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Social anxiety and returning to the workplace

So let's talk about social phobia, also known as, social anxiety.

Since lockdown, many of us have found ourselves reducing the number of friends we spend time with and the number of people in our lives. Many of us are now working from home, from the computer, things like this. We don't spend much time socialising.

Socialising is a vital part of everyday life

Socialising is like a muscle, if we don't socialise for a period of time, it can be easy for that muscle to become weak, for it to become shaky. Consequently, we're seeing a dramatic rise in social anxiety and even social phobias since lockdown. For those returning to the workplace, returning to some kind of sense of normality, this can be very confusing. We can feel nervous or anxious about meeting people and what they might think of us, how they might judge us and everything else in between.

Social phobia is something that is often only a symptom of a subconscious belief or subconscious fear, some kind of emotional insecurity or sensitivity.

When we're faced with social situations, whether it's anything from:-

  • Meeting a new person

  • Speaking in groups

  • A new environment with strangers

  • Walking down the street

  • Sitting on the bus or the train

Any close proximity with strangers or human beings that we’re maybe not too familiar with can be enough to create this tension.

This range of tension typically tends to be anything from some minor tension to anxiety to even overwhelming panic caused by debilitating self-consciousness. No matter how the anxiety shows itself we need to begin to demystify what's really going on under the surface.

Unconscious thought process

What we find is that there's usually an unconscious thought process taking place. When we find ourselves in our social environment and a social situation, it's very easy for us then to conclude that is the reason. It may have nothing to do with the situation or the people - it can very often be something totally unconnected.

You see, the more time we spend alone with ourselves, the more focus we place upon ourselves, we become more introspective, more self-absorbed. When it comes to finally going out into the world again, we become much more self-conscious, aware of ourselves and how we're feeling, what we're doing and what's happening around us. It's this that causes all the tension anxiety and insecurity to arise.

The good news is this is only a thought process and it's a behaviour that can be changed with the right approach.

When this has been finally resolved, your entire world opens up around you. Our success in life is largely determined by our relationships. So when we're anxious, socially anxious and afraid of opportunities that might actually enhance relationships or create new ones, we are greatly holding ourselves back. This is the reason that I'm writing this article for you today because I want to remind you that there is a way of changing this. In our everyday existence, we have two types of thinking.

One type of thinking is known as logistical thinking.

This is simply our organisational logical thinking such as, today, I need to get the train. Or we may have thought when we go to the shop, I'm going to buy apples today, they are on the list, together with potatoes and rice. It's very logistical. This kind of thinking holds no real emotion and is more matter-of-fact.

However, most people living with social anxiety describe themselves as self-conscious and this is an accurate description of the second kind of thinking, known as self-referential thinking.

Self-referential thinking is where we are referring back to ourselves.

For example… we might have the logistical thought, "OK, I need to get the train."

But then self-referential thinking would come in, making us consider,

"what happens if I miss the train?"

"What happens if I'm late for work?"

"What happens if the train is delayed?"

"What will people on the train think of me?" This is where we apply personal meaning to our circumstances and to the logistical tasks of the day. We give it meaning that relates back to our self-image and identity. Within this, self-referential thinking is where a lot of anxiety is created..

Examples of self-referential thinking

Note: everyone is unique and everyone has their own thought patterns, leanings and identity. Here are some examples of self-referential thinking that can provoke anxiety in people:-

  • What will people think of me?

  • What if they don't like me?

  • I hope I don't come across as being awkward.

  • What if I embarrass myself?

  • Are they looking at me?

  • What if I make a mistake?

All of these thoughts can be considered seeds. The first domino in the sequence triggers the momentum of catastrophising self-referential thinking. This can lead to a sense of anxiety, dread, panic or embarrassment.

Getting help is a sign of strength

Many people avoid getting the help that they need because they're afraid of asking for assistance, someone to talk to and confide in. They believe that it may be shameful, weak or they're embarrassed to speak about it, or it's just too confronting. Therefore, I want to reassure you that the approach that we provide to our clients is very relaxed and open-minded.

We're not here to judge you. We're here to help you and, over the years, we've worked with some very influential people. From successful business owners, CEOs, doctors and solicitors to those working in call centres, parents and headteachers. We've also worked with people that are feeling pressure and social anxiety when it comes to family gatherings and events.

While you may have your own specific causes when it comes to anxiety, the method for addressing and retraining our brain is the same.

Want to learn how we can help you eliminate your phobia for good?

We can do this without the stress of exposure therapy, coping strategies or tedious years of therapy. The most extreme and lifelong phobias have been eliminated with this method. You can find out more here:

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