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How To Deal With Social Anxiety At Work

Map Your Social Anxiety Triggers

How to deal with social anxiety at work

As much as you may struggle with social anxiety, its important to remind yourself that youre not always socially anxious.

There are likely certain people in your life you do feel comfortable around. And there are probably plenty of non-social times throughout your day when youre not in the grips of social anxiety.

I say this for two reasons:

  • For one thing, exaggerating the extent to which you are socially anxious is only going to lead to more social anxiety. If you constantly describe yourself as constantly anxious about people or Im socially anxious, whats the message youre sending your own brain?
  • But the other reason is that when you start paying attention to times when youre not socially anxious, you begin to get a better sense for the boundaries and triggers of your social anxiety.
  • One of the reasons social anxiety can be so overwhelming is that it becomes an automatic process.

    Heres an example:

    Now, simply managing the triggers of your social anxiety isnt going to completely eliminate them.

    But Ive found that its a very useful first step because it can seriously take the edge off your anxietyenough to be able to start implementing some of the strategies which target the core maintaining causes of your social anxiety directly.

    Try this:

    Use Your Employee Assistance Program

    An employee assistance program is a confidential service that helps employees who are dealing with workplace or personal issues, including mental health problems, that are affecting their performance.

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    Most employers offer some kind of EAP, so its worth checking your employee handbook to see whether you have access to this kind of service.

    Some programs entitle you to a mental health assessment and a few sessions with a counselor. If the counselor thinks you could benefit from more help, they can refer you to another professional, such as a doctor or psychologist.

    Talk With A Therapist

    Despite what some people might suggest, social anxiety goes beyond shyness, or feeling uneasy and nervous around new people. Social anxiety is a mental health condition, and its not always possible to work through symptoms yourself.

    You can do a lot on your own to manage the anxiety and distress you experience, but getting professional support is always a good place to start.

    A trained mental health professional can:

    • offer more insight on the difference between social anxiety and shyness
    • help you identify social anxiety triggers
    • teach helpful coping strategies, social skills, and relaxation techniques
    • offer guidance with challenging and replacing or reframing negative thoughts

    Therapy also offers a safe environment to practice navigating anxiety-provoking situations through graduated exposure, one potential treatment for social anxiety.

    Your therapist might recommend group therapy or support groups, which give you the chance to practice social skills and interact with other people also coping with social anxiety.

    A therapist can also refer you to a psychiatrist, who can prescribe medication for social anxiety. Medication can provide some relief from severe symptoms, making it easier to start working through them in therapy.

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    Take Charge With The Venue

    A guy once asked me to go bowling on a first date. Yeah, no thanks! I was nervous enough as it was without having to worry about being terrible at bowling. If a particular setting puts you on edge, you can always laugh the request off and say something like, Maybe on the second date! Then, suggest somewhere youd feel more comfortable going.

    What Is Social Anxiety Disorder Or Social Phobia

    Coping With Anxiety

    Many people get nervous or self-conscious on occasion, like when giving a speech or interviewing for a new job. But social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is more than just shyness or occasional nerves. Social anxiety disorder involves intense fear of certain social situationsespecially situations that are unfamiliar or in which you feel youll be watched or evaluated by others. These situations may be so frightening that you get anxious just thinking about them or go to great lengths to avoid them, disrupting your life in the process.

    Underlying social anxiety disorder is the fear of being scrutinized, judged, or embarrassed in public. You may be afraid that people will think badly of you or that you wont measure up in comparison to others. And even though you probably realize that your fears of being judged are at least somewhat irrational and overblown, you still cant help feeling anxious. But no matter how painfully shy you may be and no matter how bad the butterflies, you can learn to be comfortable in social situations and reclaim your life.

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    How To Effectively Deal With Social Anxiety

    Its possible to manage social anxiety. You can deal with anxiety at work, school, or social events by implementing a few tips. It might not happen from one day to another, but its possible.

    Working with a mental health professional can help even more. They can help you explore the possible causes of your symptoms. They can also help you develop skills to face your fears without experiencing strong emotional or physical reactions.

    Tip : Learn To Control Your Breathing

    Many changes happen in your body when you become anxious. One of the first changes is that you begin to breathe quickly. Overbreathing throws off the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your bodyleading to more physical symptoms of anxiety, such as dizziness, a feeling of suffocation, increased heart rate, and muscle tension.

