Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also referred to as social phobia, is more than just feeling shy or nervous in social situations. Rather, it’s a persistent fear of being judged, scrutinized, or embarrassed in social settings. This fear can be overwhelming and can significantly impact one’s ability to engage in everyday activities.

However, the good news is that SAD is a treatable condition. There are many strategies and techniques that can help individuals overcome it and build confidence in social situations. Here at Plus by APN, we believe in a holistic approach to mental health care. Here are 20 ways that we recommend that can help you build confidence and connection with others.

Understanding Social Anxiety

Social anxiety disorder is one of the most common mental health conditions, affecting millions of people worldwide. It typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood but can develop at any age. Individuals with social anxiety often experience intense fear or anxiety in social situations, which can manifest as physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, rapid heartbeat, or even panic attacks.

Social anxiety is different from shyness in that it tends to be more pervasive, affecting an individual’s ability to go out or participate in normal activities. While some level of nervousness in social settings is to be expected, SAD involves an excessive and irrational fear of negative evaluation by others. Avoiding social interactions also further perpetuates feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Social anxiety shares similarities with other anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder, in that they all involve excessive fear and worry. However, social anxiety is distinct in its focus on social situations and the fear of negative judgment from others. Unlike other anxiety disorders that may be triggered by various stimuli, social anxiety is specific to social interactions.

While social anxiety disorder is a real ailment that will likely require therapeutic intervention, there are many options for individuals to take in addition to treatment. Treating SAD with a holistic approach will make progress and improvement more likely to be achieved. These 20 strategies for overcoming social anxiety and building connections will help you on your journey to living a more socially fulfilling life.

1. Challenge Negative Thoughts

Social anxiety often stems from irrational beliefs and negative self-talk. Practice identifying and challenging these thoughts by asking yourself if there is evidence to support them or if there are alternative, more realistic interpretations.

This may look like altering thoughts such as, “no one likes me,” to, “who can I call if I really need someone to talk to?”

Additionally, keep in mind that you are often your own worst critic. Consider asking a trusted source, such as a therapist or supportive friend/family member, for their thoughts on the matter. You will likely find they are able to see things in a way you cannot. Be open to the idea that you are more wonderful than you know.

2. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, can help calm the mind and reduce symptoms of anxiety in social situations. There is even evidence to suggest that practicing mindfulness can influence self-awareness and alleviate symptoms of social anxiety disorder.

Regular practice can increase acceptance of oneself and others. With numerous benefits to mental health and overall well-being, you can’t go wrong with mindfulness, regardless of whether or not you struggle with social anxiety disorder.

3. Gradual Exposure

When dealing with things that scare us, it can be helpful to try a gradual exposure technique. This can help desensitize you to fearful situations over time. Start with small, manageable steps and gradually increase exposure as you become more comfortable. It’s important to remember that it’s not a race. This is your real life, so make it a marathon that celebrates progress over perfection.

4. Set Realistic Goals

Part of letting go of perfectionist or unattainable ideals is setting realistic, achievable goals. It is no different when it comes to managing anxiety in social situations. Aim for practical results, whether it’s initiating a conversation with a stranger or attending a low-key social event. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small. This will help you build confidence and motivation to capitalize over time.

5. Learn Social Skills

It’s natural to fear the unknown. Therefore, learning more about how to improve your social skills can boost confidence and reduce anxiety. Practice active listening, assertiveness, and positive body language to enhance your interpersonal interactions.

Consume content that focuses on these concepts, whether that’s through books, podcasts, movies, TV shows, or social media. Then, find ways to practice these skills, whether that’s with a trusted therapist, friend, or acting out a scenario by yourself.

6. Focus on Others

A great way to get out of your own head is to shift your focus to others instead. Asking open-ended questions, showing genuine interest in others, and practicing empathy and understanding can go a long way. Most people enjoy talking about themselves, so this will also be a good way to build rapport while increasing your social confidence.

7. Visualize Success

Have you ever heard the William Arthur Ward quote, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it?” While it doesn’t happen in an instant, visualization techniques can be used to imagine yourself successfully navigating social situations. Over time, these visualizations can help alleviate anxiety and increase confidence, resulting in positive outcomes.

8. Seek Support

It’s also important to remember that you don’t need to do everything alone. Reaching out to friends, family, or support groups for encouragement can be incredibly helpful when dealing with social anxiety disorder, even if it’s counter-intuitive. Share your experiences with others who can relate and help reduce feelings of isolation and stigma.

