Trying to 'Fix' Your Social Anxiety? You Could Be Making It Worse

When we’re looking to overcome our social anxiety, we often focus intensely on ourselves as we try to find a solution. This is understandable as anxiety is an individual state. When feeling anxious it seems reasonable to think we should focus our attention inwards in order to ‘work’ on ourselves and assess how effective the strategies and exercises are in helping us. However, while some self-evaluation is necessary — we do need to know what’s working after all — intense self-focus has also been shown to be harmful to wellbeing.

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How to Influence the Way Other People See You

This is an exercise that I used to regularly do with students entering their first year of university, but it can work for people of all ages.

Students often worry about how they are perceived by the large numbers of new people they meet when they first arrive. Indeed, a large part of their self-identity is wrapped up in the the way they think others view them and this can cause considerable social anxiety.

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Feeling Anxious? Don’t Calm Down, Get Excited

The student sitting outside my office was shaking like a leaf, breathing quickly, and stuttering over her words. She was due to make a presentation in 15 minutes to lecture theatre packed with students. To add to the pressure, the presentation was being assessed and marked by her tutor, and would contribute to her final degree grade.

She was surrounded by a number of well meaning friends who were telling her to ‘calm down.’ Unfortunately, telling someone to ‘calm down’ when they are feeling anxious is about the worst thing you can say to them. It just reminds them of how calm they are not, which can escalate their anxiety even further.

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Don't Let Anxiety Stop You Doing The Things You Value

A lecture theatre of around 200 students were staring at me in awkward silence. They’d stopped mumbling to each other and were no longer taking sneaky glances at their phones hidden away from view. I was standing before them in the middle of a panic attack.

It had been a busy day and I’d taken a glance at my lecture notes earlier, feeling reasonably confident about the lecture I was going to deliver. I’d done it a few times before, and I thought I had a good handle on the new research that I’d added to this semester’s session.

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