Social anxiety can strike in any situation where you are around others and need to interact. And it can be particularly acute if you feel you can’t escape such as in a meeting or when speaking in public.
So here I share a simple technique that will help start to soften the grip of your social anxiety.
With social anxiety there is that underlying fear and worry about what other people may be thinking about you – that fear of being judged or criticized. And that fear generated those what ifs – what if I mess up , what if I say something stupid or dry up, what if they think I’d weird or an idiot and so on.And that can lead to anxiety before an upcoming event, anxiety during it (however well you can hide what’s going on under the surface) and negative, self critical dwelling afterwards.
It can be enough to put you off getting into those situations if you can (when I used to battle with social anxiety I would often make excuses and drop out, or even feign illness to avoid meetings, giving presentations and sometimes even social events – however much I wanted to go and just be myself, the social anxiety would run the show).
When your social anxiety takes over you essentially start to turn all your focus and attention inwards – into all those thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. You may be so busy preparing what to say and how to say it, or choosing the right words, or worrying what others will think about them that you stop paying so much attention to what’s going on in the moment.
I’ve worked with many people who are so wrapped up running an internal commentary about what others may be thinking, that by the time they are ready to speak the conversation has moved on and it’s too late (and then they tell themselves how rubbish they are for not saying it…especially if someone else makes the same point they were going to make).
I can even remember sitting in work meetings and the feel of anxiety and pressure building the longer the meeting went on and I hadn’t said anything (and never mind how much preparation I had to put in if I knew I had to say something…).
And all socially anxious people tend to focus inwards on their feelings when in those anxiety provoking situations. So to start to dilute that pattern of your social anxiety you need to focus more outwards on what is around you. Doing this will lower your level of social anxiety.
So from today, whenever you are in a social situation, make a deliberate effort to notice what you can see and hear around you. It’s deceptively easy to lower social anxiety levels in this way.
You could notice the colour of the walls and the patterns on them, maybe you could notice the colour of people’s shoes, the pattern of the carpet, the subject matter of pictures on the walls and so on. You may also decide to notice more of the sounds in the environment too.
In fact, anything that shifts your focus from inwards to outwards will start to dilute that social anxiety and enable you to interact more and more whilst being yourself. And if you need more help then please do get in touch today.
Abolish Social Anxiety