Overcoming Social Anxiety Without Medications

Updated on April 12, 2018
kate stroud profile image

Kate is a former youth counselor with seven years of experience working with troubled young adults in the Sacramento area of California.


Social anxiety is a real downer, a real rain-on-my-parade kind of disorder. It can keep you from enjoying dinner out with your parents, a night at the movies with your boyfriend, or hanging out at a friend's house even if the only thing on the itinerary is small talkin' your way through the latest episode of This Is Us over popcorn and Twizzlers.

If you live with it then you know that it'll keep you home from parties and holiday get-togethers and make going to school and work miserable. If you've ever broken out into a cold sweat heading into the mall, felt your knees seize up at an invitation to meet for tapas after class, or felt your heart skip a few beats at the thought of celebrating your birthday in a crowded restaurant then congrats! You probably have social anxiety and it's one heckuva nuisance if you ask me or one of the other 15 million American adults with social anxiety.

Here's the thing - you're not your disorder. You're just one of many, many (many, did you just see that 15 million statistic) people dealing with social anxiety. And with so many people experiencing the same elephant-stomping-around-in-your-chest feeling when faced with even the most seemingly chill social interactions, the internet hive-mind has become a wonderfully non-social place to gather tips and resources for living better with social anxiety.

Here's six tips to help you get started.

Prayer and Meditation

In this article on Harvard's medical school site, Julie Corliss explains how meditation may lessen the negative feelings associated with anxiety by reminding you stay and think in the present moment - not twenty moments ahead.

So, instead of spending the hour before your class starts imagining all of the ways in which you're going to embarrass yourself in front of your classmates a full hour later, in a no-doubt epic manner, you should take a minute to practice meditation with an app like Calm or using the methods found in Thich Nhat Hahn's books (I'm actually currently reading his guide on everyday meditations in "Peace is Every Step").

In the same vein, prayer, if it's your thing, can be a great way to settle racing thoughts and force your mind to focus on one thought at a time as you mentally articulate what it is you're actually freaking out about and whether or not it's actually worth the panic.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the form of therapy most commonly used to help people who are struggling with anxiety. The goal of cognitive-behavioral therapy is to develop coping strategies that target negative thoughts, beliefs, behaviors and attitudes. While anxiety often leads to very real physical symptoms, it all starts in the mind. When going through CBT you'll eventually reach a point where it's time to face your fears head-on. This is a necessary step whether you choose to participate in cognitive-behavioral therapy or not.

As your thought process begins to gradually change you'll need to take the step to put yourself into what could be an uncomfortable social situation.

When I was pregnant with my first baby I was scheduled for an emergency ultrasound to check the baby's growth. Since it was an emergency, you'd have thought it was going to happen right away but no, it was scheduled for five days out and with each day I became more and more anxious, not just about what was going on with my baby (who was fine, by the way), but because it was taking place in our huuuuge hospital that I don't know my way around and oh yeah, I hate hospitals. A lot. I just kept imagining myself on the day of, rushing to this appointment with my stomach out to here, losing my way down halls and corridors with doctors and nurses and patients going "Wow, if she can't even find radiology, how's she going to raise a baby?" and then them writing some prescription that says "This woman can not possibly have a baby" and me being mortified for life.

I know that doesn't make sense but thus is the essence of social anxiety. So I ended up doing a dry-run the night before when the hospital was least busy and I had the time to spare so that 1), I was exposing myself to a situation (the hospital) that makes me super nervous, and 2) I'd be prepared and have an idea of where I was going to minimize my fear of embarrassing myself by getting lost and being late for my appointment.

With CBT you'll do similar things, but with a trained professional who will help expose you to situations that make you feel anxious without completely overwhelming you so that you'll never want to try it again. As you become more and more comfortable you'll take bigger steps and with those steps, you'll take more and more control over your social anxiety and learn coping mechanisms for when the anxiety does kick in.

To find a CBT trained therapist near you, I've found that the best way to search is on Psychology Today's website.

Practicing aromatherapy has personally helped me to cope with social anxiety. Plus, my purse smells really good now.
Practicing aromatherapy has personally helped me to cope with social anxiety. Plus, my purse smells really good now. | Source

Remind Yourself How Smart, Strong and Amazing You Are

...and eventually you'll believe it! Similar to the root of cognitive-behavioral therapy, positive affirmations works against the worst case scenario you're always telling yourself you'll end up in. When you constantly imagine the worst case scenarios playing out, then you eventually convince yourself that it's going to happen (and maybe it feels like it does when you have to leave a meal with your friends before dessert has even arrived because you're so terrified there's spinach in your teeth).

