We know how hard it can be to struggle through a talk with racing thoughts and sweaty palms—learn some social anxiety coping skills to overcome the conversational struggle.
Does talking in groups (or even pairs) get you sweating? Do you overthink and plan every sentence, only to find that it still comes out wrong? Have you canceled plans because you couldn't face socializing?
If that sounds familiar, you might just be garden-variety shy. Or you could have social anxiety disorder (SAD). People living with SAD experience a long-term, consistent fear of being social around people they don’t know or who might scrutinize their behavior.
Social anxiety can be totally debilitating — nearly 30% of people living with SAD have seriously impaired lives due to the disorder. And despite that, only 36% of individuals who have consistent, diagnosable social anxiety ever get treatment! (That’s a lot of people running around nervously avoiding each other!)
If you think you have social anxiety disorder, it's essential to talk to your doctor and get a diagnosis to get treatment. Letting the problem run rampant can affect every part of your life. Don’t try to ignore it!
But beyond medication and therapy — and if you’re trying to address less-intense-but-still-awful social anxiety — there are steps we can take to help control how much sway worries have over our lives. These tactics aren’t a replacement for treatment if you need it. But they can make a huge quality-of-life improvement for folks who sometimes struggle to socialize.
How to beat social anxiety — beforehand or on the spot
Does being in a conversation make you feel like you’re backed into a corner? If you’re freaking out and hiding behind your smartphone while you read this article at a party, here are some tips on getting back into the flow without feeling like the world’s going to end.
1. Practicing body language is one of the most practical social anxiety coping skills
This takes a little prep, but it can be worth it. Learning how to use body language in conversation can be a total game-changer for social anxiety. There are two ways it can help:
- It gives you something to focus on during a talk, and
- It helps you understand and participate in a conversation more fluidly, which makes things less stressful.
We use dozens of signals every time we talk to another human IRL, from crossing our arms when we feel closed-minded to rubbing our eyes when we’re irritated.
Knowing those signals — and practicing using or restraining a few — can make you more confident, squashing one stress factor at the source!
You can practice by reading up on common body language, looking for signals during conversations, and thinking about the signs you want to give off.
2. Mix conversation with an activity
If you want to keep the talk going, but you're worried about filling silences without fizzling out, try adding an activity to the mix. It's one of the easiest social anxiety coping skills because it feels (and is!) totally natural.
Doing something gives you something other than your social anxiety to focus on. You know some things are a self-fulfilling prophecy, right? That maxim definitely applies here. So, playing table tennis or going on a quick walk with your conversational buddy could be just the ticket to take your mind off worrying about worry!
Plus, there’s a second benefit. It feels less like a forced conversation and more like naturally hanging out when you’re watching a movie, hiking, or sleuthing your way through an escape room.
3. Reframe your thoughts
It's pretty standard for social anxiety and racing thoughts to go hand in hand. Those thoughts might have something to do with feelings of social inadequacy, or you might have a constant alarm going off in your head, reminding you that you could have a panic attack in public.
Both types of racing thoughts have three commonalities:
- They’re, uh, not helpful,
- They’re (unfortunately) easy to indulge in, and
- They can be defeated by reframing!
What’s reframing, you ask?
Cognitive reframing is one of the best social anxiety coping skills that involves changing how you experience a stressful event (like a social situation you’ve been dreading). This is accomplished by altering the way you think about it.
You can reframe during a conversation by:
- Noticing your thoughts
- Catching negative thought patterns
- Asking yourself if those thought patterns are accurate and true
- Replacing inaccurate, false, and negative thoughts with positive, optimistic ones
4. Keep your phone in your pocket
Your smartphone could be worsening your social anxiety more than you think. The next time you’re in a convo that’s raising your blood pressure, keep your hands off your phone and focus on other coping strategies. (Like the three we just learned!)
First: Smartphones can become an avoidant coping strategy, which is not helpful. Looking at your phone (or pretending to) can be an easy out when you don’t feel like talking or making eye contact, but avoidant coping can only worsen the problem because you’re not working on solving it.
Second: There’s some evidence that suggests that there could be a correlation between social anxiety and smartphone use.
Check out these two studies:
- A 2016 study found that social phobia markers were positively correlated with smartphone use (they used a Smartphone Addiction Scale to quantify use).
- A 2019 study found that “smartphone dependency predicted loneliness and depressive symptoms,” which are often a part of social anxiety.
Squash severe stress by getting help and trying smart social anxiety coping mechanisms. But for folks who just have some everyday in-person worries, a little Sunday Scaries may help!
Coping with social anxiety is a big task, especially when you can’t avoid talking to people in day-to-day situations — so, great job deciding to overcome this challenge! If it rises to the level of something that is derailing your life, seek and get professional help. You are not alone in this struggle.
But if you just get the occasional social jitters, CBD may help. It works to calm your mind and silence racing thoughts, so you can relax and focus —truly focus — on the conversation with the person in front of you. Subscribe to Sunday Scaries to get the best Colorado-grown CBD gummies for anxiety shipped to your door at 20% off!