Social Anxiety Unmasked
The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes a few, if not many, social gatherings for us all. These can be friends, family or work, the common theme is lots of people and lots of personal engagement. Some of us dive right into this, as if we were diving into the warm and inviting Mediterranean Sea, but to some of us, we are filled with varying degrees of dread or fear.
What we dread or fear can be as simple as being concerned about how we look, what to wear, not feeling great about ourselves. Sometimes it’s actually engaging others in any social gathering, there just not fun for you. Whatever your trigger point is - it creates a lot of anxiety, social anxiety. Even if we don’t suffer with shyness, we can lack self-confidence at such events and this can be very stressful.
Quick Fixes don’t help:
When we do suffer with social anxiety we tend to look for quick fix ways to overcome them that give us a temporary or short-term relief such as seeking reassurance from others close to us – “it won’t be so bad” “you’ll be fine” “don’t worry”. By reaching out to someone to build you up feels good for a while but the more you rely on them, the more you will seek out these reassurances the next time but nothing changes. You just repeat the same responses and feel the same fear and anxiety the next time.
Another negative quick fix way to overcome social anxiety for many is alcohol. Consuming alcohol allows some to feel less inhibited, more talkative. But using alcohol for social anxiety may have us drink more, creating other potential issues. Our sleep can be greatly affected and in some, cause feelings of being depressed the next day.
The above quick fixes are external (relying on solutions outside of you) but the problem is internal so to get long lasting change, you need to change your thoughts.
According to Gillian Butler in her book, Social Anxiety, Signs and Symptoms, we tend to fall into the same habitual patterns of thinking. Recognize which ones you may use from the list below and when at social gatherings how true they really are?
While some of these things may actually happen, quite often, we misinterpret others reactions. In moments of high anxiety, as social anxiety can be, our feelings are intensified, as too are our reactions to the situations in which we find ourselves. In order to learn from our experiences and develop our self-confidence we need to recognize the following:
Question your thoughts
Look for alternatives:
If you find you want to go to a party or work event over the holidays but your hesitating as to whether to go or not because of you social anxiety, ask yourself – am I allowing my thoughts control my actions? We have a choice. Our thoughts don’t control us, they may influence what we do or don’t do but they don’t control us. I’m sure you have experienced where you thought of punching someone for being rude in a grocery store or parking lot but you didn’t. If our thoughts controlled us, we would all be in serious trouble.
Notice it – Being more aware of your thoughts can give a pause or space between your thought and feelings. It will lessen their influence over you.
Name it – When anxiety is felt, name the thought that’s there “predicting the future again”, “Catastrophizing” or judging yourself “Judging again” or use metaphors – pessimistic thoughts “Mr. Doom and Gloom showing up”. This will also provide distance between you and your thoughts. You are in control, not the other way around.
These exercises are simply finding ways for you to be able to step back from anxious thoughts, neutralize them so you can see them clearly for what they are – pictures and words that you don’t have to cling to. Examining how you think is empowering, the better you understand your own thoughts and emotions, the better your capacity is to handle social anxiety.
During this season of social gatherings, don’t allow yourself to be hijacked by your anxieties, take some time for yourself and consider how wonderful it might be, how wonderful you are, and begin to enjoy the season.
If you want help with any of this, or turning your annual resolution into lifelong solutions, contact me at Rachel@ki4life.com and book a call.