January 27 is National Fun Day at Work, but the workplace laughs will be thin on the ground for those who suffer from social anxiety. Here’s some thoughts that may help.
Have you ever been asked to go out with the team after work but found yourself making an excuse to get out of it? If so, it could be because you suffer from social anxiety.
Or perhaps you have a circle of friends whose parties you dread. Possibly because you know they always play a certain game where you have to talk about yourself or do something silly.
Maybe you have put off joining a club or society for a topic you’re really interested in because you’re worried that your small-talk skills are lacking.
Social anxiety is incredibly common – and it can strike in the workplace just as easily as it can in a bar or any kind of gathering.
But it’s an issue that people don’t often talk about. If five people in a room of 10 suffer from social anxiety to some degree, each of those affected will probably think that they’re the only one.
Social anxiety and the ‘shrinking me’ effect
When we are anxious about social situations, we often avoid them. That’s because we know from previous experience that when thrust into the limelight we don’t like it.
Perhaps you stutter a little, or feel yourself blushing.
Maybe you feel like your stories are boring, and you just can’t wait for someone else to pick up the thread.
The ‘shrinking me’ effect makes you feel small and worthless. But equally you may think that you do have something to say, but struggle to get it out.
In social situations, it’s often the loudest and most dominant people that hog the limelight.
As a result, you may feel compelled to ‘hide your light under a bushel’, as your grandmother may have said. You clam up.
That’s because you’re worried that if you do start talking about yourself, you might appear boastful or you may fluff your words. Or that people are judging you in some way.
9 clues you may have social anxiety
If you can answer yes to any three of these questions, there is a strong chance that you suffer from social anxiety:
1. Do you ever avoid going out because one or more of the people there make you feel nervous or anxious?
2. In a group setting, do you dread people looking at you when it’s your turn to say something?
3. Do you find it difficult to join in conversations, and feel like you’re always 5 seconds behind everyone else?
4. Do you leave parties or events thinking of all the things you could or should have said? Things that you didn’t say at the time because they might have gone down badly?
5. Do you tend to find that you’re at your absolute happiest when you’re on your own? Or when you are with one true friend with whom you can feel relaxed?
6. Do you often turn down invitations because you’re worried about not being able to control who else might be there? Or that you’re nervous about how the evening may play out?
7. Do you only ever say ‘yes’ to an event if you know you’re going to be able to drink? And you then do exactly that in order to feel relaxed?
8. Do you avoid phoning people because you feel like you’re ill-equipped to start conversations or get across what you need to say?
9. Do you generally avoid eye contact with people?
According to the NHS website, social anxiety – also known as a social phobia – usually begins in your childhood or teenage years. For some people, it eases with age, but other sufferers find that it actually intensifies.
How is social phobia treated?
As well as antidepressant medication, some people turn to meditation and mindfulness to try and learn new ways to stay grounded during moments of stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness has changed the lives of millions. But there are plenty of people who find it difficult to get to terms with.
Results tend not to be quick – it takes time and effort to retrain how the mind reacts to situations using mindfulness and deep breathing techniques. But it is certainly worth a try – and may be exactly what you need.
One of the paid-for options is CBT: cognitive behavioural therapy. This is undertaken with a therapist, and over a series of weeks you learn ways to spot negative thinking patterns and try to change them.
CBT can be effective, but it is not a therapy in which results are typically seen overnight.
Using hypnotherapy to halt social anxiety
The point of hypnotherapy as a solution to social anxiety is to change the way you think and feel about things quickly.
During times of stress, a small part of your brain called the amygdala goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode. This can result in symptoms such as a rapidly beating heart, sweating, brain fog and so on.
In simple terms, the amygdala is looking at your previous responses to difficult situations. And it is priming you to run away from whatever you are facing right now.
Had a disastrous ‘tell me about yourself’ moment back in 2012? Your amygdala is saying: “let’s get out of here!”
Many people don’t have this strong response from the amygdala. But among people with social anxiety, the amygdala goes into overdrive.
So as much as you try and talk yourself out of what’s happening in your brain, the amygdala is on a mission and can’t be talked down.
Changing the root response to the problem
CBT tries to persuade the mind over many sessions that the things which cause you to be anxious won’t hurt you. That it is OK to relax and take a different tack.
But hypnotherapy gets straight to the root of the problem much quicker.
During a hypnotherapy session, the amygdala’s go-to response to stressful social situations (and even thoughts of stressful social situations) is ‘dialled down’. The mind can also be ‘reprogrammed’ to reach for a different kind of memory when you are under stress.
So instead of the mind instantly recalling a moment when everyone was laughing at you for speaking in class when you were seven, it can be made to recall a happier, more positive event.
As a result, the symptoms are greatly reduced or even eliminated. Causing you to feel more calm, confident and relaxed.
Fixing your social anxiety from the comfort of your living room
The pandemic accelerated the country’s appetite for online hypnotherapy – and I fully embraced the change.
After investing in professional audio and video equipment, I have now conducted well over 1,000 online hypnotherapy sessions. And I can confidently state that treatment is just as effective on Zoom as it is when conducted face to face.
Which means you could be saying goodbye to your social anxiety in as little as one or two sessions – without even needing to leave your home.
I have helped thousands of people to overcome all kinds of anxiety-related problems, from panic attacks to fear of public speaking. But social anxiety and GAD are probably the #1 thing that people need help with.
Clients have told me that sessions have changed their life. And their newfound self-confidence is often very evident if we speak again some time later.
It’s yet more proof that hypnotherapy for social anxiety can really work.