With Coronavirus restrictions about to ease, many of us are excited about getting back to some kind of normality and having the freedom to mix and socialise again. For those of us who suffer with social anxiety, however, that fact can produce a heightened state of panic.
Which social situation do you relate to?
We can all relate to social anxiety in some way. For example maybe you’ve felt nervous about meeting someone new or felt a bit uncomfortable when walking into a room full of strangers. Perhaps you are currently worried about how you look after months of over-eating. Maybe you wonder whether you’ve accomplished enough during lockdown. Perhaps you wonder whether your friends will want to meet up again. All of these musings can lead to negative thinking patterns which, in turn, can lead to more anxiety.
Stuck in your comfort zone?
If you suffer social anxiety you may have found being in lockdown has meant you can stay in your comfort zone and avoid facing up to your anxiety. It may have been a kind of relief. Now that restrictions will soon be lifted, you will have to leave that comfort zone again. As a result, you may be experiencing an increase in anxiety or you may even be experiencing anxiety for the first time. Perhaps your confidence has taken a knock in lockdown?
Do you find that when faced with a social situation you get worried immediately before the event? Perhaps you spend weeks worrying about it or maybe you spend time endlessly analysing how you acted when there?
Access the free audio recording :
Hints and tips
Here are some ways to lessen feelings of social anxiety:
- Be aware of the ‘worry story’ you are telling yourself and try to distance yourself from it.
- Acknowledge and then dump negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. Thoughts are just thoughts … you can choose whether to pay attention to them or move on to other more positive thoughts.
- Write down the good things, things that you are grateful for and things you are looking forward to. Writing it down allows you to focus better on the more positive ideas.
- Do something that makes you feel good for at least an hour every day.
- Plan a daily scheduled ‘worry window’ – a regular time slot that you can set aside to manage any negative thoughts and feelings and if you find yourself thinking negative thoughts at other times tell yourself you’ll deal with them during your worry window.
- Start out small, having more small talk with people you come across as lockdown eases.
- Remember that not everyone is judging you – people are usually too busy thinking about themselves! Focus instead on making the people around you feel comfortable.
- Listen to the free audio recording. Just having 15 minutes or so out of your day to focus on yourself, instead of listening to news updates, can help you regain a sense of balance and calm. It can also help start to break any habits you may have formed during lockdown.
It’s natural to worry, of course, and we all do to some extent. That’s how our mind works through current or potential problems. We are wired to look for potential danger for survival. When we become stuck in a pattern of negative thinking, however, that survival instinct stops being useful and leads to anxiety. A more helpful strategy is to focus on the things we can control and choose a way to respond to them.
The Joy of Christmas Parties: how to cope with social events
“‘Tis the season to be jolly” we’re told at this time of year as we face the office party, the family get-togethers, the social events. Lots of us let our hair down, embrace wearing the silly hats, getting a little tipsy and throwing a few shakes on the dance floor, listening to Ted recounting the same story for the umpteenth time, eating just one too many mince pies, and all the while attempting to avoid the unbecoming photos that may end up on Facebook…
For others these social events of the year are one long nightmare: the very thought of socialising can strike fear into their hearts and they will go to any lengths to avoid it. If that’s you then here are some tips to help you cope and dare I say Be Merry.
- First of all know that you’re not alone. Many people are nervous in similar situations – some just hide it better than others.
- Don’t focus on negative thoughts: if you think you’re going to have a terrible time, chances are you will. Don’t set yourself up to be anxious.
- Relax yourself before the event, find somewhere comfortable and, while you’re in a relaxed state, visualize things going well and how you’d like to be, feel, behave.
- Arrive early rather than late so that you’re not walking into a crowded room or faced with an endless round of introductions.
- Slow down and take deep abdominal breaths (when we’re nervous we breathe very shallow anxious breaths, so pay attention to your breathing).
- Be aware of your body language. Smile! It’s good for your body as it releases serotonin (the happy hormone) and people respond to a smile. Look for other friendly, approachable faces and introduce yourself. Ask open questions that require an answer. What do they think of the venue, music, food, drink etc? Have a few topics in mind before you go.
- Be honest – if someone asks you if you’re enjoying yourself and you’re feeling nervous then it’s ok to say that. People like people who are honest and don’t try to be someone they’re not. You may find that they come back with a similar honest response and that can start a conversation going. Remember, if you do make a mistake, or say something you didn’t mean to, don’t worry about it. Nobody is perfect. Everybody makes mistakes, even the really confident ones.
- Remember that people are generally thinking about themselves too much to be bothered about judging others. Engage with them, pay them genuine compliments to put them at ease and they are more likely to respond positively. Others like to talk about themselves: listen to their likes and dislikes and ask questions.
- Live in the moment: take in the décor, music, food, styles, etc. Focus outwardly rather than inwardly, stop worrying about yourself and have the intention of making those you meet comfortable instead.
Can’t wait for your holiday but afraid of flying?
. I’ve just booked my holiday and I can’t wait for take off! Not everyone looks forward to it though – a phobia of flying always ranks in the top 10 lists of phobias. It doesn’t matter how many safety statistics you mention or facts you present about modern day flights: if someone is afraid of flying it can be an ordeal.
It doesn’t help that airports and airlines use so many negative sounding terms. Think about it: ‘Terminal’, ‘Departure Lounge’, ‘Final boarding call’. It’s like we’re being unconsciously programmed to think negatively!
No two people have exactly the same fears: my clients typically can have one or a combination of fears from claustrophobia to fear of heights, mechanical failure or attack and more.
Using hypnosis I help them learn new behaviours and ways of thinking about the flight, deal with the underlying fear and triggers, feel confident and manage the phobic situation and control any physical reactions. I also give them tools and techniques to cope with both the expected and the unexpected. A phobia is something that is eminently treatable.
If you’re about to leave on a jet (or other!) plane here are some top tips:
- Before you travel (and during the flight) think about all your positive reasons for making the trip and imagine how it will be and feel. Do this regularly so that you think about that more than the journey.
- Request an aisle seat near to the front of the plane. It is less claustrophobic and the effects of any turbulence are likely to be reduced.
- Don’t leave everything to the last minute: leave plenty of time for your journey to the airport allowing for any unavoidable hold-ups.
- Tell the cabin crew that you have a fear so that they can help you.
- Calm yourself with some deep breathing exercises. Breathe deeply from your stomach, not your chest. Place your hands on your stomach with your fingertips touching on an out-breath. If you breathe in correctly, the finger tips should part as you do so.
- Drink lots of water to keep your body hydrated.
- If you come across turbulence remember it is just pockets of air. Treat the turbulence as you would bumps in the road when you’re in a car.
- Keep yourself busy and distracted: play a game, lose yourself in a good book or some music or the in-flight film (bring your favourite funny movie to watch if you have a laptop).
- Take yourself off in your mind to another place/time when you felt really relaxed and/or confident. Remember everything about that time.