Your fingers start tingling and you feel kind of detached from what's going on around you. You're thinking "Wow, this is so weird, I feel like I'm going crazy." You may be experiencing social anxiety, and you're not "weird or crazy." The sense of feeling separate from your body along with physical symptoms like tingly fingers can be caused by stress and anxiety, which effects you physiologically as well as psychologically.
Social anxiety can create isolation & missed opportunities.
If you avoid speaking up at work meetings, skip going to social events, or spend a lot of time worrying about what you're going to say or how you look or sound, you may have social anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety may get in the way of enjoying yourself when you do go out with friends, complicate possible career advancement, or make it challenging to have meaningful relationships. One of the biggest challenges with social anxiety is the snowball effect of anticipating anxiety in certain situations, which can bring on anxiety without the situation or event even occurring. You can get control back by understanding what creates these physical and emotional symptoms, and implementing effective coping skills.
Worrying about becoming anxious creates an escalating cycle of anxiety.
Anxiety symptoms occur when you shift from using your logical brain to your emotional brain. The part of our brain called the amygdala runs the show when overwhelming stress and worry turns into anxiety or panic attacks, which means our emotions are in charge. Our fear response can lead to a long list of physical symptoms when we're anxious, including shallow breathing, faster heart rate, sweating, blushing, light-headedness, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, chest pain, confusion and feeling an "out of body" detachment from your surroundings. If you have some of these symptoms, see your medical professional to get them checked out. Your doctor may refer you to counseling for anxiety symptoms.
Knowledge and helpful coping skills will give you control back.
Learning about this brain-body connection, and how our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are connected helps to increase understanding and feel more in control over ourselves. Because social anxiety usually affects more than one area of our life--social, career, academic, family--it's important to know that you can learn to understand it and master coping skills to conquer it. There are many different approaches to overcoming social anxiety including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness, meditation, relaxation, and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).
Here's a few helpful tips to get you started on learning to manage anxiety symptoms:
Acknowledge that you feel shy, worried or fearful.
By acknowledging that you're anxious about what others may think of you, it releases some of the power the anxiety has over you. This may seem silly or pointless, but the more you try to ignore the anxiety, the bigger it grows. Face it, tell it you know it's there, and you're going to conquer it.
Practice belly breathing.
Also known as diaphragmatic breathing, it helps encourage full oxygen exchange and slow the heart rate and stabilize blood pressure. Breathe in slowly through your nose, expanding your stomach outward, and breathe out through your mouth as your stomach deflates. This really does work!
Understand that the majority of people are thinking about themselves more than they are of you.
This is absolutely true, ask someone close to you. People may be attentive and wanting to listen, but they aren't as laser focused on your shaky voice or pounding heart as you may be.
Stop focusing on yourself.
They best way to connect with others is to ask them a question so they start talking about themselves. This helps shift your focus away from your self-consciousness while learning more about the person in front of you. Most people will find it easy to talk about themselves.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself.
This means when you do or say something in a way you're not happy with, be gentle because you're practicing a new skill. Calling yourself names, getting angry with yourself, or engaging in unhealthy coping skills will deepen the cycle. Learning a new way to think and interact takes a lot of practice, as well as patience with yourself. So please, practice self-compassion.
Joining a group specifically for treating social anxiety can be immensely helpful in understanding the physiological and emotional cycle of anxiety and how to stop it. Group therapy may have additional benefits than individual therapy, depending on your particular anxiety symptoms and needs. In a social anxiety group therapy, you can receive helpful feedback from others, practice communication and other coping skills with members, and have supportive people who understand the challenges.
Group therapy in Sacramento begins September 15th.
Email me or give me a call to answer any questions you may have about this social anxiety group for adults beginning next month. I provide a FREE 20 minute phone consultation to ensure I can meet your needs and we're a good fit. Limited spaces are left so connect with me today to schedule your free phone consultation. Meanwhile, keep practicing your belly breathing and self-compassion.