Adaptation for Social Anxiety

Introduction

Social anxiety is a common condition that can make it difficult to engage in social situations. People with social anxiety may feel self-conscious or anxious in group settings, leading to avoidance or isolation. One way to address social anxiety is through attention training, which involves learning to focus your attention on the present moment rather than on self-conscious thoughts or fears. By practicing attention training regularly, individuals with social anxiety can learn to stay present in social situations, engage with others, and reduce feelings of self-consciousness. This training can be adapted to focus on various activities, such as conversations, public speaking, or other social situations.

Practical Example

Let’s look together at an example. When we feel socially anxious, it happens very often that our attention doesn’t stay with the actual conversation. We are focused on our own symptoms of anxiety. This can be our sweaty hands, our increased heart rate and so on. We are focusing on our self and not on the conversation. It can also be that we are scanning the environment. What could go wrong? Who is coming towards me? Is that person looking at me funny? We are focused on everything around us, but not the conversation. These types of focus can make it very likely that we will miss questions that are being asked of us, that we don’t know what to say because our mind is too busy with the perceived threats and that we miss information that challenges the negative info we are focusing on. All of these can lead us to feel that we are not very socially skilled or further reinforce our anxiety that it always will go wrong. So how can we move our attention to the task at hand? Let’s practice!

Instructions

  1. Choose a person you feel comfortable talking to, such as a close friend or family member, and arrange a time to have a conversation with them.
  2. Before the conversation, take a few deep breaths and remind yourself that it’s okay to feel anxious. Everyone experiences anxiety in social situations at times.
  3. Focus your attention on the person you’re talking to. Pay attention to their facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language.
  4. Practice active listening by repeating back what they say or asking follow-up questions. This can help you stay engaged in the conversation and reduce feelings of self-consciousness.
  5. If you notice your mind wandering or getting distracted, gently bring your attention back to the conversation. Don’t judge yourself or get frustrated if you find this difficult at first. Remember that this is a skill that takes practice.
  6. End the conversation mindfully by summarizing what was discussed and thanking the person for their time.

Tips to make more effective

  1. Start with small conversations: If you’re new to attention focus training, start with a short and simple conversation to begin with, such as asking a friend about their day or discussing a recent event.
  2. Practice active listening: Active listening can help you stay present in the conversation and reduce feelings of self-consciousness. Try to repeat back what the other person says or ask follow-up questions to stay engaged in the conversation.
  3. Be patient and kind to yourself: Remember that it’s normal to feel anxious in social situations. Be patient and kind to yourself as you practice attention focus training. It takes time and practice to develop this skill.
  4. Use positive self-talk: Use positive self-talk before, during, and after the conversation. Remind yourself that it’s okay to feel anxious, and that you’re doing your best to stay present and engaged.
  5. Practice regularly: Make it a habit to practice attention focus training regularly, even if it’s just for a few minutes each day. The more you practice, the easier it will become.

If you found this information helpful and would like to practice more, feel free to download the fillable worksheet.

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