Lately, I’ve had a plethora of clients with social anxiety.
In social settings they feel a sense of disconnection around others, being stressed, not fitting in and of being locked into their own thoughts. What they want is to be enjoying themselves, feeling confident, comfortable and having fun.
What these clients have in common, is a flow of negative thoughts that causes physical tension and upset feelings. This exempts them from ease in talking to others, from relaxing or participating in social activities and feeling comfortable out publically or in groups of their peers.
Anxiety is only ever the symptom of something deeper. The cause of their symptoms is something different for everyone and something I work one on one with, to help clients shift and clear.
Sensitivity to what is going on around us channeled correctly, helps develop resilience and massive awareness of other people and is actually a huge advantage. I assist people to begin to use their ability in this way, instead of being at the effect of it.
Here are some strategies that can make it easier to handle social anxiety.
STRATEGY ONE: BE INTERESTED NOT INTERESTING
When we focus on getting to know others, we feel more relaxed, as we don’t have to talk. Not only that, it is an easy way to build connection as when we are sincerely interested in others, they think we are wonderful people.
The obvious way to do this is to ask open ended questions, listen well to the answers and to reflect back what we have heard.
The magic in this is once we lose ourselves in it, we feel like a kind, interesting individual. If we can switch from our own head into being really present with the other person, we also tend to ease up on our anxiety.
TIP: This requires us to step out of the energy of our pain and limitation and expand into sincerely thinking of others. For me this was a decision and took a bit of courage. If I was comfortable enough to go in the first place, this usually worked and it built my confidence over time.
STRATEGY TWO: SEE WHERE OTHERS HAVE FEARS AND INSECURITIES AND STOP FOCUSING ON YOURS
Something I’ve observed frequently when hosting group events in which I know the other members, is that it’s always the chronically anxious members that piss each other off.
They get annoyed when another person didn’t acknowledge them, or put them at ease. At first this seemed petty and annoyed me, but then I realized it was enlightening.
Each person was so needy and locked into their own pile of poop, they blamed the other, when each was going through the same thing. Instead of helping or displaying empathy, they judged one other, projecting insecurity outwards and feeling angry and fearful.
TIP: Be brave enough to be empathetic. All the years I was anxious, I was either rude or made others uncomfortable with my behavior. It wasn’t my intention, but anxiety made me a selfish asshole, oblivious to other’s feelings.
I thought how I was suffering was more significant than anyone else’s right to enjoy a special occasion or have fun and I was totally wrong.
I don’t say this to belittle or embarrass you if you are an anxious person. There comes a time when we want to be well, more than we want to be powerless to our symptoms. This is an attitude adjustment that can support this change.
STRATEGY THREE: IMAGINE THE BEST (FUTURE) VERSION OF YOU AND BE THAT IN EACH SOCIAL SITUATION NOW
Imagine how the best version of you would behave if you weren’t anxious.
How would you take charge of your behavior and the situation? How much would you be able to care for others? How much would you be aware of everyone else in the room?
How much sparkle, fun, humor, great conversation and good times could you create and enjoy? I guarantee your anxious experiences have equipped you to feel out others and contribute to them effectively.
This is a heart centred approach that allows you to connect energetically with who you know you can be and also with others. If we can perceive a future possibility, it is something that is available to us, if we do the work.
TIP: Bringing in aspects of the future you, allows you to thrive in a social setting now, based on what you bring to it. This gets enhanced and projected back at you by other’s responses.
That positive feedback assists you to feel amazing and to get free and stay free.
STRATEGY FOUR: STOP ALLOWING OTHERS TO DICTATE THE COURSE OF THINGS AND TAKE CONTROL
Instead of giving your power away and wondering what others are thinking negatively about you, take a radical paradigm shift and wonder who you are drawn to instead.
One of the traps of having a ‘disorder’ is that we start to become a chronic victim and to forget we are powerful at all.
This is never true. Anxiety is always, always a source of information that the body is giving us. Learn to work with that to become powerful and you will save yourself years in the therapist’s office.
Look for the energy in the room that feels expansive to you, see who looks/feels interesting to get to know. Gravitate towards that…
TIP: If we can just take a breather from our anxiety for long enough to connect with our preferences, what we invariably find is that they are an indicator of what is a safe, happy and interesting in a situation for us.
STRATEGY FIVE: CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE AND ENERGY TO ANY SOCIAL SITUATION
Take something nice with you to your next social occasion and enjoy sharing this. It is a starting point for conversation. It also sets up a beautiful energy for people to receive you.
I know with SA, taking a gift or buying something to share with everyone can be terrifying. Imagine how awesome the other person(s) will feel receiving, instead of focusing on wretched you feel.
If you hate small talk, change your attitude. Instead of seeing it as something trivial and irritating that is forced on you, see it as a social lubricant and art form you can master.
Wonder what you can say that would make others comfortable or to make them giggle (Ironically in the process you will feel comfortable or giggly too. Imagine what it would be like to be so adept at it, you shined whenever it was required.
TIP: How can you contribute to every situation that you are in, in a way you have never contemplated before? Contributing makes us feel good and it forces us to step out of limitation and into greater. With anxiety we usually take or hide and that can be a habitual pattern.
STRATEGY SIX: STOP GOING INTO CONCLUSIONS AND ASK QUESTIONS INSTEAD
Your awareness is a kick ass weapon. When we are in an anxious state we tend to be closed and concluding and deciding things and blocking all inwards or incoming sources of information.
Questions open things up and change where we function from in our minds. For example “I’m no good at this, no one wants to speak to me”, could become “What a lovely party, I wonder how many interesting people I can meet tonight”?
“I wonder how great I really am at interacting with others”? “How kind and funny am I really, that I have never perceived before”? “What can I do to make this the most fun evening ever for me and everyone else too”?
These questions are only examples and this is a more advanced tool for someone who is getting a handle on things. However it’s good to have many tools in our toolbox when it comes to dismantling something like anxiety.
TIP: Sometimes trying something new out in an easy moment, and sensing that it may work for us, allows us a sense of freedom and empowerment, that wasn’t there before.
As you can see, there are many tools and strategies to change the space we hold in a social setting, to intervene in our typical/ingrained chemistry and default responses to things.
If you would like to discuss your anxiety or how any of these or other strategies could help you and open up new possibilities, please connect here.