The shakes and cold sweats many of us feel when we talk in front of a group are just one vivid example of social anxiety–an excessive fear of being judged negatively. People with severe social anxiety have few friends, drop out of school, may even be unable to work. Milder forms–which are far more common–take their toll in missed opportunities for advancement, lonely evenings and just plain frustration.
Here are some must-have coping strategies for social anxiety:
1. Realize anxiety is natural: Anxiety is the normal response to perceived danger – the body and mind rev up in readiness for fight or flight by producing adrenaline. This is useful. Without adrenaline, we can’t perform at our best.
2. Anxiety isn’t reality: Social anxiety feeds on thoughts that exact exaggerate danger, foresee dire consequences and attribute negative judgments to others. Thinking this way is just a habit and like most habits, it can be changed.
3. Try relabeling: Symptoms of anxiety and excitement are almost identical. If you feel revved up and think, “I’m getting anxious”, it creates a destructive spiral. But if you think of it as “getting excited,” you’ll feel more prepared and capable.
4. Breathe away anxiety: One of the worst things about anxiety is the feeling that once it starts, it will build uncontrollably. Breathing slowly and deeply from your abdomen eases anxiety.
5. Shift your focus: Anxiety turns your attention to your racing heart beat or your shaking hands, try focusing your attention on the task at hand. If anxiety continues to build try focusing on the pattern of the carpet or texture of the papers in your hand. Such a shift in focus will interrupt the anxiety cycle and let you attend to the business at hand.
6. Be willing to experience discomfort: Some things are worth doing even if you’re anxious. You will be amazed at what you can do while still feeling a lot of unpleasant sensations.
7. Tolerate Uncertainty: This is a tough one. Most people like things to be clear cut–to know where things stand. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always cooperate You must eventually face the ugly truth that you can’t control everything.
For more information about how to cope with anxiety visit our website at http://www.starpointcounselingtampa.com/
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