The single most important strategy for overcoming social anxiety is to face your fear.
Get back on the horse again. Take the car out for a drive once more. Go swimming again. Get back on an airplane. Give another speech before an audience. Go to another dinner party. Ask somebody else to go out on a date. Managing your physical symptoms and changing your thinking do little good unless you come to terms with your fears by getting back into anxiety-provoking situations. Doing this takes courage. Avoiding it perpetuates the problem.
When you put yourself back into the anxious situation, realize that there are coping mechanisms that you may not have used before. You know that you can change your negative thinking and you can manage your physical symptoms. And facing the anxious situations can be done gently, one step at a time.
First, develop some practice assignments that directly challenge your fears. Make sure they are relevant to the anxiety. Make the assignments increasingly more difficult. And make sure that you can repeat them for practice. For example, if you fear public speaking, start out with making conversation with one person. Then move on to talking to a group of two or three people. Then talk to five people in an informal group. Move on to asking a question in a formal business meeting. Then talk at more length in the business meeting. And finally, after you have repeated all of these steps several times, find a way to speak in public to a large group.
As you practice going into anxiety-provoking situations, remember to relax your body. Deep breathing techniques are especially effective. Practice deep breathing until you can put your body into a relaxed state on purpose. Then go into the anxiety-provoking situations in a relaxed state. You’ll be ready to face your anxiety. It takes courage, each step of the way, but you can be successful.
Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D.,LMFT
San Diego Couples and Family Therapy provides counseling in the convenient area of Sorrento Valley Road.
We also serve the surrounding areas of La Jolla, UTC San Diego, Del Mar, University City, Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Poway and Escondido.