Overcoming Shyness and Social Anxiety – 7 Practical Tips

Overcoming Shyness and Social Anxiety – 7 Practical Tips

Living with social anxiety and shyness can be difficult in our modern world.

Unless you live in a remote cabin, you may be interacting with people all the time. Plus, there are social situations that you may be obligated to attend (such as meetings or a work party) that require human interaction.

However, all hope is not lost. There are ways that you can conquer your social anxiety and lessen your stress without becoming a hermit.

Consider these 7 tips:

 1. Remember to Breathe

When stepping into a room with a lot of people, the first feeling you may experience is being overwhelmed. Your muscles tense, your breathing becoming more rapid, and your heart is beating faster.

There is one mindfulness practice, though, that can be really helpful in that moment: breathing. Specifically, being conscious of when you breathe in and when you breathe out. The idea is that, by focusing on your breathing, this helps you to stay in control when your breathing is regulated. That way you don’t begin to slip into panic mode.

2. Use Logic to Tackle Negative Thinking

Another issue that comes up for people with social anxiety is negative thinking. That is, believing that other people have preconceptions about them. Yet, in reality, these notions are false.

For example, you may be saying to yourself, “Everyone knows I don’t belong here.” But this assumption only exists in your mind.

When confronted with these thoughts, try to turn them around. Use logic to counter them. For instance, you could say to yourself, “That’s ridiculous, this is a party that I was invited to. Of course, I belong here.” Sometimes a dose of logic can be really helpful.

3. Acknowledge Your Anxiety

When you begin to feel your anxiety creeping up, don’t ignore it. That will actually make it worse. Instead, what you need to do is acknowledge the feeling, yet not dwell on it.

So, when an anxious feeling wells up, allow yourself to feel the emotion—like a rising wave. Once that’s done, let the feeling slip away—like an ebbing wave. Don’t hold on to the emotion, just watch it drift away like a wave. It’s nothing less, nothing more.

4. Distract Yourself

It’s helpful when you’re feeling anxiety to distract yourself a bit. This is because when you have anxiety, there is a tendency to hyper-focus on the problem. When that happens your emotions pile onto each other. You feel more anxious, thus you continue to hyper-focus. In the end, you get stuck in a spiral.

But instead of getting caught in that trap, you can distract yourself and shift your attention. For example:

  • Start a conversation with someone
  • Notice the details or features of the room
  • Think positive thoughts
  • Repeat a phrase or quote you find reassuring
  • Get up and move around
  • Hold something in your hands, even if it is a glass of water

What you’ll find is that once you shift your full attention to something other than your anxiety, it will begin to decrease.

5. Find Someone Familiar

In social settings such as parties, it can be intimidating to just step right into someone’s conversation. That’s why it is helpful to find someone you already know and start a dialogue with them.

Over time, you will find that people will come in and out of the discussion group. This allows you to become introduced to other people and begin new conversations.

6. Make Eye Contact

If there is one simple thing you can do when in a social setting it’s to make eye contact. Most especially, make eye contact when first meeting someone new.

Humans are creatures who are very attentive to facial cues. Seeing another person’s face is comforting. Making eye contact with another person is an instant way to build rapport. Even if you haven’t said a word, you made a connection and from there you can start building on it.

7. Remember to Smile

Smiling isn’t just for appearing pleasant to someone else. Nor is it meant to be a facade. Smiling can actually relax you (not just the other person) and help you feel more comfortable. Plus, it’s a great stress-reliever, too.

Be assured, anxiety doesn’t have to hold you back in social settings. By following the aforementioned tips, you can learn how to navigate social situations and even enjoy yourself.

If you still can’t seem to deal with this on your own, it may be a good idea to talk with a professional therapist who is trained to help with social anxiety, shyness and social phobia.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss how I might help or make an appointment, please call me at 949-760-7171 or text 949-244-8572 or send an email to jimswaniger@gmail.com.