Starting with an attitude of willingness
, there are many paths to recovery. Each of these paths, individually, has the potential to help you to overcome social anxiety. Used in concert, they have a synergistic effect.
The drive to do something meaningful and important is an integral part of human nature. When you're in touch with something you feel passionate about, you're much more likely to put yourself out there at the risk of feeling some anxiety. You are rewarded for your efforts by positive feelings. You feel good about yourself and this can improve your self-esteem. Sometimes our values are obscured, so at first you might have difficulty identifying something that truly moves you. If this is the case, don't judge yourself negatively -- it's not a test. Keep looking and keep opening up, while utilizing other techniques.
(Reframing and Restructuring)
Anxiety occurs when we perceive a threat to our safety. By reframing a feared situation to something that's less threatening, our anxiety can be reduced significantly. It's a powerful tool, which can bring about a major, sudden change in attitude. Examples include:
- Abundance mentally instead of a scarcity mentality
- Defining success and redefining failure
- "This is practice" instead of "this is a test"
- "Everyone makes mistakes" instead of "I must be perfect"
- Win-win mentality instead of "everyone for themselves"
Repeated exposure to a feared situation can result in the reduction of anxiety. But it has to be done correctly: You don't want to expose yourself to an overwhelming amount of anxiety, as this would just reinforce the belief that there's something to be feared. Instead, approach exposure gradually and incrementally.
Whereas cognitive skills aim to change our relationship with an anxiety-provoking situation, mindfulness skills help us to change our relationship with anxiety itself, so that it has less impact and influence over us. We learn that we are able to act even when feeling anxiety. By not struggling with anxiety and other painful experiences, we free ourselves up to focus on things that are important to us. Also, paradoxically, accepting anxiety tends to diminish it.
The advantages of a peer support cannot be overstated. They include:
- Seeing first-hand that "you are not the only one"
- Being in an environment where you can feel safe having physiological symptoms, knowing that others will understand
- Sharing in the successes of other participants. Each personís individual recovery becomes a team project, and feeling yourself to be part of a team is empowering
- Opportunities to practice social situations in a non-judgmental environment. For example, some people may be working on small-talk, while others are working on presentations
- Exposure to social situations can be approached gradually and systematically
- Observing first-hand that others with SAD are complete, worthwhile and lovable individuals "who just happen to suffer from a disorder" helps you to extend those observations to yourself
- Compassion for others is an important bridge to self-compassion
- Publicly committing to change