Anxiety is different for everyone but plagues us all just the same. It can happen for a particular reason, or no reason at all. Whether it stems from work stresses, family issues or personal worry (about everything in life), dealing with anxiety can prompt really overwhelming and negative spirals. However, there are certain triggers that can prompt an attack, and the first step to controlling them is to recognise what they are so that you can move forward to being a more prepared and calmer you.
Do I have social anxiety?
The first thing to know to confront your shyness and fears is that different types of anxiety have different triggers. For instance, those with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) get a barrage of unwanted thoughts, whereas those with a panic disorder are often triggered by physical sensations. So, the first step is recognising which form of anxiety you’re being affected by.
When it comes to social anxiety disorder though, it's best to remember that it is common and normal, and therefore the triggers are well known and easily recognisable. Here are some social anxiety disorder triggers you may be familiar with:
1. Talking to your boss
Speaking to your boss about a raise, an issue, or something personal at work can make some people feel short of breath and nervous. Also, stating your opinion is something those who suffer from social anxiety disorder are often afraid to confront because they fear criticism.
These include any situation where you have to perform, like at a presentation at work, where it can make you fear that you won’t do well, and set off an attack. In addition to a fear of public speaking, some people with fear reading aloud in front of others.
3. Meeting new people
A room packed full of people or strangers is a daunting experience for someone with social anxiety disorder. Nothing triggers symptoms like sweaty palms, a racing heart and butterflies in the tummy like a confined space full of people where you have to make a good impression.
4. Small talk
This goes hand-in-hand with meeting new people. Small talk can be a very challenging experience for those who suffer from anxiety. Not knowing what to say next can off-set so many emotions and the lack of meaningful conversation can be irritating.
All aspects of dating can trigger social anxiety, from making phone calls and going on first dates to having sex.
How to overcome social anxiety
1. Recognise your body’s response to the trigger
Your body’s physical reaction to a trigger is actually an evolutionary survival mechanism, telling you to protect yourself. For some people, though, these responses can go into overdrive and may not shut off when they’re supposed to, and this is when people experience social anxiety. Recognising your response to certain situations will make your body more familiar with your reactions and increase your ability to control them. Symptoms of anxiety could include:
• Worry or confusion
• Difficulty concentrating
• Frustration, irritability or agitation
• Dizziness, Headaches or migraines
• Difficulty sleeping
• Excessive eating
• Sweating, trembling or a racing heartbeat
• Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
2. Breathe through it
Rather than running away, take a minute to breathe deeply into your belly. Remember that the feelings will pass and even though they are uncomfortable, you can handle it.
3. Face your triggers one step at a time
Instead of throwing yourself into a situation, practice imagining you are there first. Set an intention. In the beginning, this may be enough to set off your anxiety, but the more you familiarise yourself with an uncomfortable situation, the easier you will find it to calm yourself down and control your triggers.
You can even make a list of your fears and then identify some coping techniques that you can associate with them, such as deep breathing, meditating or progressive muscle relaxation. That way you will associate the two together, so when you face the situation in real life you will remember the techniques you can use. Then take one step at a time – for example, if you have a fear of public speaking and want to get more comfortable, trying to make a speech in front of a few trusted friends and family first.
And remember, these are only triggers, they don’t mean you can’t step into these situations ever again because you’re scared of having an attack. That would be letting the anxiety win, and that’s not what we’re here to do. It’s about getting control of your anxiety, so you don’t have to be defeated by your triggers. A calmer you is within reach.
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