A huge part of social anxiety is our own negative thinking. So be intentional to speak positively about yourself to yourself and stop the negative thoughts in their tracks.


I'm sure that by now you've learned that exercising release certain chemicals in our brains that make us feel better overall. Endorphins are one of these chemicals, capable of triggering positive feelings in your body and reducing pain sensations.

While speaking positive words has the ability to physically alter the DNA of your brain, literally rewiring it, exercise is a sure and quick way to release chemicals that add to feelings of positivity and reduce stress and negative thoughts. Getting outside for fresh air a quick walk around the block is ideal but if you can't do that, or just don't feel like it, one way that I always make sure to get exercise during the day is to slap on my FitBit and some good music and just start walking around, picking up, vacuuming and hauling trash out to the garage. Once I've spent a half an hour doing that I not only feel less keyed up, my house is clean and I've got like a quarter of my steps in! I feel accomplished and that gives me confidence, confidence I need to meet my girlfriend for ice cream when she gets out of work.

Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing is one of the best tools to have in your proverbial toolbox when you're in the midst of an anxiety attack brought on by an uncomfortable social situation. As you feel your anxiety starting to ramp up, be mindful of your breathing. Take slow deep breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.

For a simple deep breathing exercise try this method:

  • Lie flat on your back with your eyes closed.

  • Put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Note: The goal is to make the hand on your stomach rise, rather than the hand on your chest.

  • Breathe in deeply through your nose, being intentional to pull air into your abdomen. As you inhale, imagine a positive trait or thought moving into your body.

  • Exhale, engaging your core to expel air from your lungs. As you exhale you want to imagine negative thoughts, traits and mindsets leaving your body.

    Once you've mastered this deep belly breathing lying down at home, you'll be able to practice it standing up at a concert, sitting down at your stupid work Christmas party or in the car before heading into your great aunt's 50th birthday party.

Mediation and prayer are both helpful in slowing down negative thoughts and putting social situations in perspective.
Mediation and prayer are both helpful in slowing down negative thoughts and putting social situations in perspective. | Source

Aromatherapy for Social Anxiety

Of all of the things that get me through tense social situations (okay, tense to me, maybe not to the rest of the world) is aromatherapy, a trick my mom taught me when I was eighteen and so nervous about walking into my math class that I was pretty sure I was failing (I was! Hurrah! Guess what? The world didn't end!) that I had a panic attack in my car.

Since then, I seriously never leave the house without some form of aromatherapy.

For my on-the-go aromatherapy I use:

  • Snack sized baggies (these are half the size and sandwich baggies, the size is just convenient)
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Lavender oil
  • Cotton balls

To make these aromatherapy bags I take two cotton balls, drizzle them with a few drops each of whatever oil I'm using and pop them into the baggie that I then close. I personally like to have one lavender scented baggie and one eucalyptus scented baggie. Before I go in anywhere I open one up, take a deep breath, close it back up and center myself before conquering a conversation with the bank teller, putting in my order at the coffee shop and schmoozing with the other moms at the playground.

When to Talk to a Doctor About Social Anxiety

If you experience social anxiety, you should absolutely talk to your regular doctor about it. Since they know your history and background, you can work together to deal with it whether that's using the natural remedies in this article, medication which can be immensely helpful, therapy, or a combination of these methods for coping.

The biggest thing to remember about social anxiety is that you're seriously not alone. So get out there! Be social and be anxious! With 15 million others walking around with it too, there's gotta be at least one other person heading to that party tonight who's living with it too.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2018 Kate Stroud


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia Zirkwitz 

      2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Great article Kate! Your suggestions sound practical, do-able and not likely to add additional anxiety with the application. I've been listening to an interesting ex-therapist youtuber (Daniel Mackler) who attributes some positives to anxiety. I'm doing a mild re-frame in that way for myself.

      Thanks for posting this informative article.

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 

      2 years ago from Florida

      Great tips here for dealing with social anxiety. I've heard that cold showers also work.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, remedygrove.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)