Relaxation Techniques to Manage Social Anxiety Disorder

Relaxation Techniques for Managing Social Anxiety Disorder

Reduce social anxiety through deep breathing.
Deep breathing can help to reduce social anxiety. Getty / E+ / Photo Talk

Relaxation techniques are an important component of many behavioral treatments for anxiety disorders and specifically for social anxiety disorder (SAD).

For example, if you have a fear of public speaking, part of your treatment may involve the practice of deep breathing and muscle relaxation while imagining giving a speech.

Four techniques in particular may be used as a part of treatment; you can also try them out on your own to help cope with your anxiety.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing, or deep breathing, is the practice of expanding your diaphragm as you breathe, so that your stomach rises and falls, instead of your chest.

During an anxiety attack, you are more likely to take shallow breaths, which contributes to symptoms of anxiety. By practicing how to breathe slowly and deeply while in a relaxed setting, you will be better able to call upon this method of relaxation during times of stress.

Deep breathing also forms the foundation upon which other relaxation techniques are built, so it is an important concept to master.

Read: How to Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Have you ever noticed the feeling you have after a really intense workout? Your muscles have been fatigued to the point that your body is totally relaxed.

This is the objective of progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). Alternating between tense and relaxed muscles helps to induce full-body relaxation.

Read: How to Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Autogenic Training

Autogenic training is a fancy term to describe a technique similar to meditation, where you repeat a series of statements to yourself about different parts of your body.

The repetition of these statements is believed to influence the functioning of your autonomic nervous system, which includes your heart rate.

Read: How to Practice Autogenic Training

Guided Imagery

Have you ever wished you could escape to a tropical island or hole up in a log cabin? If you don't have the time or means to actually live out your fantasy, give guided imagery a try.

This technique involves using all of your senses to imagine yourself in a relaxed setting. Your body, in turn, enters a relaxed state. Be careful, though, you may become so relaxed that you fall asleep!

It is best not to practice this technique when you have to be somewhere soon. Try it out at night before you plan to fall asleep.

Read: How to Practice Guided Imagery

If your social anxiety is severe and you have not already sought help from a mental health professional, this should be your first step. However, if you are just looking for some additional support, use of these self-help strategies may be helpful to reduce your symptoms.


McMaster University. Guided Relaxation CD. Accessed February 29, 2016.

Anxiety BC. Self-help strategies for social anxiety. Accessed February 29, 2016.