These Avoidance Techniques Are Making Your Social Anxiety Worse

People who suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder become very adept at avoidance or safety behaviors. It’s a natural reaction to something that feels bad, and of course, they will do whatever it takes to avoid those situations. But unwittingly they are reinforcing their anxiety and even making it worse. Have a look at the common avoidance behaviors, and see if in trying to minimize exposure, you’re feeding the beast.

1. Avoidance

Some experts say that avoidance is one of the biggest obstacles people with social anxiety face. True avoidance means doing anything not to have to face the feared social situation. That can range from just not turning up to parties and refusing invitations, to changing jobs so as not to have to give presentations or even dropping out of college.

2. Partial Avoidance

Partial avoidance is a less obvious safety behavior because the sufferer still seems to be participating while still keeping themselves safe. These behaviors include:

• Sitting in the back of the room
• Keeping your eyes down, looking like you’re absorbed in taking notes
• Protective body language like crossing arms, or avoiding eye contact
• Daydreaming
• Drinking or taking drugs.

3. Escape

Not surprisingly, people use escape as a safety valve for anxiety. As in partial avoidance, the sufferer seems to be participating but gets to a point where the stress is unbearable, and they have to leave. This sort of behavior includes leaving a party or other gathering early, pretending to get an urgent message so they can leave a meeting, or hiding in the bathroom

What can you do?

While such avoidant behaviors help in the short term, they act to reinforce your vulnerability. They keep you in a hypervigilant state, constantly on the lookout for danger or fearful situations.

Avoidant behaviors keep you stuck right in the middle of social anxiety. They stop you from trying and failing, but they also prevent you from working and succeeding. You won’t learn how to overcome your fears or learn that you’re pretty good at giving presentations. If you never speak up in meetings, all your good ideas stay in your head. If you hide your light under a bushel, you never get the chance to shine.

An easy gateway technique to start overcoming your social anxiety is to try the five-minute strategy. When you feel the urge to avoid or run away or shrink down, give yourself five minutes. You can put up with pretty much anything for five minutes, right? Just give it a try, be kind to yourself and encourage your real self to take it easy.

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Goal Setting That Won’t Make You Anxious

You probably already have goals in your career or personal finances, and at the gym. But have you thought of setting goals to help you manage your social anxiety? One of the most crippling aspects of anxiety is the feeling of paralysis, the feeling that you have no control over your stress levels, and that you can’t even think straight to get out of your worry spiral.

Setting some gentle, positive goals can help. The main thing is to focus on what feels good, and not get caught up in self-blame or further anxiety about not meeting your anxiety goals. Think of your goals as part of your toolkit to help you manage stress and reduce anxiety.

Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Prioritize your goals

Think of situations where your anxiety is currently holding you back. Think of what you would like to change in your life if anxiety wasn’t an issue.

Maybe you find it difficult to stay in touch with friends or family, or the thought of making a point in a meeting makes your heart pound. Or you want to get fit but can’t face the prospect of joining a gym. Write down a list of two or three things you want to start to change right now.

2. Baby steps

Don’t set your goals impossibly high. It’s important to take baby steps and lower your anxiety by showing it who’s boss. And you can only do that by having a whole series of small successes. If your goal is to get over social anxiety by reaching out to people more often, or by speaking up at work, it’s more than okay to write yourself a script.

3. Remember to breathe

Often people who suffer from anxiety don’t breathe past the top third of their lungs. Low oxygen levels can increase the panic of anxiety and a feeling of being out of control which leads to hyperventilating. You can take back control by regulating your breathing. Breathe slowly in through your nose to the count of four, hold for a second or two then slowly breath out to a count of four. Practice slow, gentle deep breathing right down into your abdomen, and feel the increased levels of oxygen.
Include breathing practice meditation as part of your daily anxiety-reducing plan.

4. Write it down

Writing down your goals and tracking your progress is essential to overcoming your anxiety. It will help you identify barriers, tricky situations, and challenges so you can work out solutions to get around them.

Even more importantly, keeping a record will focus your mind on making progress and celebrate your successes. Every time you have a win, reward yourself!

Did you know that people who write down their goals
are 42% more likely to accomplish them?