If you suffer from social anxiety, there can be times when it feels completely overwhelming. Even the smallest, most straightforward of everyday tasks like going to the grocery store can seem impossible and facing a meeting, or a party can bring on a panic attack. But there are some effective things you can do to help manage your anxiety and reclaim your life.

  1. Breathe

Most people don’t breathe properly. When stressed your breathing can become shallow and fast, feeding the anxiety and tipping you into a panic. You can regain some control over your anxiety by learning to control your breath.

Try sitting quietly and allow your shoulders to relax. A lot of tension gets held there and makes breathing more constricted. It can help to raise your shoulders to your ears as you breathe in, and then, as you exhale, allow them to drop down, down, down.

Put one hand on your tummy and the other on your chest. Breathe in slowly and gently to the count of four, don’t force or gasp, allow the breath to flow down into your tummy.

Hold for a second or two before gently releasing to the count of six. Repeat this exercise a few times until you’re feeling more relaxed.

  1. Get prepared

You will feel much more in control if you make some preparations before you have to face a scary social situation like a party, a date or even a work meeting. Imagine yourself in the scenario, handling it calmly and well. It might be a good idea to write yourself a script or at least a few dot points. It might help to know that some people get so nervous about public speaking that they make sure they write their name in their speech in case they forget it!

Do some meditation or breathing exercises beforehand, and you’ll feel much less nervous.

  1. Bat down those negative thoughts

Negative messages are part and parcel of social anxiety. Turn that script upside down by challenging each negative thought as it comes up. Remind yourself that you have dealt with challenging situations before and done fine. 

  1. Stay in the moment

If the negative mindset threatens to turn into a runaway train, take a moment to step aside and use mindfulness to keep coming back to the present. Check off what you can see, hear, touch, smell, even taste in your surroundings, to ground yourself in the present moment. That can anchor you in the here and now instead of being carried by worries into a scary future, or into brooding over past failures.

Practical Tips for Living with Social Anxiety