Social anxiety is something that can be crippling for some people. This prevents us from being able to talk in public, meet new people, or in some cases even go to the shops. It’s also one of the most common forms of anxiety there is.
In fact, almost all of us will experience it to some degree.
But while there’s no simple cure to this complex problem, using mindfulness can certainly make a huge difference.
What is Mindfulness and How Can it Help?
When we think of mindfulness, we might think of mindful meditation. In fact though, this is only one facet of a larger topic.
Really, mindfulness just means being more mindful and aware of your own thoughts. It means being a little ‘self-reflective’.
In the case of a phobia or an anxiety like social anxiety, that effectively means learning to better recognize the stress-inducing thoughts that are causing your anxiety.
An example might be that you think:
“I’m going to stutter, and everyone will laugh.”
“What if what I say is stupid?”
The first step is in identifying precisely what it is that you’re afraid of. And from there, you can go about tackling it head-on.
That then, is when the next part comes in: cognitive restructuring. This is the process of understanding your negative thoughts, and so deciding that you’re going to get rid of them.
How do you do this? One way is by disproving them.
So for instance, if you’re afraid that if you stutter everyone will laugh, then you should try testing that theory. This is called ‘hypothesis testing’. Build up the courage to allow yourself to stutter, or just observe the next time it happens naturally. Do people laugh? Or are they kind?
You can also try something called ‘thought challenging’ to just pick apart the statement and see how accurate it’s likely to be.
Are your friends the sort of people to laugh at you?
Do you normally say stupid things?
Of course, this still takes a lot of time and practice. Actually, changing your beliefs is extremely hard. But using these tools it is possible to overcome your fear.
And one last tip: try adding in new beliefs. For example: what does it matter if people laugh at you anyway? Are you that wrapped up in your own ability to speak? If you’re training to get better, then let a few idiots laugh!