*Updated May 23, 2020 – 06:56 EST
People suffering from social anxiety disorder may avoid social situations due to the intense fear of being judged. Social anxiety may cause panic attacks, sweaty hands, and fear of crowds. Even though social anxiety disorder can cause you to avoid social situations altogether, you most likely experience anxiety while in solitude as well. In order to start every day off strong, here are 3 activities you can do on a daily basis to conquer social anxiety and improve on your symptoms over time.
1.) Take Care Of Your Appearance
“If you look good, you feel good, If you feel good, you play good, If you play good, they pay good.”Deion Sanders, sports analyst, hall of fame NFL player
The way you look affects how you feel. Why is this such a common mantra? Similar quotes have been repeated by many prominent figures from several professions— “if you look good you feel good”. This ranges from fortune 500 CEOs, musicians, lawyers and everything in between. Doesn’t it seem counter intuitive that the most powerful and successful people in the world pay such close attention to their outward appearance? Even going to the extremes of dishing out fortunes on fashion designers? Yes, some of it is because of marketing, but what about the high performers that do not necessarily need to ‘look the part’?
One of Psychology Today’s four strategies to conquering social anxiety is placing your focus and attention outwards “If we turn our attention outward, focus on what’s happening around us, magically a lot of that bandwidth gets freed up and fills up with natural curiosity — what interests us, what questions we want to ask — and our own authenticity.”
Having a presentable clean look, helps you focus less on what other people think of your appearance and more on your conversation.
Taking care of your appearance doesn’t necessarily mean attempting to cover every facial flaw by baking your face with makeup. It also doesn’t mean purchasing flashy designer clothing, but simply making yourself look presentable. This could mean wearing a clean pair of jeans, combing your hair in the morning and brushing your teeth after every meal.
Taking care of your appearance is an effective way to build self-respect. Self-esteem is heavily influenced by your actions and self perception. Treating yourself like you would a friend whom you highly respect makes it easier to perceive yourself in a similar way. This goes along way into overcoming your social anxiety.
2.) Meditation For Relaxation
“The only way to get what you really want is to let go of what you don’t want”Iyanla Vanzant, author, inspirational speaker
Meditation is the science of controlling your thoughts, and recognizing negative thinking patterns as they come. The intensity of your social anxiety can ebb and flow like the waves in the ocean. Sometimes you may even forget that you have social anxiety. However, when the intensity of your anxiety flares up it’s easy to get lost in your thoughts, and not even realize you need to get grounded while you’re in the moment. Meditation can help balance out your mood by helping you recognize when you are indeed panicking, and also regulate your emotions. There are alternative ways to meditate such as fishing or yoga.
A study done in Massachusetts General Hospital was able to show the effects of mindfulness meditation on generalized anxiety. Test subjects were grouped into 8 weekly meditation classes. They measured their stress reactivity using what they call a Trier Social Stress Tests(TSST). This test was done pre- and post treatment to measure their anxiety levels. This test measures anxiety, and includes a 10 minute anticipation period before the test; then a 10 minute test period where a member delivers a speech; then a period where you answer a series of math questions in front of an audience.
The results showed that mindfulness meditation practices lead to a significant increase in resilience to stressful psychological challenges. Resilience is defined as the ability to spring back from and overcome difficulties. Meaning that meditation can help you recover from social ‘errors’ and mishaps that stem from your social anxiety.
How to meditate for social anxiety
- Find a quiet room that is safe and free of disturbances
- Sit down cross legged, lay down, or any other preferred meditation pose
- Close your eyes, and imagine yourself in a calm soothing place, (e.g. desert, mountains, forests)
- Inhale through your nose then exhale through your mouth
- Try to focus on your breathing
- When you have negative or positive thoughts, acknowledge them like clouds passing by in the sky. After that draw attention back to your breathing
When it comes to meditation there are a variety of techniques. For instance, some people prefer to meditate and practice gratitude, while others would rather sit down and simply reflect on their day.
There is no specific way to meditate for social anxiety aside from practicing patience. Several studies show that changes in the brain resulting from meditation can take from 8-10 weeks. A small price to pay for mindfulness.
3.) Find A Creative Outlet
“Find three hobbies you love: One to make you money, one to keep you in shape, and one to be creative.”Anonymous
There are a myriad of reasons many people lack a creative outlet In the modern era — home to the 40-hour work weeks. It’s easy to neglect your creative outlet. You might have grown up in a household where pursuing a creative hobby was considered a waste of time, especially if it didn’t directly equate to money, like some sort of math equation. Many people grow up not sharing their talents with the world because of this.
Having a creative outlet puts you on a journey that allows you to express yourself, and cope with traumas that could be contributing to your social anxiety. Creative outlets are important for three main reasons.
