9 Tips For Teens With Social Anxiety
If your teen is struggling with social anxiety, you want to do everything possible to help them cope. It can be daunting and overwhelming for the entire family when trying to figure out the best way forward.
Nearly 10% of children between the ages of 3-17 have been diagnosed with anxiety between 2016-2019.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tips that may be beneficial in helping teens manage their social anxieties more effectively. In this blog post, we’ll explore some practical strategies from experts and experienced peers so that parents and teens alike can find comfort in knowing they’re doing all they can to address tough situations related to social anxiety.
Overcoming Social Anxiety By Marielle Cornes. TEDxYouth
1 – Understand what social anxiety is and what causes it
Social anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder that involves a fear of social situations and interactions. People with social anxiety may feel extremely self-conscious and anxious in social situations, such as interacting with others, speaking in public, or performing in front of others. They may worry about being judged, criticized, or embarrassed by others, and as a result, may avoid social situations or engage in them with great discomfort.
There are a variety of factors that can contribute to the development of social anxiety. These may include:
- Genetics: Research suggests that social anxiety can run in families, suggesting that there may be a genetic component to the disorder.
- Life experiences: Certain life experiences, such as being bullied or experiencing social exclusion, may increase the risk of developing social anxiety.
- Brain chemistry: Abnormalities in certain brain chemicals, such as serotonin, may contribute to the development of social anxiety.
- Environmental factors: Environmental factors, such as growing up in a household with overprotective or critical parents, may also increase the risk of developing social anxiety.
It is important to note that social anxiety is a treatable disorder and there are effective treatments available, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and medication. If you are experiencing social anxiety that is interfering with your daily life, it may be helpful to seek support from a mental health professional.
2 – Help Your Child Identify His/Her triggers
Identifying your triggers can be an important step in managing social anxiety. A trigger is a specific event or situation that causes feelings of anxiety or panic. By identifying your triggers, you can start to understand what situations or events tend to make you feel anxious, and you can develop strategies to cope with or avoid them.
Here are some steps you can take to identify your triggers:
- Keep a journal: Start by writing down any situations or events that have made you feel anxious or triggered your social anxiety. Try to be specific and include details such as the time of day, who was present, and any physical symptoms you experienced.
- Look for patterns: As you write down your triggers, see if you can identify any patterns or common themes. For example, do you tend to feel anxious in group situations, or do you feel more anxious around certain people?
- Identify your thoughts and feelings: Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings in the moments leading up to or during a trigger event. What are you telling yourself in these moments? What are you feeling?
Once you have identified your triggers, you may want to try to avoid them as much as possible. While this may not always be possible, there may be certain triggers that you can avoid or prepare for in advance. For example, if you feel anxious in large group situations, you may want to try to avoid attending events with large crowds. If you have a trigger that you cannot avoid, such as speaking in front of a class, you may want to try to prepare for the event by practicing your speech in advance or seeking support from a trusted friend or family member. It is important to remember that avoiding triggers can only be a temporary solution and that eventually, you may need to work on facing and coping with your triggers in order to fully manage your social anxiety.
3 – Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation, to help manage anxiety in social situations.
- Relaxation techniques can be an effective way to help manage anxiety in social situations. Deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation are two relaxation techniques that you can try.
- Deep breathing:
- Find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
- Focus on your breath and try to let go of any distracting thoughts.
- As you inhale, slowly count to four in your head. Hold your breath for a count of two, and then exhale slowly, counting to four.
- Continue this pattern of deep breathing for several minutes, or until you start to feel more relaxed.
- Progressive muscle relaxation:
- Find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
- Starting with your feet, tense the muscles in your feet for a count of five, and then release the tension and relax for a count of 10.
- Move up to your calves and repeat the process of tensing and relaxing.
Continue this process, working your way up your body, tensing and relaxing each muscle group for a count of five before moving on to the next group.
When you have finished with your head, take a few deep breaths and focus on the feeling of relaxation in your body.
It can be helpful to practice relaxation techniques daily, even when you are not feeling anxious, in order to build your skills and make them more effective when you do feel anxious. If you find it difficult to relax or are unsure how to do these techniques, consider seeking support from a mental health professional. They can help you learn and practice relaxation techniques and other coping strategies to manage anxiety.
4 – Seek support from trusted friends or family. It can be helpful to have someone to talk to about your feelings and experiences.
Seeking support from trusted friends or family can be an important part of managing social anxiety. Having someone to talk to about your feelings and experiences can help you feel understood and supported, and can provide a sense of connection and belonging.
Here are a few tips for seeking support from friends or family:
- Choose someone you trust: It is important to choose someone who is supportive and understanding. This could be a friend, family member, or mentor.
- Be open and honest: Share your thoughts and feelings with the person you have chosen to confide in. It can be helpful to be as specific as possible about what you are feeling and what is triggering your anxiety.
- Set boundaries: It is important to set boundaries around what you are comfortable sharing and how much support you need. It is okay to say no if you do not feel comfortable discussing certain things or if you need some space.
- Use active listening: When the person you have confided in is sharing their thoughts and feelings with you, try to really listen and understand where they are coming from. This can help strengthen your relationship and build trust.
5 – Reward yourself for small accomplishments
It can be helpful for kids with social anxiety to reward themselves for small accomplishments as a way to recognize and celebrate progress in managing their anxiety. This can help build confidence and encourage continued progress.
Here are a few ideas for rewards:
- A small treat: This could be a favorite food or drink, or a small toy or game.
- An activity: This could be something you enjoy, such as watching a movie or going to a park.
- Time with friends or family: This could be a play date or an outing with friends or family members.
