Social Comfort Tips to Minimize Anxiety

Since I’ve published my book, I often have people tell me that they have had experiences similar to those I share.  This makes the person wonder, do I have SAD?  Maybe, but I usually point out that there is some level of “normal” anxiety.  SAD is an issue for someone when they start to avoid social situations for fear of embarrassment.  A person with SAD is overly concerned about people watching them or judging them.  The levels of anxiety a person with SAD feels while going to a store or walking down a sidewalk are similar in emotional intensity compared to a person delivering a speech in front of a large group.

In either case, the therapies that I outline in my book can be helpful to a person with SAD or a person who experiences “normal” anxiety when giving a speech in front of a large group.  I’ve compiled a few Social Comfort Tips that can be used to minimize anxiety.  Pick one or two that feel right for you and keep them handy when you need them.

Before the social interaction/event:

  • Visualize yourself in the situation:  In your mind, see the experience in a positive light. (Meditation and Visualization is further explained in Chapter 11 of Releasing the Secret Pain).
  • Journal:  Why will this event go well?  What experiences have you had that are similar that you can use as evidence that you will be OK?
  • Practice and Plan:  Lunch with a friend?  Consider what you may talk about, what questions you may ask.  But don’t get too carried away because you want the conversation to be natural too.  Giving a speech?  Practice!!  But again, don’t go overboard because when the speech is too scripted and memorized it’s more challenging to truly speak from the heart.

If you have SAD, the tips I share for use during social interactions will be more effective if you have started doing some cognitive (mind) work before diving into the behavioral (social) experiences.  I highlight this important point in the Therapies chapter in my book, “The caution I have for you is to be sure you are starting to feel better in your head before you start diving into social situations – even those that cause little anxiety. Being too aggressive with your expectations will be a recipe for failure and disappointment.”

During the social interaction/event:

  • Be Mindful!
    • Breathe – feel your breath going through your nose, down your throat and into your stomach.  Feel your stomach filling with air.  Follow the path of your breath back out of your body.  Releasing the anxiety.
    • Focus on body sensations – feel your feet touching the ground, notice your heart beating (even if it’s beating quickly!), feel what you are holding in your hands (if anything).
    • Use all your senses to experience the present moment – What do you hear? What do you see?  What do you smell?  What do you feel?
    • Mindfulness is explained further in my book, Chapter 12, page 175
  • Look around – If you feel like people are watching and judging you, look around and see if what you feel is true.  In everyday situations you will usually see that people are not looking at you.  Are you giving a speech?  People will look at you because you are speaking!  Find kind eyes to connect with.
  • Listen and extend kindness – Having a conversation with a friend?  Listen to what they are saying.  Look into their eyes and see who they really are.
  • Use a trigger keyword – Identify a word(s) that draw you out of your mind and into your heart.  I use peace and calm.  You can say these words in your mind or write them down – all depends on what you are involved in at the time.
  • Loosen up – Notice where your body is tensing and relax the muscles.  Breathe into them.  I often think of “rag doll walking” to remind me to loosen up.
  • Slow down – Rushing, talking fast and/or trying to do too much at once will get your blood rushing and increase anxiety levels.  Remind yourself to be mindful (above), take a deep breath and focus on slowing down.  This includes talking, walking, etc.
  • Hum a song – Have a favorite song that makes you smile?  Hum a song to yourself – in your mind or even out loud.  I’ve walked past people humming out loud and it always makes me smile!  Make someone else smile by humming your favorite song.  It gets you out of your mind and into your heart!
  • Positive affirmations – Have positive statements that you can say to yourself when you are feeling the anxiety levels increasing, e.g.“I am OK”.  It helps if you create your own affirmations because they will impact you more when they are your own words.

More details about these tips are available in my book in the Fixing the Pain and Releasing the Pain sections.

As you find yourself feeling high levels of anxiety before or during a social experience, remember, “People with SAD are generally very self-aware and overly critical of themselves. Sure, people may notice certain nuances about us – those things that we believe we need to change – but people don’t really notice as much as we think they do. The symptoms are exaggerated in our minds…  I want you to consider that it doesn’t really matter what people think of you. It’s what you think about yourself that matters. And once you accept yourself and love yourself as you are, your life will change for the better. You are your own person and can be the person you truly want to be, in your heart, without a single worry about being judged by others.” Releasing the Secret Pain, Chapter 7, Page 85.

 

 

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4 Responses to Social Comfort Tips to Minimize Anxiety

  1. Jason Ellis June 30, 2013 at 6:47 am #

    Thanks Lisa. Your tip on visualization is the only one that I’m on the fence about. That’s because sometimes visualizing the situation (for me at least) can cause an “overthinking” mentality and everything that comes out of my mouth during the actual encounter sounds rehearsed or plastic (for lack of a better word). I can definitely see the value in it – don’t get me wrong. But for my own problems with internalization I think it amplifies a bit of inner monologue once I’m actually in the moment and carrying out my plan for interaction. Love your stuff. Been following for a little while now.

    • Lisa Klarner July 1, 2013 at 6:58 am #

      Hi Jason,
      Thanks for your comment on visualization. This is a great example of how people need to pick what’s right for them and pay attention to their intuition. If the technique being used feels forced or consistently brings up more anxiety while in a situation, then it’s not the right solution. If a solution has been tried for a period of time and there’s no change in anxiety levels, then it’s not the right solution. The key is to pay attention and hold on tightly to the solution(s) that brings a sense of peace (even if it’s very small – because it will grow with practice).

  2. Forever Alone October 16, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

    I use to be VERY uncomfortable in any social settings. I found comfort by sitting in my room all day playing video games. As I got older and into high school, I realized this could not continue. I used “role playing” to build up a character in my mind and this character became me. After “faking it” for over a yar, this new persona eventually became the new me as my subconscious mind slowly started accepting the new me. It has continued and progressed and I am still the outgoing person that I strived to be 10 years ago. I wrote a little on the technique on my blog: http://forever-alone.me/5-habits-overcome-social-anxiety/

    • Lisa Klarner October 17, 2013 at 10:01 am #

      Thanks Forever Alone for sharing your story. The suggestion on role playing is helpful, it sounds like a visualization approach – visualizing ourselves confident. I’m very happy to hear everything worked out for you!

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