Social anxiety and shyness are not the same thing. Shyness is being uncomfortable at first in new situations, but you have the ability to warm up and be okay with that. Social anxiety is no fun. Just thinking about having to talk to or meet new people can trigger a fight or flight response when you have social anxiety. It’s the fight or flight response that creates that feeling in your chest when your heart is racing and you can’t quite catch your breath. Maybe your stomach hurts or you get sweaty.
Why me?- You may be thinking to yourself ‘Why is this happening??!’ Back when we were still hunter gatherers, fight or flight is what kept us alive. If there was anything dangerous around that could have eaten us, the brain would react; flooding our bodies with chemicals, boosting energy so we could get the heck out. [Want to learn more? Cool science-y explanation HERE]
Now what?- This was fabulous when we were being chased by large animals. Not so great when our brain is interpreting having to talk to Pete from accounting in the same way. So what can you do to calm this over active response?
- Practice awareness – When your thoughts are racing and your body is reacting you feel every bit of what is going on inside. Now is the time put your attention outside of yourself. How many decorative items are on the wall? What are three different colors you can see in the room? What does the floor feel like under your feet?
- Imagine calm – How many times have you been upset about something and more you thought about it the angrier you got? Anxiety works in the same way. When you relax, imagine yourself calm. See yourself meeting new people or speaking publicly in a clam confident way. The more you imagine calm the easier being calm gets.
- Try it out – Every house I lived in as a kid had a creepy basement. Nothing ever happened, but I would do everything I could to avoid going down there. When we avoid places or situations our brain puts up a giant red flag that says ‘this isn’t safe’. We naturally respond by being more afraid and avoiding it more. Break out of this negative loop by trying it out. First by imagining (see step 2) then by doing. Even small steps will train your mind that this is safe.
- Just be nice – Take a moment to listen to that voice inside of your head. Is it encouraging or being a jerk? Practice speaking kindly to yourself. Remind yourself that being goofy or awkward, and not perfect is what makes us all human and that is totally cool.
When you practice these steps you start on that path to finding your calm confidence in any situation. If you are interested in reaching that goal quickly contact me to schedule your free consult.