Going to a friend’s house for game night, joining a Zoom call for work and even making small talk with a stranger can all be joyful experiences. Many people enjoy social moments like this every week and don’t think anything of it. But for someone suffering from social anxiety, these activities bring about fear, stress and unease instead of joy.
This crippling panic of being in a situation where you don’t know anyone can be challenging to deal with and create major obstacles for everyday life. The desire to get away from the weight of social anxiety can be strong enough to unfortunately push people into using drugs or alcohol to cope.
While drugs and alcohol might provide a short-term relief of social anxiety disorder symptoms, the risks and dangers to your health just aren’t worth it. The good news is there are plenty of healthy ways to cope with social anxiety.
1. Start with Exposure Therapy
Exposure therapy is the idea that the more time you spend around your fears, the less power they will have over you. If you’re struggling with social anxiety, the goal is to slowly build your way up to a social situation.
The key is taking baby steps towards that goal. For example, you might start by getting together with a couple of family members. That way you can participate in a group activity with people you feel comfortable with. From there, you might add a friend of the family you don’t know well. As you keep practicing, you’ll become more comfortable participating in group activities with minimal anxiety.
2. Work on Reframing Your Thoughts
So many people fall into the line of thinking that all stress and anxiety is bad. But that’s not the case. Stress and anxiety act as the body’s warning system when something is wrong. One of the worst ways you can handle social anxiety is ignoring it. However, it’s important to remember that your social anxiety isn’t actually an indication that you’re in danger.
Instead of panicking, start by challenging any negative thoughts your social anxiety might be causing. For example, let’s say you were invited to a party by one of your friends. It’s normal to worry that you won’t be able to handle a social event like that.
But take some time to address those thoughts. Ask yourself what evidence there is for you to jump to the absolute worst-case scenario? Then, for every negative thought you have, counter it with three positive ones. Over time, you’ll notice that you’re more capable of keeping yourself calm during social functions than before.
3. Find Some Time to Volunteer
At first glance, volunteering might sound like a nightmare for your social anxiety. However, it’s actually a good way to take the edge off during certain social situations. When you volunteer, you’re responsible for completing some type of task. This responsibility can actually distract your brain from focusing on your anxiety.
One of the great aspects of volunteering is how flexible the opportunities can be in your community. If volunteering to help strangers seems too overwhelming, you could start by donating your time at an animal shelter.
Research has shown that doing good deeds in your community activates the area of your brain tied to motivation and reward. When you do selfless acts, it can actually help you feel less anxious in social situations. Plus, volunteering will give you a variety of positive interactions with other people, which can build your confidence for the next social situation.
Find Healthy Coping Skills for Your Anxiety at Silver Maple Recovery
We know how hard it can be to struggle with social anxiety, and using drugs or alcohol can seem like an easy way to get through each day. But now, you’re worried that the drug or alcohol use might be a problem.
At Silver Maple Recovery, we’re known for our expertise in dual diagnosis treatment. Our expert team can help you address your addiction and social anxiety at the same time. With a little support, you can start your journey to lasting recovery. We have professional caregivers ready to hear your story 24/7. Contact us today and break free from the hold addiction and anxiety have over you.