Wednesday, January 27, 2021

7 Habits to Stop if You Have Social Anxiety Disorder


Are you anxious in social settings? Do you find yourself falling into habits that make your social anxiety disorder standout? Here’s how to stop habits that make you appear anxious and what to do, instead!

When you appear less anxious to others, they’ll feel more comfortable around you. When others are more comfortable around you, your anxiety symptoms can improve.

Much of this disorder works in cycles just like that, so stopping the silly habits that make everyone notice that you are feeling anxiety, is one of the best places to start!

Social Anxiety Disorder Habits

Here are the 7 habits to avoid if you suffer from social anxiety.

1. Folded arms

This body language shows you to be closed off/uninviting

2. Avoidance of eye contact

You’ll seem untrustworthy if you don’t make eye contact

3. Hunched shoulders

This demonstrates tension. You’ll appear ‘up tight’

4. Taking up minimal space

Making yourself small and unnoticeable

5. Clenched fists

Again this shows tension

6. Sipping your drink very often

During anxiety, people tend to take quick, very regular sips of their drink

7. Fidgeting

Tapping your hand, ripping the label off your drink etc

How To Fix Anxious Habits

The above habits may have become so natural that you don’t realise you’re using them. Try to notice, and correct them with the healthier and more confident-looking behaviours below:

Tip 1

Relax Your Arms

Let them drop into your lap, by your side, or gesture with them to emphasise your point in conversation.

If I’m sitting, I’ll usually let my hands drop into my lap. If there’s an arm rest, it’s ok to use that. 

Sit any way you like – just not with your arms across you; as if to form a barrier between yourself and others.

When standing, it’s natural to carry your arms by your sides. I usually dip my thumbs into my pockets and stand with my hands on the outside. 

Again, anything is good, except for hands blocking off your front – that’s defensive.

Tip 2

Make Eye Contact

The ability to make eye contact is a sign of confidence and strength. When I was first getting used to it, just knowing that by making eye contact, people would find me more confident, was enough to make it feel ok to do. 

Once I realised that others saw eye contact as a positive trait, it got much easier.

Let it be the same for you. You know now, that people will always think more of you if you look them in the eye. Why?

There’s a definite element of trust that you can feel with someone who’s willing to look you in the eye. 

Knowing that people think more of you, because you seem more trustworthy, can help with social anxiety.

So, when should you make eye contact? And for how long?

  • On greeting someone, 1 to 3 seconds of eye contact during your greeting is good.
  • When you’re speaking, look away when speaking most of the time, and take quick glances back every 3 to 5 seconds, as if to check the person is listening.
  • When you’re spoken to, make eye contact with the person speaking to you. Occasionally look away to reflect on what they’re saying, and then resume watching them talk.

Tip 3

Relax Those Shoulders

The easiest way to look uncomfortable in a situation is to tense your shoulders. Unfortunately lots of people do this without noticing it.

The good thing is that the opposite; relaxed shoulders – emit a much more positive vibe to others.

Noticing yourself hunching up is most of the battle here. Once you’ve noticed, you just need to ‘let go’, and voila, you appear much more chilled and friendly to people. 

This will help with social anxiety because when you open up, others open up too. When your subconscious sees them open up, it feels less threatened and thus reduces your social anxiety disorder symptoms.

Tip 4

Spread Out. (In a star shape? You’ve gone too far!)

People with low self-esteem tend to box themselves in. They stand or sit very ‘squeezed up’ if that makes sense. They take up the least amount of space possible. 

It’s a subconscious way of showing that you’re worth less than everyone else, in my opinion. If your body is showing that you feel less valuable than others, people will latch onto it. They’ll even believe it themselves. 

To contradict this, if you spread out, giving yourself plenty of space, people will tend to think more of you. You really can control what others think of you, by showing what you think of yourself.

So, it’s ok to stand a little wider, or to leave a gap between yourself and someone else to allow for some movement. The more space you take up, the more relaxed you appear, the more people will think of you.

Tip 5

Relax Your Hands

You can tell a lot about someone by the things they do with their hands. Fists tend to indicate tension and aggression. Lesson? Do the total opposite of that. Stretch your hands out at about 70% of their ‘stretch capacity’.

You should have open hands that rest peacefully wherever you put them. 

This shows that you’re a chilled out, confident person – even if you’re not – yet.

Tip 6

Cut Out Nervous Drink Sips!

If you’re nervous, it’s tempting to sip your drink way too often. 

Try to avoid sipping your drink when you feel awkward. It emits a nervous energy, which makes other people nervous. Making others nervous does not help with your anxiety, I can assure you.

Whilst we’re on the subject of drinks, try not to hold them in front of your chest. Just like with your arms, your drink can act as a defensive barrier that might drive people away.

Tip 7

Stop That Fidgeting!

The drink sips are a type of fidgeting, but there are other ‘subtle’ behaviours that are actually less subtle than they seem…

If you find yourself tapping your hand or leg, stop. I used to pull the labels off of my beer bottle. That’s nervous behaviour too, so take my advice for social anxiety and avoid doing it!

Emily Murdoch
Hi I write about health and fitness for women! You may contact me at

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