For a long time, Social Anxiety Disorder has been termed as the ‘neglected’ anxiety problem. Many, even those in the mental health profession, dismiss it as mere shyness or social awkwardness. It is only in recent years that there is the recognition that social anxiety is actually a debilitating and chronic illness, one that affects about 13% of the national population.
If you want to overcome Social Anxiety Disorder, keep in mind these three simple techniques: prevent, manage, and process.
The first step you need to take in order to manage your social anxiety disorder, is to prevent an anxiety attack from happening.
Steer clear of situations that you know from past experience trigger anxiety reactions from you. For instance, if you know public speaking triggers unreasonable fear and phobia in you, avoid activities that would require you to address a crowd. You could also arrange your social and professional life in such a way that avoids public speaking situations.
However, steering clear of triggers may not always be possible. This is particularly true when what you have is generalized social anxiety — the kind of social anxiety the cause of which is unspecific. In cases like this, you can prevent an attack by knowledge and practice. Know your symptoms so that you can address them immediately. Awareness of how your social anxiety manifests itself can also help you stay in control when an attack does come.
The second technique is to manage the anxiety once it arrives. Managing anxiety does not necessarily mean removing the anxiety symptoms completely. It can, however, mean de-escalating your reaction to a degree that your personal resources can handle. There is nothing wrong with feeling anxiety now and then. The problem comes when the anxiety so overwhelms you, that you lose focus and concentration on your immediate surroundings.
You can manage a social anxiety attack by doing ‘self-talk’: mentally reassuring yourself that everything is going to be alright. It can also be done through relaxation techniques such as meditation and visualization. In more extreme cases, management of anxiety may mean applying first aid to physiological symptoms like hyperventilation and hypertension, or taking anti-anxiety medications.
What is important in the ‘manage’ stage of your social anxiety intervention is recovering a sense of control. You have to know that you are stronger than your anxiety reaction, and that you always have a choice. You need not be victimized by this mental health condition.
Lastly, you must be able to learn from every anxiety attack that you experienced. Note what triggered the anxiety attack and how you reacted to the situation. Always sift through the things that helped and didn’t help, so that you can do better the next time. Having a social anxiety diary can help; make sure that you log on all your insights for future reference.
Constantly being self-aware is a key component of getting rid of debilitating social anxiety reactions for good. If you can process your anxiety experience thoroughly, then you can go back to the ‘prevent’ stage, and get a little better the second time around. Your progress would be consistent, which in turn, helps you become more empowered.
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