Social anxiety is a disorder that makes people intensely uncomfortable in settings such as parties, job interviews and dates. Even answering the phone or ordering food in a restaurant can be stressful for someone with extreme social anxiety. In the past, you may have used alcohol and drugs to mask the symptoms of social anxiety, but now that you are sober and prioritizing your recovery, you will need to learn more constructive ways to get around it. Here are our top ideas for moving past social anxiety without intoxicating substances.
Improve Your Social Skills
People living with social anxiety often have trouble expressing themselves, and can have underdeveloped social skills such as assertiveness, openness to others and nonverbal communication. They also feel awkward about starting conversations and keeping them going.
One quick example of how to join a conversation that’s already in progress is to listen first. Then, without interrupting anyone, respond with a relevant comment. For example, “Are you talking about last night’s game? What an exciting comeback that was!”
Seek out as many opportunities as possible to hone your social skills. Practice being an active listener, asking open-ended questions and sharing personal stories and anecdotes so people can get to know you better.
Overcoming Fear and Negativity
Fear of the unknown and negative self-talk are two other factors that can leave you spiraling into social anxiety. For example, if you suffer from social anxiety, you probably misinterpret others’ behavior as being against you, even if it is entirely neutral. For example, if you see two co-workers talking to each other in low voices, your knee-jerk reaction may be to assume they’re saying bad things about you, even when that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Try these three strategies for moving past your social anxiety disorder.
- Keep a journal of social situations that caused you to experience anxiety. Jot down your negative thoughts surrounding the event. By reviewing past entries, you may be able to find a pattern.
- Challenge your negativity by asking yourself questions. For example, if you are giving a presentation at work and you see people checking their watches, your initial thought might be something like, “I must seem boring.” Ask yourself a question like, “Why else might someone want to check the time?” In this case, it could be that they have another meeting immediately afterward, or that they are trying to mentally plan their to-do list for the rest of the day.
- Try to replace the automatic negative thoughts you have before, during and after challenging social situations with positive self-talk.
Managing Social Anxiety in Recovery
It is possible to cope with social anxiety in your new, sober lifestyle, as long as you’re willing to work at it. The strategies in this post can be an excellent starting point, especially when you couple them with group or individual therapy and counseling.
At Spearhead Lodge, we provide young men with substance misuse issues the tools and life skills to achieve sobriety. We offer customized treatment plans, including relapse prevention strategies. Contact our admissions team today to learn more.