4 Ways to Deal with Social Anxiety at Work
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 15 million U.S. Americans, or 6.8% of the population, suffers from Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). SAD, also sometimes referred to as social phobia, is an intense fear of social situations. The sufferer believes they could become humiliated and embarrass themselves somehow in front of other people. They tend to focus on every little mistake they make (or could conceivably make) and assume that everyone else is judging them.
The most common social phobia is giving a public presentation. Did you know that the number 1 fear of people all around the world is public speaking and death is the second? That’s right, more people are scared to get up in front of others and speak than they are to kick the bucket!
Shyness VS SAD
People often confuse shyness with social anxiety disorder, but the two are very different. While a shy person may be a bit uneasy around others, they will generally not experience the same intense anxiety as someone with an actual social phobia. Shy people also don’t go to the extreme avoidance of social situations while those with SAD will often do anything to avoid being in a social gathering.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder
- Extreme and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations where a person is exposed to scrutiny or unfamiliar people.
- Panic attacks at the mere thought of the social situation.
- The person recognizes the fear as excessive or irrational but still cannot control their feelings.
- The social situation is avoided at all costs.
- The irrational fears affect the person’s everyday life and interferes with career and personal relationship growth.
Dealing with Social Anxiety Disorder at Work
If your social anxiety is interfering with your career goals, here are 4 ways you can deal with it:
1. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation has been scientifically proven to help with anxiety. By being still and focusing on your breath for just 10 minutes each day, you can learn to acknowledge the thoughts and feelings your brain is generating, while continuously bringing your attention back to the present moment, instead of getting caught up in the thoughts and feelings.
2. Focus on Performance, Not Feelings
People suffering from SAD tend to focus solely on how they feel during a social setting, not the positive things that may happen. When you use your mindfulness skills to focus your attention and behaviors, feelings and thoughts can become background noise. As an example, during your next board meeting, don’t focus on whether or not you are blushing or sweating, you can’t control that anyway. We have very little control over our thoughts and feelings. Just focus on making good eye contact with everyone in the room. When all is said and done, you will feel fantastic that you made such an accomplishment.
Consistently exposing yourself to stimuli you fear (i.e. social judgment) and accepting the thoughts and feelings that come with exposure vs. avoiding these types of situations, allows your mind to recognize these stimuli as non-threatening. Hence, uour minds typically stop signalling your body’s flight or fight (or freeze) responses.
4. Work with a Therapist
If social anxiety has stopped you from getting promotions or helping your family financially, then it’s time to get some help from a professional therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders. He or she can give you coping strategies that will help you move forward in life.
If you or someone you know is suffering with SAD and would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help life feel more comfortable.