Can You Overcome Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety can have a major impact on your life. Depending on the severity of your anxiety, it may prevent you from socializing with friends or pursuing new opportunities. Can you overcome social anxiety and stop these negative effects? In most cases you can, though it may take multiple attempts to find the approach that works for you.

One thing to keep in mind is that there is no one-size-fits-all way to tackle social anxiety. If one attempt doesn’t provide results, some other method of overcoming social anxiety may work better. As difficult as social anxiety is, with perseverance, you can still come out on top.

Therapy Options

One of the primary methods used to overcome social anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. This therapy looks at not only the actions you take but also the thoughts associated with those actions. It’s effective against social anxiety because it helps you isolate your fears and avoidances, letting you approach them from a more logical angle and find ways to deal with each issue individually. The therapy may help you challenge your negative reactions to social situations and over time, should help you to overcome the hurdles in your life caused by social anxiety.

A Self-Help Approach

Therapy and routines can go a long way toward overcoming social anxiety. In some cases, medication is also an option. Don’t overlook the benefits of self-help books, apps, and videos, however. While these should be seen as more of a supplement to other methods than a primary form of dealing with social anxiety, even a little help is better than nothing. You may learn valuable techniques for dealing with stress and anxiety from self-help resources and they have the benefit of giving you a source you can go back to again and again when it’s most convenient for you.

Exposure Hierarchies

You may hear this referred to as an “exposure ladder” or a “fear hierarchy.” Regardless of the name, however, this tool may help you overcome some of the worst stresses brought on by social anxiety. Look at your day and pick out the 5 to 10 biggest potential triggers that you’ll face. Write each down, then rate each with a score between 0 (indicating that it is unlikely to cause any anxiety) to 100 (indicating that it is almost certain to cause severe anxiety.) Reorder the list from lowest score to greatest, giving you an order in which you can gradually build up to the bigger causes of stress and anxiety while still getting things done. As you check some items off of your list you’ll likely find more confidence to tackle the bigger triggers, as well.

Break Down Your Day

Another way to overcome the social anxiety you face each day is to break down your day into a series of achievable milestones. Each morning, create a list of your goals for the day. From there you can break each goal down into a series of smaller accomplishments, making the goals less daunting and reducing your anxiety about each in the process.

Practice Makes Perfect

If your social anxiety seems overwhelming in certain situations, try practicing or acting out those situations to make them seem more commonplace. The more you practice a potentially anxiety-triggering event, the more used to the event you will feel and the less likely it will be to trigger a severe anxiety reaction. You can also practice ways to cope with the anxiety such as deep breathing or other calming exercises; this will help you associate the calming exercise with the event, making it more effective if your anxiety does get triggered.

There are a lot of things that can trigger social anxiety, and it may take a combination of techniques to face them all. Even if you still feel some anxiety, it’s important that you focus on your victories rather than the moments where anxiety seems to take over. Even when it seems like an uphill battle, it’s still one that you can win with time.

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Why Drinking to Control Social Anxiety Can Backfire

At first glance, you might think that having a drink or two might be a good way to deal with your social anxiety. After all, using alcohol is considered by many people to be a good way to unwind after a stressful day. Before you reach for that bottle of wine, snap the cap on that beer or start lining up shots, you need to consider something else: Bending the elbow to control your anxiety can backfire on you and make you feel more anxious the next day.

“Hangxiety”: When a Hangover and Anxiety Meet

If you have ever woken up the morning after drinking feeling stressed or guilty about things you said or did the night before, then you experienced what is commonly called “hangxiety.” As if it’s not bad enough feeling dehydrated, headachy and generally like you’ve been hit by a freight train (the hangover), you get to deal with anxiety as well. How exactly does this double whammy occur? [Hint: It’s not just the result of being dehydrated because of alcohol use.]

How Alcohol Use Leads to Anxiety

Step 1: Alcohol Calms the Brain

When you first start drinking, alcohol interacts with the Gaba receptor. This receptor sends chemical messengers through the brain as well as the central nervous system to slow down nerve cells’ activity. As a result, you start to feel relaxed and in good spirits (no pun intended). This stage lasts for the first couple of drinks.

Step 2: More Inebriated, Even Less Anxiety

Once you get into your third or fourth drink, the alcohol is actively blocking glutamate. This is the brain’s principal excitability transmitter.

As people continue to drink alcohol, they tend to become less anxious. Someone who is very drunk is even less anxious than a person who has only had one or two drinks. The endless trains of thought that go along with being anxious are pretty much shut down. This may sound like it’s a desirable state of mind, but it isn’t exactly as advertised.

Step 3: Body Tries to Correct Imbalance in Brain Chemistry

You know that your body works like a very-complicated machine, right? When something is even the least bit out of balance, it tries to correct it and put things right.

