Self-Help for Social Anxiety

The term social anxiety is used to describe a high level of shyness. Of course everyone has shyness in certain social environments, but it can be a little extreme for some people. This condition has a debilitating effect on their lives and stops them from doing things they ought to.

In order to mend social anxiety disorder, one needs to change the way they think about themselves. First, one needs to know how anxiety affects the body. Although there are many techniques for treating social phobia disorder like medication treatment and psychological treatment, self-help treatment is the best way to get rid of social anxiety.

Some Self-Help Strategies

There are a variety of techniques that can help in controlling symptoms of social anxiety. Some of the self-help techniques are extracted from the cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) strategy to manage the social anxiety.

Such methods are:

Breathing Exercises

As physical symptoms are more visible than psychological symptoms of anxiety, those are usually easier to rectify. The most prominent physical symptom is “difficulty in breathing.” When anxious, individuals feel short of breath and feel like they are not able to breathe normally. Deep breathing exercises that can be practiced at home can help ease shortness in breathing.

Some of the strategies that should be followed while doing breathing exercises are:

  • Sit comfortably in a chair. Keep back straight, and shoulders in a relaxed position. One hand should be placed over the stomach, while the other hand lay over the chest. This positioning of the hands can make one feel breathing while doing the exercise.
  • The person’s mouth should be closed. While breathing, the inhalation process should be slow and deep and should be done only through the nose. Count from 1- 10 slowly while inhaling. It is difficult to count till 10 in the first try of the exercise. Therefore, it is encouraged to start with a small number and increase the count with practice.
  • During inhalation, along with counting, one should notice the body sensations. The hand on the chest should not move, but one should notice the hand on stomach rising.
  • After completing the chosen count, one should hold the breath for few seconds.
  • The exhalation in this exercise should be done through mouth. It is also a slow process that is to be done by counting up to 10 seconds in mind. Feel the hand placed on the stomach moving in, indicating the movement of air outside.
  • Continue this exercise for at least 10 times a day, focusing on steady and slow pattern of breathing.  

More the practice, the more a person learns to control breathing, which can be initially uncontrollable.

Taking Baby Steps

‘Baby steps’ is an important effective self-practice compared to other methods; in fact it means that the fear cannot be changed at one go. Exposure therapy is a fearful idea for at least a few. Therefore, awareness regarding the therapy is very important.

This method follows a gradual exposure of the person to the social condition that he fears of and reducing the effects. Exposure steps slowly move forward by making the person learn to relax and cope with situations.

Self Talk or Listening to Inner Voice

People often tell things in their head which are sometimes true and otherwise false. Psychologists term this as “self-talk”, whereas, others like spiritual people call it as the inner voice. The positive self-talk can help increase self-esteem; whereas destruction of one’s happiness arises when the self-talk is negative. Individuals should learn to control these kinds of negative thoughts or feelings.

Looking at Surroundings

People who are socially anxious normally focus inward. Studies show that such people who tend to rate themselves as shy when in social situations cannot recall much details of the external surroundings. This is because; they might be concentrating on themselves only and not the surroundings. In order to lower their anxiety, they need to focus more on external things. Making note on three aspects when in social situations can divert one from thinking about oneself. For example:

  • The color of the wall
  • The picture on the wall, if any
  • Appearances of other people around.

This, even though strange, can helps to focus away from the self.

Make an Effort to be More Social

Actively seeking out a social environment is another effective way of challenging fear and overcoming social anxiety. The following activities are good ways to start interacting with others in a positive manner:

Take a social skill class or assertiveness training class: These classes are usually offered at local education centers or community college.

Volunteer doing something to enjoy: These include participating in cleaning local areas (social work) that will bring the focus more outward.

Communication skills: Good relationships depend on clear communication between two people who can share their thoughts, happiness, emotion, etc. So if one finds difficulties to connect with another, then he needs to learn the basic skill of communication.

Reviewed by Susha Cheriyedath, MSc

Further Reading

Last Updated: Oct 23, 2017

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