Treating Social Anxiety Naturally
Edited by Kathy McGraw, Maria Quinney
Social anxiety disorder is very common, with about 13 out of 100 people meeting the diagnostic criteria for it at some point in their lives. The effects of social anxiety make it difficult for sufferers to succeed in life because so much of it depends on interacting with other people. For instance, people with social anxiety lack the social networks so essential to finding good jobs and have trouble presenting themselves well in job interviews. Poor performance at job interviews and other social situations encourage the sufferer to retreat further and to eventually forgo them altogether. Although the best way to treat social anxiety is through getting into a cognitive-behavioral therapy program with a professional therapist who is skilled in treating the disorder, there are some techniques therapists use that you can employ yourself as well as herbal treatments you can try to manage your symptoms.
Herbal Remedies and Supplements
Many people swear by the efficacy of herbal remedies for the treatment of some health conditions, including anxiety. Health food stores and alternative medicine shops sell herbal remedies in many forms, including as pills, essential oils, and dried herbs, from which you can brew teas. Be cautious when using any herbal remedy, since most have not been thoroughly tested to make sure that they are safe for long-term use.
- 1Passionflower. Taken as a tea or in supplement form, passionflower may be helpful in reducing anxiety. There have been some successes in small clinical trials, but its long-term effects are not known. Also, because it usually comes in preparations with other herbs, it is difficult to isolate its effectiveness.Advertisement
- 2Valerian Root. Valerian root has been used for centuries as a natural sedative. It can be taken as a tea or in pill supplements, which you can find at any health food store. It is generally safe to use, but if you have been taking it for a prolonged period of time, you should taper your doses down rather than going off it at once to avoid withdrawal symptoms.Advertisement
- 3Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is a plant native to India. Its root and fruit are commonly used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine as a tonic. It has been shown to have a sedative effect and therefore may be helpful in treating anxiety. Try mixing three grams of ashwagandha powder in warm milk daily.
- 4Chamomille. When you were a child, your mother may have brewed chamomile tea to help you sleep when a nightmare woke you in the middle of the night. Chamomile is well-known for its sedative effects, and it is quite safe for daily use, so take a page out of your mom's book of home remedies and drink a cup of chamomile tea daily.
- 5GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is a chemical that counters the neurotransmitter glutamate which makes you more excitable. Increasing the sensitivity of your brain's GABA receptors is one way anti-anxiolytic drugs, such as Xanax, relaxes you. Health food stores sell it as a supplement and even as chocolate.
- 6Lavender. The scent of lavender is known for its calming effects. Try placing a drop of lavender essential oil on the pulse points of your wrists or on your collarbone.
- 7Kava. Kava is a plant from the South Seas that was originally used to make alcoholic spirits. It has a natural sedative effect and can be taken as a tea or in pill form. It is generally safe, but should not be used by people receiving treatment for Parkinson's Disease.
Much of the treatment for anxiety disorders, including social anxiety, is about teaching you to cope with your fears of social situations so that they don't overwhelm you and prevent you from interacting with others, making friends, and enjoying life. You don't have to be in treatment to learn coping techniques, however.
- 2Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is being aware of how you think and what things and situations trigger your thoughts. For instance, you may become nervous when you notice a group of acquaintances from work chatting nearby. You wonder whether you should say hi. You decide against it because you're sure that it would be intruding and an unwelcome interruption. Note the situation that inspired your thoughts and the actions you took because of them. The more you practice mindfulness, the better you will get at spotting patterns in your thinking, which you can then work to change.
- 3Relabel your feelings. Anxiety and excitement feel quite similar to each other. The next time you think you are feeling anxious, tell yourself that you're actually feeling excited instead. By relabelling a negative emotion as a positive one, you are shifting your perceptions of the same sensations from bad to good.
- 4Try breathing exercises. When we become anxious, our breathing patterns quicken and our chests can feel tight. When you start to feel anxious about a social situation, focus on your breathing. Try to slow it down; breathe in and breathe out consciously and deeply.
- 5Turn your focus outward. Anxious people live inside their heads, imagining scenarios that haven't happened or mind-reading into the motives and thoughts of others. The next time you are in a social situation, try to catch these thought processes and instead turn your thoughts on what the other person is saying. Show concern and interest in the other person rather than trying to impute their intent.
- 6Keep a journal. Journaling can help you with practicing mindfulness as well as acting as a cathartic to help you get your feelings out in a safe and productive way. In your journal, take careful note of the times that you felt anxious. Note what was happening at the time, what you were doing, who you were with, what your thoughts were, and what actions you took.
- 7Try to laugh more. Apparently, even a fake laugh causes a spike in dopamine levels. Dopamine is a brain chemical associated with pleasure and reward. Watch comedies or listen to your favorite stand-up comedian. There are also some humorous apps available, such as Cheezburger, The Onion, or Kick the Buddy to tickle your funny bone.
- 8Get regular exercise. Exercise releases your body's endorphins, the hormones that play a role in the sense of well-being and happiness. Even doing as little as a 10-minute walk daily will help you feel better and elevate your mood.
- 9Get enough sleep. Although sleep needs vary from person to person, you should aim for a good seven to eight hours of sleep a night, as this amount seems to correlate positively with good health, emotional and physical.
- 10Practice desensitization. Another common therapy for social anxiety disorder is exposure therapy. As its name implies, exposure therapy aims to reduce a person's fears by encouraging them to face the object of their fears. It's a gradual process that allows the person to become accustomed to the feared object or situation. For instance, you could start out having dinner with a trusted friend of family member and then try talking to a store clerk, etc.
- 11Learn or refresh your social skills. It is common for people with social anxiety to feel inept in social situations because they lack the social skills to fit in. Groups that help you to learn how to deal with social situations will help to reduce the anxiety you feel. Your support group is an excellent resource for finding a social skills training program close to you.
- Find someone to talk to about your fears. Sometimes, talking with a trusted friend will help you to identify problematic thinking patterns and diffuse your fears
- Recognize that it's normal to feel some anxiety
- Recognize that anxiety is just a feeling and doesn't mean that anything bad will happen
- Pay attention to your thoughts and compare your beliefs to reality to determine if they are well-reasoned and backed up with evidence. You'll be surprised at how often they are not
- Recognize that if someone has a negative reaction to you, that it isn't the end of the world and doesn't imply that there is anything wrong with you
Categories : Mental Health
Recent edits by: Kathy McGraw