9. Healthy Lifestyle

Part of tending to your mental health means practicing a healthy lifestyle. Prioritize self-care by maintaining a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and ensuring adequate sleep. A holistic approach can positively impact mood and overall well-being, reducing social anxiety and symptoms.

10. Limit Alcohol

Because alcohol can temporarily reduce or mask symptoms of social anxiety, many people turn to substance use as a way to cope with the disorder. In fact, it is estimated that 20% of people with social anxiety disorder also suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence.

While alcohol may provide temporary relief from anxiety, it also exacerbates symptoms in the long run. Limiting consumption can help manage anxiety levels in social situations in more sustainable, lasting ways.

11. Challenge Perfectionism

Let go of the need to be perfect in social interactions. Accept that mistakes and awkward moments are a natural part of socializing and an opportunity for growth. The more you learn to accept yourself despite your natural human flaws, the more you will attract authentic, meaningful connections. Be open to the fact that it is possible to be accepted by others exactly as you are.

12. Practice Self-Compassion

Be kind and understanding towards yourself, especially when facing challenging social situations. Treat yourself with the same compassion and empathy you would offer a friend. Social situations can be tricky for anyone, regardless of whether or not they experience anxiety. So it’s important to be gentle with yourself as you learn to manage your fears.

13. Learn Relaxation Techniques

Incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily routine, such as progressive muscle relaxation or guided imagery, can greatly help reduce stress and anxiety. Multiple studies have shown how impactful relaxation training can be for anxiety disorders, making it a compelling technique to try.

14. Set Boundaries

Another thing to consider when addressing social anxiety is learning how to assertively communicate your boundaries in social situations. When necessary, saying no can help reduce feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. While you’ll need to step outside your comfort zone to overcome social anxiety, that doesn’t obligate you to drop all your own needs in the process.

15. Challenge Avoidance Behaviors

Avoiding social situations may provide temporary relief, but it ultimately reinforces the anxiety you are trying to overcome. Therefore, it’s important to challenge yourself to gradually confront feared situations and break the cycle of avoidance. It doesn’t matter how big or small your actions are, just that you continue showing up.

16. Celebrate Progress

Along your journey to overcome and/or better manage social anxiety, you’ll meet many triumphs and disappointments. That’s normal. Acknowledge and celebrate your progress, no matter how small it is. This will help you keep a better perspective when you’re running into roadblocks. Keep a journal to track your successes and reflect on any challenges you’ve overcome.

17. Practice Self-Confidence

By focusing on your strengths and accomplishments, you can cultivate self-confidence over time. Remind yourself of your past successes to build resilience and override negative self-perceptions. Everyone has a superpower. The question to answer and reflect on is – what’s yours?

18. Seek Professional Help

Consider seeking support from a therapist or counselor who specializes in treating social anxiety. Therapy can provide valuable tools and techniques for managing symptoms and building confidence.

Plus by APN offers in-person and virtual therapy with a variety of therapists trained to treat social anxiety and other disorders. To learn more about Plus by APN’s therapy services, call 424.644.6486 or fill out the online contact form today.

19. Join Social Activities

Another great way to overcome or manage social anxiety disorder is to engage in activities or hobbies that involve social interaction, such as joining clubs, volunteering, or taking classes. Shared interests can provide a natural bridge for connection and conversation, making it easier to socialize with others.

20. Be Patient and Persistent

Overcoming and/or managing social anxiety is a journey that takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself while you take these steps for your mental wellness and recognize that progress may be gradual. Stay committed to your goals and keep moving forward, even in the face of setbacks. Oftentimes, progress is not linear and that’s OK.

Confident, Connected & Socially Free

Social anxiety can feel isolating and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to dictate your life. By implementing these strategies and techniques, you can gradually build confidence and connection in social situations.

Remember that it’s OK to seek support from friends, family, or a professional if you’re struggling. With patience, persistence, and self-compassion, you can overcome social anxiety and thrive in social interactions.

Treating Social Anxiety Disorder at Plus By APN

At Plus by APN, we believe in the transformative power of holistic and alternative mental healthcare. That’s why we employ a variety of techniques to address social anxiety and other mental health challenges.

Alternative interventions, such as ketamine-assisted treatment, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, deep TMS, neurofeedback, or stellate ganglion block may provide immense benefits, especially for people with otherwise treatment-resistant mental health conditions.

Seeking services with Plus by APN means getting access to everything – from traditional mental health treatments like medication management and therapy to alternative treatments and holistic interventions. Wherever you’re at, we’re here for it all. For more personalized guidance and support to help you overcome social anxiety and live a fulfilling life, call Plus by APN at 424.644.6486 or fill out the online contact form.