1.) Decision Making
Being in creative control forces you to act on your opinions and ambitions in your creative process. Decisiveness is a skill that requires practice. Creative outlets force you to make multiple decisions in short times. Thus, it causes you to fail rapidly. Then you’ll realize failures aren’t that big of a deal, whether in creative pursuits, or during social situations. Embracing and adapting to failure is an important part of the creative process.
2.) Exposure Therapy
A cool thing about creative outlets is that they give you an opportunity to share something with the world and be vulnerable, a type of exposure therapy. Whether you’re sharing a blog post, or a video, you’ll learn how to connect to others and realize that people relate to you much more than you think. As you progress it’s inevitable to have people critique your work. This may feel daunting at first, until you realize that no matter how many people enjoy your creations there will always be people that dislike/disagree with it and that’s okay.
3.) Chance To Meet New People
Whether your creative outlet is writing, photography, or anything between, there are probably classes or workshops you can attend to meet new people that share your same interests. Many people with social anxiety find it easier to converse when social events are focused on a sole activity that they have an interest in.
4.) Further Your Career(bonus reason)
Thinking hobbies will hinder your career is completely wrong. A hobby and a side hustle are essentially the same thing. In this day and age, meeting the technical qualifications for a job just won’t cut it most of the time. Anytime a manager makes an online job posting they will receive dozens to hundreds of qualified applicants for the job.
A hobby that is related to your job goes a long way. For instance having a blog about forex trading while applying for a businesses analyst position, demonstrates to a manager that you are truly interested in your field(i.e. finance). Moreover, it simply makes you a more interesting person in general.
4.) Watch What You Put In Your Body
A strong anti-anxiety diet will fuel your body throughout the day. It will also make it easier to manage anxiety episodes. You should be consuming food and beverages that contain essential vitamins to keep your anxiety at bay.
- Vitamin B5. a vitamin that supports your adrenal glands. Especially important when you’re placed in an anxiety triggering situation (i.e. public events). These glands help reduce stress and anxiety. Many foods contain vitamin B5 so most people have a sufficient amount already. Vitamin B5 is actually referred to as “pantothenic” which means “from everywhere”.
- Magnesium and vitamin B6. These substances help to lessen anxiety episodes caused by PMS. They also promote clear/healthy skin, hair and liver.
- Vitamin B9 (folic acid) and B12. Helps you manage depressive moods.
Sources of vitamin B5:
- Meat: pork, cow and poultry
- Legumes: chickpeas, beans and peanuts
- Grains: brown rice, breads and cereals
Sources of vitamin B9:
- Dark leafy greens
Sources of vitamin B12:
- Animal products: eggs, poultry, fish
- Fortified cereals
- Dairy products: milk, yogurt, swiss cheese
Stay Away From Anxiety Triggering Foods and Substances
Your body is a delicate instrument that can be fine tuned by its reactions to certain types of foods. Some people’s anxiety can be triggered by select foods such as dairy, seafood and nuts.
Foods that spike your blood sugar, and then lower it again are also linked to increased anxiety and depressive moods.
Common triggers for social anxiety:
- Alcohol. Social anxiety makes certain situations seem impossible to handle and alcohol is a fast-acting coping mechanism. Although, your feelings of anxiety may be numbed in the short term, long-term alcoholism can be linked to anxiety disorders. However, moderate drinking hasn’t been linked to anxiety.
- Caffeine. Many people drink caffeinated beverages on a daily basis: coffee, tea and energy drinks. This can cause you to feel extra jittery and cause anxiety in people not used to the sudden rush.
- Cigarettes. Taking a quick smoke break is another thing many people try to reduce their anxiety. The nicotine chemical can help manage certain anxiety disorders in the short term, but can also spark other types of anxiety disorders. Studies show that nicotine is less harmful for those with OCD symptoms. Nicotine can also cause your body to feel like it’s having a panic attack by raising your heart rate and blood pressure.
- Fruit Juice. Eating a whole fruit is healthier than drinking tfruit juice. Whole fruit has more fibres to slow down how quickly your blood takes in energy. Thus, helping your energy lasts throughout the day. Fruit juice on the other hand is just sugary water with less nutritional value. This causes energy crashes throughout the day.
Taking Supplements For Social Anxiety
Nootropics are substances that have a positive impact on mental skills. These are also known as ‘smart drugs’. Nootropics are cognitive enhancers; Although, you can also enhance your cognitive skills by getting a decent sleep, improving your diet, and stress management techniques. Once you get the core basics down, nootropics can be your added edge.
Benefits of nootropics on mental health:
- Increased relaxation
- Increased feelings of well-being
- Reduction in stress and anxiety
- Improved focus and mental well-being
Best nootropics for social anxiety:
- Tyrosine: Improves focus and alertness
- Phosphatidylserine: Improve thinking skills, manages ADHD, prevent depression
- Choline: Improves memory and cognition
- Guarana powder: Promotes stimulant activity
- Mucuna extract: Promotes deep sleep and a positive mood
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