Have you ever found yourself repeatedly rehearsing conversations in your mind, playing out different scenarios, and overthinking every possible situation? Social anxiety is for real! It can be lurking beneath a confident facade camouflaging the reality. People may see you as outgoing and friendly, but they’re unaware of the internal battle you are facing inside, constantly second-guessing yourself.
Don’t think you’re alone! More than one in three people worldwide suffer from social anxiety . Social anxiety disorder, often known as social phobia, is characterized by an excessive and persistent terror of being scrutinized or assessed by others in social circumstances. Many patients with social anxiety disorder also manifest in severe physical symptoms, such as a racing heart, nausea, and sweating, and may have full-fledged panic attacks when confronted with a frightening situation.
While it is natural to feel uncomfortable in certain social situations, excessive fear can have a negative impact on your career and personal relationships. Check out these practical quick tips to alleviate anxiety and embrace social settings:
1. Practice mindfulness or relaxation techniques: Deep breathing exercises can help regulate your body’s stress response and promote a sense of calm. During meditation, the regions in the brain get activated and help reduce anxiety by regulating the thinking processes . Consistent practice gradually strengthens your self-concept and ability to deal with negative emotions. Mindfulness meditation can be practiced on a daily basis, either for extended periods of time, such as 20 to 40 minutes, or as short meditations throughout the day.
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2. Shift mentality from negativity to positivity: Social anxiety often stems from distorted thinking patterns. Break the cycle of negative thoughts by consciously challenging them. Replace self-doubt with self-empowering beliefs to shift your perspective and build confidence. Engaging in cognitive-behavioral techniques, such as challenging negative thoughts and replacing them with more realistic and positive ones, can be helpful in reducing social anxiety symptoms .
3. Have a solid support system: Be it friends, family, or support groups, they provide comfort and help in managing the isolating grip of social anxiety. Being part of a supportive community can help validate your experiences. Sharing similar struggles with others with social anxiety can reduce feelings of isolation and normalize the challenges faced.
In 1949, the Mental Health America organization (then known as the National Association for Mental Health) founded May as Mental Health Awareness Month to raise the stigma around mental illnesses and educate individuals to prioritize their mental health and seek the support they need.
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4. Make exercise a priority: Physical activity for at least 60 minutes each day can help manage social anxiety . By releasing endorphins, physical activity elevates mood and provides a healthy outlet for tension.
5. Make healthy lifestyle changes: While lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough to overcome social phobia or anxiety disorder, they can support your treatment progress. Choose a nutritious diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (such as beans, peas, and lentils), lean protein sources, and nuts and seeds . Prioritize quality sleep by aiming for seven to nine hours per night. Insufficient sleep can elevate cortisol levels, intensifying feelings of anxiety. Remember, a well-rested mind is better equipped to face the challenges of social anxiety.
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Managing social anxiety is not a solo endeavor. Seeking professional help from therapists or counselors who specialize in anxiety disorders can provide you with effective treatment options tailored to your unique needs. This mental health awareness month, let’s break free from the constraints of social anxiety and fear no more.
(The article is written by Dr.Subita Alagh, Senior Executive, and reviewed by Monalisa Deka, Senior Health Content Editor)
1. Available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7498107/
2. Neural correlates of mindfulness meditation-related anxiety relief
3. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders: an update on the empirical evidence