When you have social anxiety disorder work can be stressful and it can affect your productivity. While this is all too familiar to sufferers, this was also the insight of Dr Lynn Bufka, a licensed psychologist, when sharing advice on treating social anxiety and stress related problems in the workplace.
Her comment was in response to questions during the “Ask Me Anything” segment on Reddit about coping with stress. Social anxiety can be at its most acute at work and often people who suffer from social anxiety don’t only put their careers at risk but their personal lives as well. There are also many people who spent months or years struggling to get a job because their social anxiety prevents them calling potential employers for an interview or showing up for interview at all.
Social anxiety in the workplace is often misunderstood
A lot of people don’t understand what it is like to be living with social anxiety. Some even criticize them with lack of self motivation and laziness. But motivating yourself is hard when your mind is filled with negative thoughts.
If you are currently working, social anxiety can also decrease chances of promotion and might affect your performance because you are not comfortable in the company of your colleagues. This may lead your co workers thinking that you are unfriendly and mean. There are times that you are unable to complete any task because you are too focused on your anxiety.
While this all sounds doom and gloom, the good news is that there are strategies you can use to reduce your social anxiety and feel more relaxed and comfortable at work:
1. Slow down your breathing – relax and give yourself a break. Take a deep breath and place your hand on your abdomen. Do this for five seconds and repeat as many times until your chest stops feeling tight and your mind has stopped racing.
2. Make small talk – people love to talk about themselves, so focus your attention on what your colleagues or clients want to talk about rather than yourself.
3. Practice at home – think of the stressful things that you are anxious about. Practice them with people whom you are comfortable with, like your family members and friends.
4. Remember that you are not the center of everyone’s attention – we are always worrying about what other people might think if we say this or that. But we don’t know that the other person is also worrying about themselves.
If you suffer from social anxiety, I know these tips are easier said than done. The key is to think about including them in a long-term strategy for overcoming social anxiety, where you have the goal of feeling confident and relaxed around people and then plot the steps towards getting there. This can include getting in shape, taking up more hobbies and interests, gradual exposure to social situations and forming mutually supportive friendships with other people that understand what you’re going through, whether in a live support group or in the online world.