3 Ways to Deal with Anxiety About People

We may be social creatures, but other people certainly can cause anxiety. Social anxiety is largely about being around (or even thinking about being around) others and a host of worries related to others' perceptions of us. Even if you don't experience social anxiety, other people can be difficult to deal with and cause worry, agitation, or general angst. Regardless of what type of frustration or anxiety some people might be causing in your life, you don't have to let them continue to negatively impact you. Here are three ways to deal with any type of anxiety about other people.

People Cause Anxiety When We Can't Choose Who Is in Our Life

You may be familiar with a version of the phrase,

"You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family."

In reality, there are many people in our lives we don't choose: family members, coworkers, supervisors, teachers, neighbors, classmates, teammates, etc. The list is long. Also, we can't choose or control the words and actions of friends and loved ones, so there's always the possibility that people will cause anxiety.

This lack of choice and control can contribute to anxiety because we must deal with these people (and their words and actions) despite dread. The very thought of having to interact with certain people can cause anxiety because we worry about the interactions and their consequences. Further exacerbating anxiety is our lack of control and the minimal amount of choice we think we have in these relationships. We feel trapped.

When we feel trapped in any type of relationship, we forget that we really do have choices. Then, we experience negative thoughts and emotions like fear, stress, worse-case scenarios, what-ifs, frustrations, and even helplessness. We believe that because we didn't choose a certain relationship, we have no say. That is one of anxiety's lies. We may not be able to choose every relationship we have, but we do have choices and control nonetheless. 

Choose These 3 Ways to Deal with Anxiety-Provoking People

Sometimes, you can walk away from anxiety-provoking people. You might be able to change jobs or choose to participate in a different activity with different people. However, sometimes you can't easily make a change. Other times, you may not want to make a change. Avoiding things or places you love so you don't have to deal with certain people is extremely life-limiting and actually increases anxiety because you're sending your brain a message that there is danger and that you can't handle it and so you need to run. 

You have other options. You can't choose every person in your life, but you can choose how you'll respond and act. Try these three tips to increase your sense of control and reduce anxiety:

  1. Choose who--Who provokes anxiety, and who inspires calm? Even in unhealthy families or other toxic environments, it's usually possible to connect with at least one positive, healthy person. Focus on your time with them instead of stressing about the people who bother you. 
  2. Choose what and where--Regardless of how others try to make you feel, you are an independent person. Often, anxiety happens because we're afraid to set limits and boundaries. Reduce anxiety by choosing the limits you'll place on what you'll do, where you'll go, and with whom you'll do it. For example, you can't avoid work, but you don't have to pay attention to everyone equally or take to heart what everyone says. 
  3. Choose why--When you have an event or gathering with difficult people, consider your greater purpose. Why will you do it (go beyond the fact that it's a requirement and look for personal meaning in what you're doing)? Will getting together with family or attending a school event strengthen your relationship with people you like? Will it make you feel like you did something good? Having a purpose returns control to you and releases some anxiety as a result. 

Try these suggestions for a shift in perspective and action so you can choose wise responses that reduce anxiety. 

Do people cause your anxiety? What do you do to cut down on that? Share your thoughts in the comments.

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2021, February 18). 3 Ways to Deal with Anxiety About People, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, and Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps. She has also written five critically acclaimed, award-winning novels about life with mental health challenges. She delivers workshops for all ages and provides online and in-person mental health education for youth. She has shared information about creating a quality life on podcasts, summits, print and online interviews and articles, and at speaking events. Tanya is a Diplomate of the American Institution of Stress helping to educate others about stress and provide useful tools for handling it well in order to live a healthy and vibrant life. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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