Mindfully Shy – Using Mindfulness to Soften Social Anxiety

Shyness is painful at any age – and if you experience full-blown social anxiety, it can be devastating taking a toll on relationships, or stalling your education or career.  Even simple day-to-day activities, like exercising or eating in public can be difficult for someone with social anxiety.  If you suffer from social anxiety, you should know that it is a common condition with some studies showing that up to 40 percent of participants label themselves as being, if not socially anxious, at least shy.

Thoughts such as “I’m not good enough,” or “I’ll make myself look stupid” can become quite automatic. Mindfulness can help the socially anxious person become aware of these thoughts, and begin to reshape them.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychological Association defines social anxiety as intense fear of social situations causing considerable distress and impaired dysfunction in at least part of daily life.  Some people experience social anxiety in specific social situations while others suffer from a more generalized form.

Most experts who treat social anxiety use some form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and look at three main symptom groups that manifest in social anxiety:

1.  Thoughts – Thoughts such as “I’m not good enough,” or “I’ll make myself look stupid” can become quite automatic.  Mindfulness can help the socially anxious person become aware of these thoughts, and begin to reshape them.

2. Physical symptoms– The thoughts that come up around social anxiety trigger a wide range of physical symptoms including sweating, shaking, dizziness, and nausea making it virtually impossible to relax and connect with others.  Mindful breathing along with breaking automatic thought patterns has been shown to alleviate these symptoms.

3. Behavior that develops around the social anxiety – Because physical symptoms of social anxiety are so uncomfortable, many people develop unhealthy coping skills or avoidance techniques.  Individuals may start with unhealthy coping skills, like using a substance to relax before attending a social engagement, or they may develop a bothersome and time-consuming ritual that takes hinders meaningful social interaction.

The worst part of social anxiety is feeling isolated and lonely.  But many individuals have found relief by working with a trained therapist.  To find a therapist in your area, check out the Psychology Today website.

Use our printable worksheet, Mindfulness Visualization for Social Anxiety with your clients, or with your therapist.  Become a member of mindful hub to access this worksheet.

Other resources we like:

Social phobia.org

National Institute of Mental Health

The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook is comprehensive guide to treating social anxiety and phobia

Younguey Mingyur Rinpoche is a popular Buddhist monk, whose book, The Joy of Living, tells the story of how he overcame anxiety and panic through mindfulness.   His website, Tergar.org, or watch this youtube video of him teaching about mindfulness and panic.

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!


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