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What to Do with Yourself if You are Socially Phobic

written by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 12/18/2010

Socially phobic people can always use a little help in dealing with their anxiety to keep themselves from withdrawing completely from a certain amount of healthy interaction with other people. Therefore, it’s a good idea to know some useful coping strategies and tips if you are socially phobic.

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    Meet your Mind, Then your Friends, and Then the World

    If you’re wondering what to do with yourself if you are socially phobic than you’ve come to the right place because you’re in a safe place amongst friends. This Bright Hub Mental Health channel is all about helping people with phobias and disorders find more equanimity while on the road to recovery. Social Phobia Treatment Options is one example of the kind of useful information we provide for the afflicted. Coping skills and tips on dealing with your social phobia are always good to have in your proverbial tool box when facing a social situation that you’d like to feel more comfortable in. It’s important to recognize that you are not your disorder and while acceptance is a key; you can learn some strategies that will help you assimilate in future gatherings that may have been virtually unbearable for you in the past.

    Chrystal Lake, Mission Mountains 107 First off, a little preparation for the social event can go a long way toward succeeding in managing your anxiety when you get to it. The power of practicing visualizations is well known. Professional athletes often use this strategy before they face their athletic contests. Essentially it entails finding a nice quiet space alone where you won’t be interrupted. Get yourself in a relaxed state by meditating and following the gentle rhythm of your breath and trying not to attach yourself to any thoughts at first. Let any thoughts that might spring into your head pass like clouds above until your mind is quiet like a clear blue sky. Then envision the social setting you will attend and conjure up the faces of the people you know will be there, along with the folks you might not know. See yourself at ease at the gathering, overcoming self-consciousness, and just allowing yourself to be in the flow, conversing when you want, smiling and laughing to put others at ease.

    Join your index finger and thumb together while in this relaxed state of mind and repeat this subtle positioning of the fingers while you’re at the gathering to recreate that calm feeling. Think of yourself as a channel of peace but don’t attach too much significance to the substance of chit-chat that will soon be forgotten anyway. Practice smiling and uttering a few phrases in the mirror as well. “Fake it until you make it” is also a good phrase to remember because this is all about progress, not perfection. Learning to not take yourself too seriously can assuage some of that angst.

    Image Courtesy of the Author

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    Tips, Tricks, and the Inevitable River Styx

    Yellowstone in October 060 Identify and challenge the negative thoughts in you which attribute to an unhealthy perspective that only exacerbates your fears. Never underestimate the value of a good exit strategy if you find you need it; drive your own car to the party or event. Take advantage of the “Irish good bye” which entails slyly slipping away when no one is around to really notice your departure. There is nothing wrong with creating a little mystique about yourself and besides, absence is known to make other hearts grow stronger. That phrasing has been handed down and modified for centuries since it originally came into being when the ancient Roman, Sextus Propertius, wrote: "Always toward absent lovers love's tide stronger flows." Perhaps he was socially phobic himself. You can assimilate gradually, choosing the social settings that are most comfortable first, then move your way up the anxiety ladder so to speak. Avoidance will only make it worse though.

    Yoga has Far-Reaching Benefits on your Physical and Mental Well-Being will explain how this ancient practice of aligning the mind and body can greatly ease the angst caused by social anxiety. Since it does wonders for combat vets with PTSD who tend to avoid social settings themselves, it can work for anyone else too.

    Finally, some pragmatic advice would be to limit or avoid caffeine which can stimulate anxiety. Get plenty of sleep and exercise; use that energy while working out to psych yourself up to the task of overcoming your fears. Get out and enjoy the solitude of nature to recharge your batteries. With that, you have a good deal of tools at your disposal to help you out in any setting. Remain positive, and if you need more help, don't hesitate to get it from trained mental health professionals. That avenue and their proscribed treatment plans, including cognitive therapy and medication, are discussed thoroughly in the article referenced in the first paragraph.

    Look down at your hands now, they'll be nothing but bones one day so try and get out enjoy the company of our imperfect and socially awkward human race while you still can!

    Image Courtesy of the Author

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    Sources

    Mayo Clinic: Social Anxiety

    Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Association: Social Anxiety Fact Sheet

    "The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook"; Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D.; 2005

    Northern Lights Yoga: Helena, Montana