trying professional CBT is something to consider.
27. Date An Extrovert
You can't help who you fall in love with, but if you happen to be dating an extrovert, that can be a great way to get out of your social comfort zone.
28. Learn To Dance
If you want to be the instant life of any party, taking dancing lessons (or teaching yourself), becoming a pro, and showing off your skills somewhere — like a wedding — can do the trick.
29. Start Hosting Small Get-Togethers
Even if you're only inviting over five people once a month, having those get-togethers can help you gradually improve your social skills in a less stressful way than say, going out to bars and trying to chat with strangers.
30. Join An Improv Group
Have an extra large funny bone? Sign up for an improv class as a way to help break out of your comfort zone.
31. Just Say Yes
It might be easier to say no to potential plans, but if you want to get more comfortable in social settings, make "just say yes" your new mantra.
Ultimately, there's no one foolproof way to "cure" social anxiety, because not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. All you can do is try to find what works for you, celebrate even small moments of progress, and remember not to be too hard on yourself — because you're far from alone in feeling anxious.