This is from my experience, not just as a socially anxious person but also as someone who has helped friends who suffer from a social anxiety disorder. If you have a child, partner or friend who struggles with social anxiety everyday it can be very frustrating to not know the best way to help, it can be confusing and heart breaking to see the person you care about suffering in this way.
Here’s 6 simple ways you can try and help someone with social anxiety…
1. Encouragement without pressure
Pressure is no good. Anxiety is already stressful on the mind and body as it is.
Instead of telling your loved one to do something social and getting frustrated when they can’t, try and bring more positive vibes to the table… Telling them they are doing really well, that you’re proud of them for trying and you’re there to help them achieve their goals is a much more effective way to encourage them.
Remember that overcoming anxiety is a step by step process, pushing a person in the deep end will most likely reinforce the fear they already had for the situation.
Here’s a great article about Facing Fears Without Pushing Your Child Over the Edge
2. Be a good example
Personally I have learnt most of my social skills by watching my very confident friends striking up conversations with strangers or talking in a group situations. Being a good role model to the socially anxious person in your life will be very beneficial, and don’t be afraid to simply tell them how you deal with certain awkward situations and how you usually start a conversation. Some of us socially anxious people have had it all of our lives and simply don’t know where to start.
3. Become an exercise buddy
Exercise is so good for anxiety, as well as stress and depression. Apart from the obvious inside-chemical-goodness that you get from exercise, it’s also a great self esteem builder.
Offer to exercise with your socially anxious friend/partner outdoors or if they don’t want to go to the gym alone, kindly offer to go with them. It won’t cure their anxiety and fix the problem but it can certainly help them, having someone to go outside with.
4. Help them with their therapy
Sometimes in therapy we get homework. Doing things that scare us step by step. Help someone with social anxiety, with whatever they need to do until they are comfortable doing them alone, or even suggest ideas on what experiments they can try to overcome their anxiety.
It’s always nice to have a good old vent. Anxiety can be quite embarrassing for some people and this can turn into feelings of loneliness and shame quite quickly. If you’re a good listener, offer your ears to them and let them express what has been worrying them.
Sometimes it’s hard for a person to talk about their feelings, especially feelings that pertain to the fear of being judged. Sometimes just being there for someone and not saying anything can be the greatest gift you can give.