Working with Social Anxiety
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) can make it difficult for sufferers to do many of things others take for granted, such as meeting friends for drinks or participating in family holiday celebrations for example. But for many social anxiety and trying to hold on to a job takes things to the next level. Coping with social anxiety in the workplace is a very difficult thing to do.
It is normal to feel pressure to perform at work. It is also normal to have to interact with other people on a daily basis. Throw in occasional interactions with complete strangers and you have a recipe for anxiety. This doesn't make for a healthy work environment for somebody who already deals with social anxiety.
The ability to work despite suffering from social anxiety depends a lot on the severity of the condition and how much progress a person has made in learning coping skills. Some people with social anxiety do very well in the workplace. Others find it so debilitating that they are unable to work.
Stretch Your Boundaries
One of the most effective general strategies for overcoming social anxiety very much applies in the workplace. That strategy is one of stretching your boundaries. If it helps, think of it like blowing up a balloon.
Inflating a balloon by hooking it to a compressor and immediately blasting it with air would likely cause it to explode. But blow it up slowly and gradually, and all is well. Stretching your boundaries as a social anxiety sufferer is similar. Go slow and steady, gradually pushing yourself further until you are able to overcome those things that cause anxiety.
Become a Planner
Social anxiety at work can be exacerbated by being put in positions that force you to think on your feet. Because you are already anxious, this makes you fearful about your performance and what others might think about it. What is the solution? Become a planner.
The idea of planning is to prepare ahead of time for known events. If you know you have a meeting coming up next week, spend time preparing. Put together the information you need to effectively participate. Rehearse what you might say. The more prepared you are, the less thinking on your feet will be necessary.
Sometimes you just don't have enough opportunity to plan and prepare. You can still reduce some of your anxiety by practising visualisation. When you're about to go into a situation you think will make you anxious, step back for just a couple of minutes and visualise what you expect the situation to be like. Visualise yourself working through your anxieties and coming out the other end in better shape. A few minutes of visualisation might help you relax enough to overcome your anxiety.
Think on past experiences. Many people with social anxiety find it very helpful to think on past experiences – particularly those that were exceptionally positive. Reminding yourself of those past experiences can give you the confidence to approach new ones. For you, every victory at work is evidence that more victories are waiting in the future. Focus on those victories.
Share Your worries
If you find social anxiety doesn't allow you to perform at your best, talk and share your worries with your manager or a work colleague you can trust to be understanding. If your in a good workplace with caring members of staff they will do there best to make you feel more at ease in your work surroundings. You could perhaps try changing job roles in the workplace until you feel more confident in a particular area of work or try building your confidence with work opportunities that do not involve a lot of social interaction.
There are some individuals whose anxiety is so overwhelming that they cannot work but there are lots of ways your GP can help you overcome your social anxiety. It’s not easy but talking about how you are feeling really does help. Be proud of yourself and focus on your goals.