Social anxiety can be a crippling disability to live with. It can interfere with your ability to make friends, find romantic connections, and even leave your home. Learning to cope properly is important because many people resort to self-medication, which leads to addiction. Healthy ways to manage anxiety come in many forms, and each person needs to find what works for them. With that in mind, we share a few options for people to cope with social anxiety in healthy ways.
1. Seek a Support Group
Despite your social anxiety, it is important that you continue to get social interaction and avoid isolation. Isolation is the first step toward depression, self-medication, addiction, and even suicidal thoughts. Though a social event can be extremely difficult for most people with social anxiety, you might consider a support group. These groups would provide access to people with the same struggles and a counselor to help guide you through them. It may not necessarily be as fun as joining friends on a social outing, but participating in these groups can be very useful for getting advice and making connections. Those who have been coping for longer periods of time than you have may be able to offer some tips and tricks that you have never considered for managing your anxiety.
2. Look into Getting a Service Dog
Though most people think of service dogs as animals that aid a physically disabled person, psychiatric service dogs are becoming very popular. Two of the most common services provided by PSDs are for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For social anxiety, a service dog may be trained to keep crowds at bay, diffuse a panic attack, and smooth social interactions. Since each person is unique, each dog typically is trained with its owner’s specific needs in mind.
While there are a great many organizations that train service dogs for physical disabilities, there are only a few organizations that offer pre-trained service dogs for mental disorders. More often, the individual with social anxiety trains his dog himself with the help of a professional dog trainer. Once the training has been completed and certified, your PSD can go anywhere a service dog for physical disabilities can go.
3. Take Up Meditation or Yoga
Allowing yourself to relax is an important part of managing anxiety. If you allow your stress to build uncontrollably, your symptoms only will get worse. A good way to get yourself to relax each day is to take up meditation or yoga. Meditation’s goal is to silence the mind, which can be a welcome relief from the racing thoughts anxiety brings. Meditation also is easily tailored to an individual’s needs. It can be as long or as short as you need and can be done just about anywhere.
Yoga is also meditative in that its goal is mindfulness and tranquility. Yoga may be less portable, but it does have the added benefit of physical activity.
Learning to manage social anxiety does not happen overnight, and what helps one person may not help you. It is a matter of getting to know yourself, your triggers, and your illness. The best way to learn is to start trying possible coping tactics. It also can be very beneficial to work with a counselor who may be able to suggest anxiety management tips. You also should keep in mind that anxiety is a real illness and, like many illnesses, may require medication. Test different tactics, consult a counselor, and consider the possibility of medication. With time, you will have mastered your anxiety management, and your life won’t seem to be as complicated as it once was.
*Author’s Info: Adam Cook has a strong understanding of the devastation that can be caused by addiction. He recently lost a close friend to an addiction-related suicide. In an effort to better educate himself and to help others, he created AddictionHub.org, a site that provides addiction and mental health resources. When he isn’t working or adding to his website, he’s prepping for his first triathlon.