When you get drunk, your body knows that its Gaba levels are out of whack. It goes into overdrive to bring them down to normal levels. At the same time, it’s trying to get the glutamate back up.

Step 4: Hangxiety Can Occur

At the point where you stop drinking, your Gaba function is really low and your body has caused your glutamate levels to increase rapidly. This creates the perfect situation for you to feel very anxious. It’s also the reason why some people experience seizures while going through alcohol withdrawal.

The anxiety starts while you’re sleeping off the alcohol you consumed. You wake up feeling jittery and your “fight or flight” hormone (noradrenaline) levels are higher than usual. Alcohol consumption causes them to increase slightly, then they rise as the alcohol wears off. The surge of noradrenaline in the brain can cause severe anxiety.

Who is Affected Most by Hangxiety?

Not everyone feels the effects of hangxiety to the same extent. The results of a study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that hangxiety effects people differently. Researchers asked a group of participants about their anxiety levels before, during and then the morning after they consumed alcohol. They found that people who were more shy had much higher anxiety levels the day after drinking than the participants who weren’t as shy. The researchers also found a link between those who experienced significant hangxiety and those who had a problem with alcohol abuse.

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5 Ways to Improve Social Anxiety When Dining Out

Social anxiety can affect you in any number of surprising ways. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on things, another social occasion pops up that you can’t figure out how to deal with. Going to a restaurant can be like running through a minefield of anxiety triggers: step in any direction and you might find a situation that sends you spiraling into a panic. In the best of times dining out can make you uncomfortable, but with some smart planning, you can get through a restaurant dinner without feeling embarrassed, guilty or anxious.

Do Your Research

The internet is your best friend when it comes to working out this problem. Almost every restaurant around posts their menu online, plus loads of review sites offer descriptions about the restaurant itself. Check out everything you can find about the restaurant you’ll be going to. You’ll know what to wear so you know you’ll fit in, how large the place is so you’ll know if it’s noisy or quiet and what’s on the menu that you like. Choose your meal ahead of time and you won’t have to deal with the stress of reading a menu and having everyone watch while you try to make a decision. You’ll sit down already knowing what you’re going to eat and you won’t even have to read the menu.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Once you know what you want to eat, you’ve still got to deal with ordering the food. Rehearse exactly what you’re going to say to the waiter. Pretend you’re a character in a TV show and play that part. It’s not you who’s ordering the food, it’s them. Say your lines until you’ve got them memorized.

Always have a backup plan that you’ve practiced, too. Sometimes restaurants run out of certain items. If they’re out of the avocado toast, will you choose garlic bread, instead? Practice until you’re comfortable with all of your choices.

Try a Buffet

If your main anxiety revolves around making food choices and ordering from a menu, try to influence the restaurant choice and go to a buffet. There’s no choosing involved! Just take a plate and grab a small spoonful of everything that looks good. If there’s a large crowd around the buffet, sit and sip your drink for a bit until there’s a bit more room to move. You won’t be the only one in the restaurant waiting to avoid the rush.

Pick a Helpful Dinner Companion

You know that wonderful friend who spends the entire meal just chatting away for an hour at a time? She never suffers from awkward silences, because she fills them in by herself. She’s also great at asking for more water, sending back overdone fish or getting the right sauce on her meal. This should be your go-to dinner companion. She probably considers you a great listener, making you the perfect dining pair.

Use Helpful Self Talk

Fight your social anxiety by using logic and reasoning with it. Keep telling yourself how good you’re doing, and how well the dinner is progressing. Tell yourself that people really aren’t looking at you, they’re just looking around normally. If you really need it, excuse yourself and go to the restroom for a little bit of air and self-talk away from prying eyes. Pretend you’re talking to someone else who has the same disorder. What would you tell them? That’s what you need to tell yourself.

How have you overcome social anxiety when going out to restaurants?

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The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Anxiety

CBD oil, or cannabidiol, is an extract of a compound from the cannabis plant, commonly known as marijuana. Unlike the whole plant or other extracts from it, CBD oil isn’t going to get you goofy: it’s not psychoactive, so there’s the potential to reap the benefits of the compound without experiencing a “high” or any other psychotropic side effects. As such, it’s possible that this compound could prove useful in treating anxiety disorders, including social anxiety.

The Legalities of CBD Oil

The answer of whether CBD oil is legal or not depends on your location as well as the source of your oil. Oil derived from hemp – a strain of the plant that contains none of the psychoactive properties whatsoever – is completely legal at a federal level. CBD oil derived from marijuana strains, however, exists in an ever-changing legal grey area as states change their marijuana legislature.

The legalities of CBD oil depend largely on whether your state allows medicinal use of cannabis only, medicinal and recreational use, restricted or limited access to CBD oil below a certain THC percentage. As of 2018, there are still several states where all marijuana and marijuana-derived products are completely illegal — meaning any CBD oil from a marijuana strain is illegal for use regardless of the THC content and source.