    Learning to slow your breathing down can help bring your physical symptoms of anxiety back under control. Practicing the following breathing exercise will help you stay calm:

    • Sit comfortably with your back straight and your shoulders relaxed. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
    • Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose for 4 seconds. The hand on your stomach should rise, while the hand on your chest should move very little.
    • Hold the breath for 2 seconds.
    • Exhale slowly through your mouth for 6 seconds, pushing out at much air as you can. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
    • Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus on keeping a slow and steady breathing pattern of 4-in, 2-hold, and 6-out.

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    Whats Social Anxiety At Work

    Social anxiety at work is a mental health condition in which social interactions during the course of your working day cause irrational anxiety, fear self-consciousness, and embarrassment.

    If youve ever had the feeling of fear of interaction, mostly uncomfortable in social situations, nervousness, and sweaty palms before presentations, maybe just clammed up during meetings with new clients or constantly have this feeling of been judged and evaluated negatively and as a result, sometimes leads to avoidance, Theres a high chance youve social anxiety at work.

    What Does It Feel Like?

    The experience of anxiety in the workplace may be different for everyone, but if you have social anxiety at work and youre in a stressful situation, you might have physical symptoms like:

    • Muscle tension
    • Stomach trouble and diarrhea
    • Inability to catch a breath

    You may start having symptoms and getting anxious immediately before a big presentation, or you might spend weeks worrying about it. Afterward, you could spend a lot of time and mental energy worrying about how you performed.

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    Understanding Social Anxiety at work.

    • Depression
    • Humiliation

    These feelings are common in those that experience social anxiety at work, whether specific or generalized and are typically brought felt in situations such as:

    Social anxiety at work is very common among employees, so if you have it, theres hope. The tough part is being able to ask for help.

    • Medications

    Mental Health At Work: 10 Techniques To Combat Stress And Anxiety In The Office

    Overcoming Social Anxiety: What I’ve Learned

    And, while self-help probably wont cure your social anxiety, it may reduce it. This is where Chloe Brotheridge, hypnotherapist and anxiety expert at Calmer Youand author ofThe Anxiety Solution, comes in here, she shares four useful tips to help you deal with social anxiety in the workplace, no matter where you work.

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    Help Your Coworkers Out

    When you help someone else, you may find it easier to stop overthinking and overanalyzing social interactions. Research shows that socially anxious people are less likely to use avoidance behaviors when they deliberately set out to perform acts of kindness.

    Here are some ways you can help your colleagues:

    • Offer to pick up coffee or some lunch for a coworker if they are too busy to leave the office.
    • Offer to take over a routine task for an overwhelmed coworker.
    • Tidy up the breakroom.
    • Give someone the gift of your attention. Ask how their day is going and listen carefully to their reply.
    • Give advice if its wanted and relevant.

    Create A Support Network

    A support network can be extremely helpful when managing workplace anxiety. Talk to your friends and family about your anxiety and let them know how they can help you. Because HR and your boss may not be able to provide the support you need, its important to create your own network.

    In addition to talking to your friends and family, you can also join a support group for people with anxiety. This can be an online or in-person group and can provide you with valuable resources and support.

    Also Check: How Do You Prevent Anxiety Attacks

    Find A Support Group At Work Or Outside Of Work That You Can Talk To When You’re Feeling Anxious

    There are often support groups available for people with social anxiety.

    These groups can provide a safe space for you to talk about your anxiety and how it affects you.

    You may also find it helpful to talk to someone outside of work, such as a therapist or counselor.

    Talking to others who understand what you’re going through can be a great way to find support and feel less alone.

    How Is Social Anxiety Disorder Treated

    How to Deal With Social Anxiety at Work

    If youre concerned you may have symptoms of social anxiety disorder, talk to a health care provider. After discussing your history, a health care provider may conduct a physical exam to ensure that an unrelated physical problem is not causing your symptoms. A health care provider may refer you to a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker. The first step to effective treatment is to get a diagnosis, usually from a mental health professional.

    Social anxiety disorder is generally treated with psychotherapy , medication, or both. Speak with a health care provider about the best treatment for you.

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    Challenge And Replace Your Negative Thoughts

    People with social anxiety often have negative, unhelpful thoughts about themselves, other people, and the world. Often, these thoughts are untrue or exaggerated.

    For example, if someone with social anxiety gets flustered in a meeting when theyre putting forward an idea, they might jump to the conclusion that they cant speak in public. These thoughts are not logical, but they can seem very convincing and keep the cycle of social anxiety going.

