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Tackle Small Social Interactions Often

"Taking small steps to win against anxiety helps desensitize how scary socializing can be," says Gross. Give yourself small challenges—this week, start three small conversations, or force yourself to run a phone conference at work. "Just commenting on the weather to the supermarket clerk helps you experience success. Over time, you build and become more ambitious in what you're achieving."

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Join a Gym


Exercise helps ease anxiety on both a biological and psychological level, according to a study analysis in Frontiers in Psychiatry. But a good sweat sesh at a gym or boutique studio has special perks for social anxiety, in particular, says Gross. At the most obvious level, working out releases endorphins and other neurochemicals that put you in a more positive mood. Plus, since what you're worried about are evaluations from other people, working out boosts your self-confidence, he points out.

Most importantly, perhaps, is that going to the gym lets you be social without actually interacting. "At a gym, you're around other people but you're still by yourself, either with headphones in or on a treadmill," says Gross. This can help you understand that you can be around other people without it feeling overwhelming.

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Why You Have to Make a Strategy for Socializing

Most people with mild social anxiety cope by in a similar manner. A recent study confirmed when people drink, they feel more comfortable in social situations—particularly if they suffer from social anxiety. One or two G+Ts can certainly help take the edge off. "From my perspective, drinking to take the edge off can be used healthily for many in moderation to cope with anxiety," says James Gross, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Psychophysiology Laboratory.

The challenge: You can't rely solely on one tool. "If all you have is drinking, then you're going to overuse it," adds Gross. But you have more options to deal with social anxiety than to either get dead drunk or do the old Irish goodbye—way more in fact. Some you should practice every day and others can help in the moment. Here are 14 tricks to keep social anxiety from ruining your social life.

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First, Understand What Defines Social Anxiety

No one feels comfortable going to a party where they don't know a soul or having to give a presentation to a room full of executives at work. But most people can push past it, knowing that they'll end up having a good enough time or will score points with the boss, which outweighs the temporary discomfort. For those with social anxiety, though, the fear and discomfort are crippling.

"The thing about social anxiety is it's unavoidable," says Greta Angert, a psychotherapist specializing in depression and anxiety in Beverly Hills, CA. "It's not like a fear of heights or planes where you can choose to avoid the situation." Avoiding social interactions too often may keep that stress down, but it can also leave you passed over for promotions at work, or hiding at home so often that you slip into extreme loneliness—a serious risk to both your mental and physical health.

While, statistically, both sexes suffer from social anxiety almost equally, social anxiety disorder, which is characterized by an extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance settings, sounds a lot like a mean-girl situation. "Social anxiety can be worse for women because we're harder on ourselves—and on other women," says Angert. "Plus, culturally, women are expected to be more friendly, more social, and more engaged in all situations."

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