When Social Anxiety Hits the Hardest: Simple Ways to Cope
Social anxiety can be one of the more crippling forms of anxiety and stress that exists. However, like most forms of mental illness, there are ways to cope with the symptoms when they arise, especially when they become too strong. Here are a few steps to help take coping with social anxiety one day at a time.
When most people think about deep breathing, they often resort to thoughts of meditation or of Lamaze breathing for women in childbirth. Practicing this technique outside of those two instances can have the same, calming effect, though. By breathing slowly, with deep inhales of breath, the body is prompted to do two things. First, it takes in more oxygen, which satisfies a need for the brain to operate under stress. Second, it also cues the body’s heart rate to slow down, too. Therefore, two symptoms that can be driving forces behind anxiety are conquered with one, easy step. Since the body’s natural rhythm relies on the 4/4 time signature, it’s all the more easy to breathe according to a four-count measure in order to make the body become more in-tune with the task at hand.
Creating Daily, Objective Goals
An organized lifestyle helps to negate many of the symptoms of social anxiety before they even begin to rear their heads. One way to maintain organization is to make a simple list of three to five goals that are realistic and objective. These types of goals are the best to rely on because they do not rely on personal feelings or opinions when considering facts. Therefore, these goals are often simple ones. For example, one goal could easily be to say hello to at least one person, and be the first to do so, in a conversation. Yes, a lot of feelings are connected to not wanting to do this task for a person with anxiety, but it is also a simple, “Did I do this today and succeed?” type of task. In short, by completing the task, it is measurable. Therefore, in the next day or so, the goal can be extended to saying hello to two people to start a conversation instead of just one, or it can be to say hello and to hold a conversation with a person for x number of minutes. Because numbers are involved, it becomes more easily measurable.
People with anxiety disorders, and especially with social anxiety, tend to have a lot of negative thoughts driving and exacerbating their symptoms. These thoughts are powerful and easy to fall back on from a day to day basis; therefore, they can be rather self-destructive. However, there is a task that is just as powerful and promotes positive thinking. Realistic thinking, like objective goals, relies on facts, and they are therefore measurable, whereas the negative thoughts are not as much so. Instead of thinking, “All I will do is make mistakes, so why bother trying,” the realistic thought side of that statement would be, “Although I know I will make mistakes, I know that I can succeed at doing ____ when I try.” The negative thought is acknowledged in a positive way, and it is also backed by a fact, thus emphasizing the power of positivity all the more.
Keep a Log of Symptoms of Thought Patterns
One of the most powerful means of coping with anxiety is to document what actually goes on. Once more, by tracking symptoms or thought patterns on a routine basis, the need to find a way to cope becomes all the more realistic. These facts, when compiled together, can mean the difference between progressing in treatment to stagnating in it. A log can simply be done throughout the day at specific times. For example, one log might look like this example:
Fought to get out of bed and convince self to shower
Decided the need for a hygiene is important with communicating with other people
Went to the dentist; fellow patient struck up conversation about liking my outfit; experienced the following symptoms: increased heart rate, upset stomach, racing thoughts
Increased heart rate and depression from this morning have continued throughout the day; decided to attempt meditation to calm both; minimal result
A log such as this one is made of simple observations that are based on facts. They can also, as the last entry suggests, lead to realizations such as, “Am I meditating correctly? Should I have meditated sooner in the day?” These questions lead to realistic answers that can easily be implemented within a short period of time.
Social anxiety may appear to be a strong adversary, but when it is looked at with a factual, realistic eye, then coping mechanisms can be found. These easy ways of implementing coping mechanisms can have power in the long-term, more so than their grand impact in the short-term. Soon enough, they will become second nature, which will allow them to become instantaneous mechanisms for observation and coping.