A top tip to cure social anxiety
Perhaps you are someone who is heavily in demand in social situations because you are a 'natural' at putting people at their ease. But, if such 'social ease' for you is an impossible dream you may be one of the many people in the UK who suffer from a social anxiety disorder. In the UK one in ten people have suffered a disabling anxiety disorder at some point in their life, and for many, it takes the form of social anxiety. This condition exceeds normal shyness or social awkwardness. Sufferers have a deep fear of being judged by others and acute fears of social embarrassment and humiliation.
The exact cause is not known but clients have told me that being bullied at school or work can play a part, as does growing up with 'hard to please' parents, or parents who were over-protective and unwittingly hindered their chances to develop resilience to a range of social situations.
Those who suffer from social anxiety experience very unpleasant physiological symptoms triggered by the fight or flight response, including shaking, sweating, nausea, palpitations, tears and blushing, which further reinforce the anxious and panicky feelings.
Being preoccupied with fears about what others think of us makes it difficult to focus clearly on others or, if we are giving a presentation, the content of what we are saying. Ironically, we may not be aware that the person we are with are feeling ill at ease or insecure themselves, so it is impossible to relax and put them at ease. It leads to poorer quality relationships, which in turn ramps up anxiety. Some people begin to rely on alcohol or medication or decide to avoid social occasions altogether. Here is a tip to break the spiral.
Try this technique
When you are next in a social situation try this tip. Choose a non-threatening context to practice it first, perhaps meeting someone you already feel relatively comfortable with, one on one. Keep the social interaction time-limited. When you become more practised you can use the technique in more challenging situations.
Relax, perhaps by breathing deeply and expelling tension from the muscles. Then decide to concentrate completely on that person, give them your full attention and immerse yourself in:
exactly what is being said to you
exactly what you are hearing
exactly what you are seeing.
Notice everything about them, starting from the shoes they are wearing, what particular items of jewellery, their wristwatch, details about their hair, their face, just as if you were an artist about to paint their portrait. Making an encouraging comment or paying a compliment is a nice thing to do, but don't over think it.
This approach to social interaction will begin to switch off the unpleasant self-consciousness that triggers the anxiety. If a distracting thought comes out of habit, let it go - it is only a thought and thinking it does not make it true. It is impossible to feel anxious if we are fully focused on the other person and have forgotten about ourselves. We get so much more out of being with others.
We start to connect with others more intuitively and become the person that puts others at ease.
To make permanent change happen fast, why not consider using hypnotherapy? A hypnotherapist, by facilitating access to the resources of the unconscious mind, can use a range of techniques to help you reach your goal a lot more quickly than you can usually achieve by yourself.
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About Marian Barry
Marian Barry is an advanced clinical hypnotherapist practising at the Harley St Hypnotherapy Clinic London and Gt Abington, Cambridge. She has given talks at international conferences around the world specialising in personal change and confidence building. She is a best selling author of many popular works published by Cambridge University Press.