    To challenge your negative thoughts, you can use a technique called cognitive restructuring:

    • First, identify your negative thought. E.g., I always make myself look stupid in meetings.
    • Second, ask yourself, is this thought really accurate? Often, our negative thoughts arent based on objective facts.
    • Third, try to find evidence that your thought is wrong. E.g., you could remind yourself that your boss has praised your contributions in past meetings.
    • Finally, try to think of a more constructive thought that is more realistic and balanced. E.g., I find it hard to speak up in meetings, but I do have some good points to share.

    For more tips, check out this guide on how to deal with negative self-talk.

    Speak To Your Manager

    Not everyone feels comfortable doing this, but speaking to your manager or supervisor about your anxiety may help. They may be able to offer you accommodations to help you do your job more effectively.

    Some people may not want to disclose their anxiety to their supervisor or HR department for fear of appearing weak or unwilling to work, losing out on promotions, or having it on your permanent record. While these fears are valid, it’s important to know your rights: You cannot legally be discriminated against because of your anxiety.

    The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 protects you from discrimination if you are qualified to do your job and able to perform duties with reasonable accommodations.

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    Social Anxiety In Children

    Social anxiety can also affect children.

    Signs of social anxiety in a child include:

    • crying more than usual
    • frequently complaining of feeling unwell – nausea, headaches, dizziness
    • having frequent tantrums before a social event or activity
    • avoiding interaction and eye contact with other children and adults
    • fear of going to school or taking part in classroom activities or events
    • not asking for help at school
    • being very reliant on their parents or carer

    Speak to your GP if you’re worried about your child. Your GP will ask you about your child’s problems and talk to them about how they feel.

    Treatments for social anxiety in children are like those for teenagers and adults. The use of medication depends on the age of the child and the severity of their experience of social anxiety.

    Therapy will depend on your child’s age and will often involve help from you. You may get training and self-help materials to use between sessions. It may also take place in a small group.

    Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

    Practice Making Small Talk

    The Mindset That’s Making You Socially Anxious

    Making small talk is an essential social skill. It might feel boring or pointless, but it serves several purposes at work. For example, chatting to your colleagues can improve your working relationships. It can also be the first step in making friends at work.

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    Our article on how to make small talk contains lots of practical advice that will help you learn how to have casual conversations.

    It may help to practice small talk outside of work in less pressured situations. For example, you could practice saying Hi, how are you? to a cashier or neighbor, then build up to longer exchanges as you become more confident.

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    Entrepreneur Or Business Owner

    Sometimes, the best job choice is the one you create for yourself. As an entrepreneur or business owner, you can work for yourself, set your own schedule, hire your own team, and be responsible for your own success. While some form of interaction is required in order to build your business, youll be able to hire more people over time who can take over the day-to-day interactions with customers and business partners. Youll also be able to avoid the stress that comes from having a supervisor watching over you or coworkers working alongside you.

    While these might be some of the best jobs for people with social anxiety because they require limited interaction with others, you should never isolate yourself or avoid socializing completely. Our Banyan Mental Health center encourages people with SAD to seek anxiety treatment and practice socializing so they can have strong relationships and successful careers and get the most out of life.

    Social anxiety is a treatable disease. With treatment, youll be able to handle social anxiety at family gatherings, work, school, and anywhere else. Dont let it take over your life. If you or someone you know has social anxiety or any other form of mental illness, we can help. Call us now at to speak to a team member about our inpatient mental health rehab.

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    Avoid Coping Strategies Like Alcohol Or Marijuana

    Coping with your social anxiety is a bad idea generally.

    Specifically, there are two major problems with the coping strategy approach:

  • Treating the symptoms and ignoring the cause. When you focus all your time and energy on coping with the feelings of anxiety, thats all time and energy youre not spending addressing whats causing the anxiety in the first place.
  • Treating the symptoms makes them worse in the long run. When you try to fix or avoid your anxiety by coping with it, youre training your brain to believe that feeling bad is bad. This means in the future, your brain will respond to worry and anxiety with even more worry and anxiety, creating a vicious cycle of ever-increasing anxiety. The solution, as we discussed earlier, is to treat your anxiety with compassion and acceptance, rather than treating it as a bad thing, a problem to be fixed.
  • So, whether its impulsive deep breathing exercises, going to your happy place, or taking shots of vodka, the whole attitude of coping with your social anxiety is self-defeating in the end.

    But more specifically, two of the most common coping mechanisms people use to manage their social anxiety are alcohol and marijuana.

    If you really want to overcome social anxiety in the long-run, its not about never feeling anxious its about building up your confidence to do important things despite feeling anxious.

    And youre never going to build confidence if youre always relying on booze and drugs as crutches.

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