Millennials and Gen Zers are said to be much more anxious than previous generations. Social anxiety, specifically, is causing us to spend way too much time comparing ourselves to unrealistic beauty standards on social media. We’re isolating ourselves partly because of the ongoing fears surrounding COVID-19 and because it’s easier than confronting our symptoms.
Our romantic relationships are suffering because we just can’t get through date nights. And taking care of our children requires just that much more effort. Social anxiety also keeps us from engaging with our extended family and friends. Now, the effort to re-engage in society after lockdowns adds a whole new layer of social anxiety to navigate.
Despite what many think, it is much more than being a bit nervous in social settings. Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a diagnosable anxiety disorder that is characterized by a person having continuous fears of social situations that expose them to people they don’t know. These situations may include possible social judgment.
Its symptoms can be debilitating and have real effects on daily living. It causes many people to forgo stepping outside altogether. But because more and more people are sharing their experience with social anxiety, it’s raising the awareness needed to develop adequate resources and treatment options.
If you’re living with social anxiety, know that you are not alone. Let’s get you on your way to overcoming it. Here are four things you can do to manage your social anxiety better and hopefully overcome it entirely.
Learn to Enjoy Downtime
“Just relax. You’ll be fine.” You aren’t alone if you’ve told yourself this and your anxiety got worse. Sometimes, relaxing your body can trigger your anxiety even more. When you’re relaxed, you tend to feel more vulnerable, which can be scary in a social situation. You beat yourself up for letting your guard down, and then your anxiety spikes once again.
The key is not to relax but to learn to enjoy downtime. One way to help you do this is to find activities that allow you to breathe and be present. If it’s being on social media or binge-watching your favorite shows, do so in moderation. Too much tech and TV have been linked to increased anxiety. But creating rules for social media or binge-watching can result in a positive, relaxing experience that allows you to unwind.
Additionally, fill some of that downtime connecting with family and loved ones.
Connect With Family and Loved Ones
Social anxiety can be so overwhelming that it just becomes easier to isolate than feel like you’re continuously disappointing family and friends. However, interacting with your loved ones can help reduce social anxiety.
Start with something you know you can do. It could be a coffee date with your Mom or Dad. Getting your nieces and nephews together for a play date. Maybe a night out with your best friend. Or you could have your partner over for a date night in if you aren’t up to going out.
Additionally, you can stay digitally connected with your loved ones who are long-distance. Keep the personal connection alive utilizing technology by:
- Ensuring you’re comfortable navigating tech devices and online platforms
- Scheduling a time each week to catch up via video chat
- Creating and sharing a digital calendar for social events
- Getting creative with various communication and sharing tools
- Doing activities virtually, like movie or craft night
You can construct an excellent support system of family, friends, and other loved ones to help you thrive while living with social anxiety. With that being said, adding a professional to your network can give you an additional branch of support.
Don’t Be Afraid to Enlist the Help of a Professional
The stigma attached to mental health challenges keeps many of us from seeking the help we not just need but deserve. It’s okay if you need more support than tips in an article. Simply talking with a mental health professional about what’s going on can give you some relief. They can also help you develop a personalized plan for managing your life with social anxiety.
If you decide reaching out to a counselor or therapist is the way to go, be sure to do some thorough research before making a final decision. The first professional you see may not be the right fit, so compile a list of at least five potential matches. Ensure they offer options for in-person or virtual visits and are well-versed in anxiety disorders. If they have a specialization in social anxiety, that’s even better.
Lastly, give yourself time to overcome social anxiety.
Take Your Time
Your journey with social anxiety won’t be a straight line. There will be days when you feel like you’ve got a handle on it. There will be just as many days when you feel like you’ve taken ten steps backward. Both are crucial opportunities to learn what’s working and what’s not in your efforts to manage your symptoms.
Don’t put a deadline on your healing. Don’t avoid situations that trigger your social anxiety; confront them in small doses. Give yourself as much as you need to learn about yourself, social anxiety, and what management techniques work best for you.
Ultimately, you won’t overcome social anxiety in a day, and you may not ever be able to remove it entirely from your life. So, show yourself patience and grace in your journey.
Social anxiety can be a challenging mental health condition to live with. Fortunately, you can manage your symptoms better and live a full life by implementing some of the tips above and those you come across in additional research and treatment.
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