In addition to state laws, you may also face local legislation restricting the use of CBD oil. Some locations may restrict the sale to those with a doctor’s note, while others restrict the access of CBD oil to licensed dispensaries only – regardless of THC content in the extract – simply because of the plant it’s derived from.

Does CBD Oil Treat Anxiety?

Some anxiety sufferers report relief from symptoms with the use of CBD oil, while others find their symptoms worsen or the oil has no noticeable effects whatsoever. Those that benefit from CBD oil report feeling calmer, more at ease and better able to relax and sleep. There hasn’t been a lot of research into the efficacy of CBD oil in treating anxiety, let alone in its ability to treat social anxiety, but early research into the topic shows promising results.

As with other treatments, no one substance works the same for every person. Individual biochemistry varies, and what works for one person may be a nightmare for another. Additionally, the source of the oil may play a part in whether it’s effective or not, whether it works for you or whether it’s counterproductive in treating anxiety. With so many variables at play, it’s worth speaking to a qualified doctor who is well versed in both CBD oil or marijuana derived treatments and mental health treatments about the options available to you.

Is CBD Oil Right for Me?

Only you and your health care provider can decide if CBD oil is worth trying to treat your anxiety – assuming you’re in a location where it’s legal to do so. Speak to your mental health care professional about the possibility of exploring CBD oil as a treatment for anxiety. Even if they’re not a medical marijuana doctor, they still need to know what’s in your system as you work with them on your treatment. Being forthright with your health care practitioners is essential. While no known drug interactions for CBD oil exist, it’s important to record your attempt at using it in the event of an adverse reaction with your mental health.

Have you tried CBD Oil for anxiety? Was it useful? What advice can you give someone else considering it?

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Meditation is Not One Size Fits All

Contrary to what pop icons would have you believe, there’s no single right way to meditate. As long as you end up calm, restored, able to focus and at ease in your mind at the end of a session, you’ve successfully meditated. While mindfulness meditation – the act of training your mind to be present in the moment – is the current darling of supplemental health circles, it’s not the end-all, be-all of meditation practices that those battling social anxiety can benefit from.

The Problem with Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation has a host of benefits. Those who practice it and find it beneficial find themselves better able to focus on the present and able to lessen or silence the doubts and worry that come with anxiety. By being aware of your body and mind in relation to the current moment, you might find yourself calmer and able to focus and implement other coping mechanisms to deal with social anxiety flareup.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees a benefit from mindfulness. Its use can be problematic if your social anxiety brings a friend to the party like Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). Comorbid conditions that cause you to panic at being present in the moment because of hypervigilance – or even clinical paranoia – can make mindfulness meditation more harmful than helpful.

Visualization Is the Opposite of Mindfulness

Where mindfulness is the art of focusing your mind on your present circumstances, visualization – including guided meditation – is allowing your mind to wander elsewhere to instill a sense of calm. Mind-wandering, while the exact polar opposite of mindfulness, can be used to create a similar effect as mindfulness through different methods. By focusing on your wants, goals, dreams, desires or even creating a pleasant scenario – as is done in guided meditation – you’re dissociating from whatever circumstances are causing anxiety and refocusing on something that allows you to maintain your cool.

While some people are able to visualize without the aid of a guided session, those unable to do so can tune into any number of free or paid videos, audio recordings and podcasts aimed at helping create a guided meditation for calm.

Other Methods of Meditation for Social Anxiety

Meditation doesn’t always look like sitting in one spot. Those coping with anxiety may find they function best when there’s something to focus their physical attention on – be it a fidget toy, a set of beads or even walking or performing another simple, repetitive task while meditating. By occupying the energy created by anxiety with a physical task, it can be easier for some to quiet their minds and find calm. Walking meditation, meditation beads or even everyday tasks that fit the bill can aid in meditation.

Still other forms of meditation – including but not limited to religious practices from around the world, self-inquiry meditations, self-affirmation meditations and the practice of observing your thoughts without judging them – can benefit social anxiety warriors who are seeking to use this complementary therapy to calm themselves in addition to other coping mechanisms.

Moving Beyond Mindfulness Meditation

If mindfulness meditation works for you, it can still be helpful to explore other types of meditation to add to your toolbox of social anxiety skills. It’s not always practical or possible to practice one type of meditation – and finding other methods that work for you can aid when you least expect it. If mindfulness meditation doesn’t work for you at all – or makes things worse, as can be the case with certain comorbid psychological conditions – then exploring the offerings of meditation styles from around the world can help you learn new skills.

What type of meditation do you find works best for you? What resources would you recommend others explore when learning about your favorite type of meditation?

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