Living with social anxiety can be tough. Frequent worry and fear of social interactions can make simple daily situations a true challenge. What should you do? What should you say? It can be hard to know.
And on top of all that, there’s the question of what to eat and drink. Some foods can make anxiety worse, while others can help calm you down. If you want to practice self care, you’ll want to know which foods help social anxiety and which ones make it worse.
Today we’ll take a look at some of the best (and worst) options out there, as well as some general self-care tips and a warning about eating disorders.
Social Anxiety Versus Regular Anxiety
Before we get into the food, it’s important to understand social anxiety and how it differs from regular anxiety.
People with social anxiety disorder (SAD) tend to worry about social situations and feel very self-conscious in groups. They may avoid going out or speaking up because they’re afraid of being judged. This can make work, school, and even simple daily tasks like grocery shopping extremely difficult.
People with regular anxiety may also feel fear and worry, but these emotions are not always tied to social situations. In other words, someone with regular anxiety may still be able to function normally, or at least have less difficulty, in social settings.
The bottom line is that social anxiety can make life harder in a different way than regular anxiety. And when you’re already dealing with so much, the last thing you need is for your anxiety to be made worse by what you eat and drink.
So let’s take a look at some of the best and worst foods for social anxiety.
The Best Foods for Social Anxiety
Oats are a great source of fiber, which helps regulate the nervous system. They’re also high in magnesium, a mineral that has been shown to reduce anxiety.
If you’re going out to a social event and think you’ll be anxious, try eating a bowl of oatmeal beforehand. The oats will help calm your nerves and give you the energy you need to get through the event.
Chamomile tea is known for its calming effects. It’s also been shown to decrease cortisol levels, which is the hormone associated with stress.
If you’re feeling anxious, try drinking a cup of chamomile tea about 30 minutes before you have to socialize. The calming effects will help you feel more relaxed and confident.
Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are compounds that have been shown to reduce anxiety and improve mood. Just be sure to choose a dark chocolate with a high cocoa content (70% or higher). The higher the cocoa content, the more flavonoids it will contain.
Yogurt is a good source of probiotics, which are live bacteria that have been shown to reduce anxiety and improve mood. Probiotics work by altering the way the brain responds to stress hormones like cortisol. Choose yogurt that contains live and active cultures for the best results.
If you’re feeling anxious, try eating a cup of yogurt. The probiotics will help reduce your anxiety and improve your mood.
Spinach is a type of leafy green vegetable that is high in vitamins and minerals. It is an excellent source of magnesium, which has calming effects and improves sleep quality. Spinach is also high in antioxidants, which can help to protect the body against disease.
Overall, the best nutritional strategy to reduce social anxiety is eating a balanced diet so that you feel content and your body is nourished.
You want to minimize dehydration, and getting too hungry in particular. Other self-care practices, which we talk about more below, are important as well such as sleep and keeping your stress low.
You may want to research a supplement for anxiety, however please keep in mind supplements play only a minor role in managing anxiety. The most important tip is overall self-care, which includes proper sleep and nutrition.
The Worst Foods for Social Anxiety
Coffee is a stimulant, which means it can increase anxiety and make it harder to focus because your heart is beating so fast! If you have social anxiety, it’s best to avoid coffee or limit your intake to one cup per day.
If you absolutely cannot give up coffee, you may want to try adding a teaspoon of butter to your cup of joe! There’s some research showing adding butter to coffee can help slow the absorption of the caffeine.
Alcohol is a depressant, which means it can make you feel more anxious and stressed out. It can also interfere with medications that are used to treat social anxiety disorder. If you have social anxiety, it’s best to avoid alcohol or drink in moderation.
While alcohol is known as the ‘social lubricant’, there are several downsides if you rely on alcohol in social situations: it can make social anxiety worse in the long run, it’s a depressant (so it will actually make you feel more anxious), and it can interfere with medications.
So if you have social anxiety, it’s best to steer clear of alcohol.
Sugar can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, which can lead to feelings of anxiety and irritability. While some health practitioners advise going sugar free, I suggest a different way of thinking about sugar intake and social anxiety.
Here’s my tip: eat sugary foods in combination with protein, fiber, vegetables and fruits. Because if you only eat sugar, that’s when you’re going to feel the worst. But if you combine sugary foods with other nutrient dense foods, you’ll help stabilize your blood sugar levels and minimize the anxiety-inducing effects of sugar.
The Importance of Hydration
Water is essential for our bodies to function properly. It helps to regulate our body temperature, flush out toxins, and carry nutrients to our cells. When you’re dehydrated, your body doesn’t function as well and you can feel tired, anxious, and irritable.
If you’re feeling social anxiety, make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day. Aim for eight glasses of water per day. You can also try adding a pinch of salt to your water, which will help replenish electrolytes lost through sweating.
Watch Out For Anxiety and Eating Disorders
Eating foods that help reduce anxiety in the name of self-care is obviously beneficial. However, let’s also talk briefly about the link between anxiety and eating disorders.
Anxiety and eating disorders often go hand-in-hand. In fact, research has shown that social anxiety is a risk factor for developing an eating disorder.
When people have an eating disorder, they have very precise, perfectionistic rules about what and when to eat. These rules serve a purpose to help manage anxiety if the individual cannot manage their anxiety.
For example, someone with social anxiety might only eat certain ‘safe’ foods that they know won’t make them sick or anxious. This kind of behavior is fine, but what if you took this behavior to the extremes?
Let’s say someone became obsessed with eating only ‘safe’ foods. They would only eat a few specific foods and they would become anxious if they couldn’t have those foods or if they ate something ‘unsafe’. This is an example of how social anxiety can lead to an eating disorder.
Another example might be overeating in order to feel “heavier” and more tired, which makes us feel calmer in that moment but needless to say, it’s not a healthy habit and doesn’t help overcoming social phobia in the long run.
If you think you might have an eating disorder, it’s important to seek professional help. Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can have devastating consequences if left untreated.
If you have social anxiety and are concerned about your relationship with food, it’s important to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can help you develop healthy coping mechanisms and establish a healthy relationship with food.
Overall, there are many treatment options available for eating disorders, so please don’t hesitate to seek help if you think you might have one.
In conclusion, social anxiety can be difficult to live with. However, you can overcome it to the point that it doesn’t control you anymore and you can create the life of your dreams!
In the article “Perfect jobs for people with social anxiety” you can read Barbara’s story of how at first, her social anxiety was blocking the progress of her career and how her passion for the work she does helped her break through and become confident.
The path to social confidence can be tough, but making changes to your diet is a great place to start if you’re looking for ways to ease social anxiety.
But keep in mind that diet is just one part of the puzzle. Other self-care practices, like exercise, relaxation techniques, and therapy can also be helpful. Here’s a quick summary:
● Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Aim for eight glasses of water per day.
● Eat sugary foods in combination with protein, fiber, vegetables and fruits. This will help stabilize your blood sugar levels and minimize the anxiety-inducing effects of sugar.
● Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Both of these substances can make social anxiety worse.
● If you think you might have an eating disorder, seek professional help. Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can have devastating consequences if left untreated.
This post was written by Jared Levenson from https://eatingenlightenment.com.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article! Please leave a comment below with your favorite food that calms you down, or what food gives you the most anxiety.