In our last post we talked about what it is like to live with Social Anxiety. Today we want to talk about how to develop some coping skills to help with that social anxiety.
According to Psychology Today, and this article by Barbara Markway, Phd, there are a few coping strategies that you’ll want to think about when dealing with your social anxiety head on.
- Realize anxiety is natural
- Anxiety isn’t reality
- Try Relabeling
- Breathe away anxiety
- Shift your focus
- Be willing to tolerate discomfort
- Tolerate uncertainty
Anxiety is natural:
To an extent, we all experience anxiety. We have fears and worries that sometimes interfere with our daily tasks and decision making. In general we all like to feel that others like us, and view us in a positive light. And worrying about what others may think, is very common in social anxiety. When these experiences start to become constant, or interfere with your daily life, is when social anxiety becomes apparent.
Anxiety isn’t reality:
When you have social anxiety and your thought processes are running on overdrive, try to take a step back. Try to clearly view what is really happening, what is reality, and compare that with what you’re feeling and thinking. This can be difficult to do. Our inner dialogue with ourselves can be our best friend or our enemy. Practice changing your negative, anxious, or worrying thoughts. When you start to change the way you talk to yourself in your head, your perception of situations can change, and you can learn to control your anxiety to a certain level.
Barbara Markway believes that anxiety can often be confused with excitement. That when we are feeling anxious about something, we can sometimes be experiencing feelings of excitement and confusing the two. Sometimes just switching the word ‘anxiety’ to another word, such as ‘exciting’ can change your reaction.
Breathe Away Anxiety:
Breathing deeply and slowly has always been a way to calm a persons nerves, thoughts, feelings, and behavior. When you start to feel anxious, very quickly it can build and become something bigger. By taking a moment to take some really long and slow deep breathes, we are forcing our central nervous system to tell our brain that we are okay.
Shift Your Focus:
Anxiety is centrally located in your thoughts, and our minds can become like a hamster on its wheel turning over anxious thoughts over and over in our heads. When people start to feel anxious, they usually focus on the fact that they are feeling anxious. And then it’s like an avalanche, building into more anxious thoughts, sweating, shaking, hyperventilating etc. But one coping skill to implement is shifting your focus to something else. What exactly are you doing at the moment you started to feel anxious? What physically can you shift your focus to , so that you don’t allow your anxious thoughts to run away?
Be Willing To Tolerate Discomfort:
Being uncomfortable in certain situations is completely normal and valid. Allowing yourself to acknowledge what is making you uncomfortable, and then pushing past it is key. Sometimes you have to weigh the options, is pushing through something that is uncomfortable worth it for the experience?
One thing that often fuels anxiety, especially social anxiety, is the uncertainty. It is uncertain how a social event will go, how a meeting at the office will go, how someone will respond to you. But this uncertainty is something that will be a constant in life. We all wish we could know exactly what will happen, or what to say, or how something will play out so that we can control our reaction to it. But it’s impossible to do. Accepting that you won’t be able to control everything, or not everything will go according to plan, is half the battle.