The BBQ from hell
Imagine this scenario. You’re invited to a BBQ with many other people in attendance. You’re a little apprehensive, but you really want to go, as the host has a reputation of being a master of BBQ brisket.
You love brisket as much as a fish loves the water, so you accept. As the date approaches, you are filled with dread. You worry about what people will think of you. “It seems like everyone who goes to these things has it all together but me”, you tell yourself.
Finally, the big day arrives. You arrive and walk to the backyard where all the other guests are waiting for you. In your head is a running commentary about yourself. “Why am I so awkward at these things?” you keep asking yourself. You hope no one talks to you.
Someone asks you what you think of the food. You blush, and stumble over your words. “People probably think I’m so stupid,” you think to yourself, knocking over the salt shaker awkwardly. You feel your heart rate start to increase.
Suddenly, you feel sick to your stomach. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take”, you think to yourself. As anxiety turns to panic, you start looking for the exit. And this isn’t the first time it’s happened. You’re feeling ever more powerless to control your feelings in social situations.
What is social anxiety?
Maybe you’ve already been to the BBQ from hell. Or, maybe those thoughts are in the back of your mind when you’re in other social situations. When you have social anxiety, social interaction, or even the thought of such interactions, can trigger intense feelings of anxiety.
According to the Social Anxiety Institute, social anxiety includes:
- the fear of being judged or evaluated negatively by other people
- feeling inadequate, inferior, self-consciousness, embarrassed, humiliated, or even depressed by your perceived negative evaluation from others
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, these fears of negative judgments can take place in social, work, or performance situations. It’s ultimately a fear of being rejected by others. Symptoms can include:
- stumbling over words
- rapid heart rate
- panic attacks
- feeling powerless to control anxious feelings
How to get help for social anxiety
If you recognize these symptoms in yourself, it doesn’t mean that you have social anxiety, but it does mean that you should start thinking about getting help. There are two ways of getting help – self-directed or professional help.
If your symptoms are severe, professional help would be best. But, even with professional help, you are going to be asked to do things on your own to get better. For that reason, I also recommend that you also look into both options, with the guidance of your chosen professional, of course.
Where to get help for social anxiety
Hypnosis practitioners who are not also counselors cannot work with diagnosed anxiety. That being said, hypnosis can help tremendously in dealing with the self-esteem and stress factors contributing to the anxiety. If you think that you might have social anxiety, I recommend staring with counseling.
Then, if it is appropriate for you, your counselor may recommend hypnosis as an adjunct. We work with an excellent counselor by the name of Marcus Greenwood. Please check him out if you are considering therapy. We have had tremendous results working together.
How to help yourself with social anxiety
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or counselor. The following tips should only be used under the guidance of your therapist or doctor.
Take a look at your self-directed attitudes that contribute to social anxiety
In my opinion, fear of rejection is the at the root of social anxiety. So, the question is, why do you fear being judged or negatively evaluated? The answer is because you negatively judge or evaluate yourself.
You may think you don’t judge yourself negatively, but if you didn’t, you wouldn’t have a fear of others doing so. Negatively judging yourself may be a pattern that is outside of your awareness. Ultimately, it comes down to self-esteem. You are projecting your low self-esteem onto the other people in your social environment.
It’s possible that one or more self-directed attitudes are causing you to fear social situations. Ask yourself “What I am afraid that other people will think about me”? If you are afraid of being judged, you might ask yourself the question “How do I judge myself?” Learn to see yourself for who you are without being judgmental.
Interrupt the pattern of social anxiety by redirecting your awareness
Anxiety starts as stress. If not controlled, anxiety can become full-blown panic. The cycle goes like this: 1. stress 2. anxiety 3. panic. Start learning to control your stress. Stress starts as minor worry thoughts that compound and build on each other. Eventually, they spiral out of control and become anxiety.
You can probably identify with being really “in your head” in situations when you’re experiencing anxiety. It would be helpful to get out of your head and put your awareness in your body. Get into the habit of asking yourself, “Am I in my head, or in my body?” The state of being in your head is a breeding ground for stress to spiral into anxiety.
Take a deep breath, and put your awareness at the center of your body. (around your navel) Feel the energy there. Breath from your center and feel this as your center of gravity. Doing so will help you reduce stress and take your mind off of your worries. Practice this technique and make it a habit.
Exploring different perspectives to resolve social anxiety
When you fear being judged by others, a good exercise to do is to see yourself through the eyes of others. You can practice seeing a situation from:
- Your point of view
- The point of view of someone in your immediate environment
- And the point of view of a 3rd party observer.
Practice observing situations in terms of these three positions. When you are experiencing social anxiety, you are stuck in your own point of view – and you’re worried about how others see you. When you practice seeing yourself through the eyes of others, you will learn that many of your concerns are unfounded.
This exercise will help you lessen your worries about how others perceive you. Finally, gain an even greater perspective by seeing the whole situation through the eyes of a disinterested 3rd party. How do they think and feel about the situation?
Think about social situations in which you were anxious in the past. Think about the situation from these multiple points of view. Imagine what the other people would see, think, and feel from their unique perspectives. Suddenly, you’re not stuck in “self-position,” worried about what others think. When you can get outside of yourself mentally, you can see that your fears are not what you thought they were.
How to deal with the symptoms of social anxiety
Most people try to deal with anxiety symptoms by struggling against them – trying to stop them from happening. But, the more you struggle against the symptoms, the stronger they will get. You must take the opposite approach. Say, for example, you blush when someone asks you a question.
Instead of trying to stop yourself blushing, try to increase it. Yes, actually try to make it worse. This approach is likely to actually reduce the symptom because you’re no longer struggling against it. Or, simply put your attention somewhere else. You get more of what you focus on. So, focus on what you would like to experience, rather than the symptoms.
Explore the sensitizing event
Most patterns of fear/anxiety start at a specific point in time. In response to an event or situation, you accepted a limiting idea about yourself. This limiting belief, in many cases, is the fuel for your anxiety. It’s the computer program that runs in your mind and drives the anxious response.
Think about when your social anxiety started. Ask yourself what was going on in your life at that time. Most likely, something major was happening for you. Talk about this event with your counselor or hypnosis professional to discover the attitudes you may have adopted that contribute to social anxiety.
The best time to practice social anxiety reduction techniques
The best time to practice anxiety-reduction techniques is BEFORE you need them. Practice when you’re calm, and in a safe environment. That way, you will be more likely to successfully manage anxiety when it occurs.
The best time to solve social anxiety is now
If you’re experiencing social anxiety, it’s not going to get any better unless you do something about it. To deal with it fully: hire a counselor and work with a hypnosis professional at the same time. Practice the techniques in this article. If you would like other tips on dealing with anxiety, check out my article on how to help anxiety.
The techniques in this article would be most effective if practiced in self-hypnosis. To get our complete course for only $10, call us at 469-458-0187, or schedule a consultation to get $70 worth of programs for only $10.
Article by Sean Maness