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Jessica Cardwell, PsyD
4 Tips For Overcoming Social Anxiety
. https://www.drjcardwell.com/about

4 Tips For Overcoming Social Anxiety

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in mental health concerns including an increase in social anxiety. Many adults and children without a history of anxiety have found themselves increasingly fearful of going back to school/work and social interactions. In addition, many people with a history of anxiety are struggling now more than ever. Here are some tips to help you or your child learn to cope with anxious feelings and prepare for social success.

  1. Learn to Control Your Breathing. A common response to feeling anxious is to breathe quickly. Hyperventilation then leads to other physical symptoms such as dizziness and increased heart rate, which often make the person panic and hyperventilate more. Learn some simple breathing techniques and practice them at home. For example, you can practice breathing like a triangle, where you inhale for the count of four, hold your breath for the count of 4, exhale for the count of 4, and repeat.
  2. Start Small and Face Your Fears. Resuming social life may be very anxiety provoking after this extended quarantine. If you are worried about returning to work, or your child is fearful of returning to school, start with small steps so you can be successful in controlling anxiety and build up coping skills for bigger stressors. For example, plan an outing with people around but without required social interaction so you/your child can get used to the sensory stimulation of being around groups of people. Plan some small interactions with people you know and are more comfortable with. Practice simple interactions with people you do not know well like store cashiers. 
  3. Make a Plan. Plan ahead for social situations that trigger anxiety such as returning to work/school. Have a plan for how to build up to returning in-person. Have at least three coping strategies to use (e.g. controlled breathing, holding a stress ball, taking a bathroom break, or using lavender lotion) if you start to feel overwhelmed. Try to break the day up into small achievable sections. Have a plan for a quiet space for a break when needed (e.g. counselors office, break room, bathroom, car) and focus on calming down and resuming the day. Plan rewards for facing fears.
  4. Get help and support when you need it. There has been a significant increase in mental health difficulties last year leaving many adults, children, and teens feeling overwhelmed. If needed seek support through mental health providers which can meet via teletherapy or in-person options.
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