Nervous business manA lot of guys I’ve spoken to tell me the same thing: they started using drugs or alcohol to drop their inhibitions around girls. There’s something almost romantic about it. A shy teenager goes to a party and has his first taste of alcohol. A few drinks in and he is finally able to speak to the girls he has always been so intimidated by. Unfortunately, while it is exciting at first, it loses its luster quickly.

People with social anxiety often find social situations incredibly challenging without substances. They feel self-conscious when speaking to anyone new and like they need to impress all the time. It’s easier to fade into the background, becoming a wallflower and not engaging. If they are used to using drugs or alcohol, participating seems even more impossible.

However, as difficult as it may seem, many people have overcome severe social anxiety disorders and are able to drop their inhibitions around others. Although it won’t be easy, you too can enjoy social situations without substances.

Here are 3 strategies to start you off.

1. Prepare for the practical challenges

A lot of people with social anxiety have physical cues that feel terribly humiliating to them. Perhaps the most common are blushing and sweating. The fear of blushing and sweating makes it into a self-fulfilling reality. It can feel so shaming that you may even have trouble actively thinking about it. This is one reason people don’t take active steps to prepare.

There are a number of ways to help deal with blushing and sweating. They are not foolproof, but they help you dial down the shame quite a lot. Blushing is difficult to stop, but there are a number of steps you can take. Have a look at these lists and see if there’s anything that works for you:

There are also practical steps to take to manage your sweating. Try:

  • Carrying tissues or a handkerchief to have on hand to wipe your face. Knowing you can do something to lessen the effect on your face will put you more at ease.
  • Wearing clothes that will not darken with sweat.
  • Cooling down before the event. The hotter your body beforehand, the quicker you’ll start sweating. If you’ve walked to the location in the heat, go to the bathroom to cool down first.

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2. Join in games

goodencenter-photo-of--Three-women-and-two-men-at-cafe,-talking,-laughing-and-enjoying-their-timeOne of the quickest ways to break the ice, even if you’re socially anxious, is by participating in games. During games, there are fixed expectations of what you need to say or do, so you don’t have to be put on the spot. For example, in trivia games you will answer questions, and playing “have-you-ever” and similar games allows you to share without having to work your way into a conversation first.

Of course, people don’t play games at every single social event or party. But when they do, ask if you can join them. By the time you’re finished playing, you will already feel more comfortable around this group of people.

3. Ask people about themselves

Chances are, one of the scariest aspects of being in a social situation is not knowing if you’ll have anything to say. You could be the most interesting person in the world, but your social anxiety can cause you to go completely blank. The good news is, there is always a way to make conversation.

Simply ask the person about themselves. Most people love talking about themselves and will be happy that you are interested. They will feel at ease with you and you will start feeling more comfortable with them.

The goal isn’t to find out the names of every pet they’ve ever owned. At some point, you will need to start contributing to the conversation if it is to be at all satisfying for you. But once you’ve been speaking to someone for a while and know a little more about them, your inhibitions will be lowered and you’ll find it easier to connect.

Treating social anxiety

Ultimately, only treating what is at the core of the social anxiety will help you really overcome it. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in particular is very useful for people with social anxiety.

However, if you use the above tips, you will find it easier to engage in social situations, building some confidence and enjoying yourself.