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3 Tips to Tackle Social Anxiety Now!
Posted by mindfueltherapy
30th Jun 2014

1 - Understand Personality Style

It is important to know that being ‘shy’ is a normal aspect of personality.
As a child, shyness is common; after all, children are experiencing many things for the first time.
However, the labels given for being quiet or withdrawn can damage the self-esteem of the child by creating the belief that they are in some way different to others.

Many ‘shy’ children have introverted personalities which means that they may spend a lot of time alone and don’t enjoy or react well with others. Introverts are said to have many skills that extroverts do not have and vice-versa, both personality spectrums are equally important and have a valid place in society.

If your child seems 'shy' or quiet, know that there is nothing to cure and the worst you can do is make it seem abnormal. Holding the label ‘shy’ at a young age can manifest into social anxiety and other difficulties. This is not necessarily always the origin social anxiety, but is it important for those who were considered ‘shy’ or ‘quiet’ to know that it is natural.

2 - Understand the Impermanence of Anxiety

A state is anything that alters your physiology, thoughts and behaviour.
An anxiety attack or experience is a state, and states are temporary.

Much like many issues, anxiety is fuelled by thoughts. For example, while walking into a room full of people does not trigger anxiety as such, your thoughts about the scenario will.

The following exercise shows how quickly you can change your state and how your thoughts sustain anxiety:

1. Think about something that brings on mild anxiety
2. Now pick a spot on the wall at eye level and focus in on it
3. Look slightly above that spot and focus in again
4. Now without moving your eyes or head, start to notice other things in your vision
5. Expand your vision completely so you can see left, right, up and down
6. Put all your energy into your vision until you can almost see behind yourself

This is peripheral vision. Peripheral vision shuts off the sympathetic nervous system involved in anxiety and switches to the parasympathetic nervous system involved in relaxation. You should have noticed a shift in your anxiety levels but if not, give it another go, it works! This exercise also makes you focus on the outside instead of the inside. The more you focus outside your head, the less thought fuel your anxiety gets. Keep trying until you master it.

3 - Erase Labels

We experience many states each day and it would be impossible to be anxious all day.
As states are impermanent, it means we can turn off anxiety as quickly as we can turn it on. Therefore, saying “I’m an anxious person” or “I have social anxiety” doesn’t make logical sense. It would be more logical and more helpful to rate your behaviour than to rate yourself.

For example:
Instead of saying “I have social anxiety” you could say “I sometimes feel anxious in social situations”.

Even better than that, it is more helpful to take the labels away altogether. Rate your feeling as pleasant or unpleasant instead of using labels such as anxiety.

So, instead of saying “I sometimes feel anxious in social situations” you could say “I sometimes have an unpleasant feeling in social situations”.

And even better than that, be more specific about the feeling. How specifically do you feel unpleasant? Where specifically is the unpleasant feeling?
“I sometimes have a tight feeling across my chest in social situations”
Observe this feeling further. Is it hot, cold, moving, still? Sometimes focusing on the feeling and observing it is enough for it to vanish!

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