- Special time with a parent or caregiver: This could be a one-on-one activity, such as going to a museum or playing a game together.
It is important to choose rewards that are meaningful and motivating for your child. You may want to involve your child in deciding what rewards to set and help them set achievable goals for earning the rewards. It can also be helpful to celebrate accomplishments with your child and offer encouragement and support as they work towards their goals.
Remember, it is important to recognize and celebrate progress, but it is also important to be patient and understanding. Managing social anxiety can be a process and it is okay if progress is not always easy or steady.
6 – Seek professional help if the anxiety is proving too difficult to manage on your own
If your child’s social anxiety is proving too difficult to manage on your own, it may be helpful to seek professional help. A mental health professional, such as a psychologist or counselor, can provide support and guidance to help your child learn coping strategies and techniques to manage their anxiety.
There are several types of treatment that may be helpful for children with social anxiety, including:
- Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on helping people identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors. It can be particularly effective for children with social anxiety.
- Exposure therapy: This type of therapy involves gradually exposing a child to the social situations that trigger their anxiety, with the goal of helping them become more comfortable in those situations.
- Family therapy: This type of therapy involves working with a therapist and the whole family to identify and address any family dynamics or communication patterns that may be contributing to the child’s anxiety.
- Medication: In some cases, medication may be recommended to help manage the symptoms of social anxiety. This is usually only considered if other treatments have not been effective.
It is important to work with a mental health professional who is experienced in working with children and who can help your child feel comfortable and supported. It may take some time to find the right treatment approach, so it is important to be patient and stay committed to finding the right solution for your child.
7 – Gradually expose yourself to social situations that make you anxious.
Start with small steps and gradually increase the intensity of the social situations you face.
Gradually exposing yourself to social situations that make you anxious can be an effective way to manage social anxiety. This process, known as “exposure therapy,” involves gradually exposing yourself to the situations that trigger your anxiety, with the goal of becoming more comfortable in those situations over time.
Here are some steps you can take to gradually expose yourself to social situations:
- Identify your triggers: Take some time to think about the social situations that trigger your anxiety. These may include situations such as speaking in front of others, attending parties, or making small talk with strangers.
- Make a list: Create a list of the social situations you would like to work on, starting with the ones that are least anxiety-provoking and gradually working up to the more challenging situations.
- Start small: Begin by exposing yourself to the least anxiety-provoking situations on your list. For example, if you are anxious about speaking in front of others, you might start by speaking to a small group of friends or classmates.
- Gradually increase the intensity: As you become more comfortable in the initial situations, gradually increase the intensity by exposing yourself to more challenging situations. For example, if you are anxious about speaking in front of others, you might gradually work up to speaking in front of larger groups or in more formal settings.
- Use relaxation techniques: As you expose yourself to social situations, it can be helpful to use relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation, to help manage anxiety.
- Seek support: Consider seeking support from a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional as you work through this process. It can be helpful to have someone to talk to about your feelings and experiences.
Remember, it is important to be patient and take things at your own pace. It may take time to become more comfortable in social situations, but with practice and support, you can make progress in managing your social anxiety.
8 – Use positive self-talk to challenge negative thoughts and beliefs about social situations
Using positive self-talk can be an effective way to challenge negative thoughts and beliefs about social situations that may contribute to social anxiety. Positive self-talk involves using affirmations or positive statements to counteract negative thoughts and beliefs.
Here are a few steps you can take to use positive self-talk to manage social anxiety:
- Identify negative thoughts: Pay attention to the thoughts and beliefs that come up for you in social situations. These may include thoughts such as “I’m going to make a fool of myself,” “Everyone is judging me,” or “I’m not good enough.”
- Challenge negative thoughts: Once you have identified a negative thought, try to challenge it by asking yourself if it is really true. Is there evidence to support the thought? Is it helpful or constructive to think this way?
- Replace negative thoughts with positive ones: Once you have challenged a negative thought, try to replace it with a more positive or realistic thought. For example, instead of thinking “I’m going to make a fool of myself,” you might try thinking “I may make a mistake, but that’s okay. Everyone makes mistakes.”
- Practice regularly: It can be helpful to practice positive self-talk regularly, even when you are not feeling anxious, in order to build your skills and make it more effective when you do feel anxious.
It may take some time and practice to develop the habit of using positive self-talk, but with time and persistence, it can be a powerful tool for managing social anxiety. If you are having difficulty using positive self-talk or are struggling to manage your social anxiety, consider seeking support from a mental health professional. They can provide guidance and support as you work to manage your anxiety.
9 – Encourage your child to take care of physical health by getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and staying active.
Taking care of physical health can be an important part of managing social anxiety for children. Good physical health can help improve mental health and can also provide a sense of well-being and confidence. Here are a few tips for taking care of your child’s physical health:
- Get enough sleep: Encourage your child to get enough sleep by setting a consistent bedtime and creating a relaxing bedtime routine.
- Eat a balanced diet: Encourage your child to eat a variety of healthy foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein.
- Stay active: Encourage your child to engage in physical activity on a regular basis. This could include activities such as sports, dancing, or going for a walk or bike ride.
- Practice good hygiene: Encourage your child to practice good hygiene, including washing their hands regularly, brushing their teeth, and taking regular baths or showers.
- Limit screen time: Encourage your child to limit their screen time, including time spent watching TV, using a computer, or playing video games.
Remember, it is important to encourage healthy habits and to be patient and supportive as your child works to establish and maintain these habits. If you are concerned about your child’s physical or mental health, consider seeking support from AE Psychotherapy to help with social anxiety for your child.