Initially the first step to support overcoming stress and anxiety is to understand what is happening when a person is feeling uncomfortable in specific situations. A fact to help start our understanding is that stress and anxiety is part of our everyday lives, its normal and adaptive because it helps us prepare for danger, for example the heart beats faster to pump blood to our muscles so we have the ability to run away or fight off danger. Therefore we need anxiety to survive, but how to relive stress and anxiety is important, the goal is to manage it not get rid of it.
By having this fear within different types of social situations, such as talking to co-workers, speaking in a meeting, going to supermarkets, attending the gym and so forth provides an experience of different physical symptoms of stress and anxiety, such as sweating and increased heart rate. Weeks (2013) suggests’ a top tip is to initially take a couple of opportunities to notice which situations cause you heightened stress and anxiety and what you experience physically when you are in those situations. It can help to write these down. It is a lot easier to manage your stress and anxiety when you have a better understanding of it. This can enable the person to use this chart to help track social situations that cause anxiety and what is being experienced in those situations.
A further fact states that stress and anxiety can become a problem when our body tells us that there is danger when there is no real danger. Weeks claim that at the heart of social anxiety is the fear of evaluation, not just negative evaluation but positive evaluation too. For example, when creating objective goals people tend to disqualify the positive when they feel anxious. In an interview setting the person may perform well but because of present anxious feelings, they see their performance as poor. Overcoming this social anxiety therapists’ encourage clients to create objective behavioural goals, in this case for example, asking 3 questions within the interview. This goal setting clarification gives a good opportunity for judging your progress. The person is not focusing on whether they felt nervous or suffered anxious traits, but now focussing on how they performed the actual behaviour, or reached their goal, asking the 3 questions. What matters in this example is that the 3 questions were asked and the goal was reached, as Weeks (2013) pleasantly puts it “you did what you wanted to in a situation. We can’t control what another person is going to do”. This is a personal achievement.
Learning about stress and anxiety is a key to overcoming it. People with heightened stress or anxiety tend to fear and avoid social situations. Or, for example, they don’t avoid the party; but they will provide ‘covert avoidance’ and stay out of the way, in the kitchen, upstairs and so forth. It is normal to feel anxious in social situations from time to time. However stress and anxiety becomes a problem when it becomes quite distressing and gets in the way of your ability or performance to function and enjoy life. It is important to note that everybody suffers with anxiety and stress at some point; it is how it is dealt with and managed that can cause an issue. Social anxiety is one of the most common anxiety disorders and there are many strategies to help relieve stress and anxiety.
Markway (2013) suggests building a toolbox to equip yourself with strategies to deal with anxiety, you will feel anxious, but now you will have the tools to deal with it. Anxiety is there to be overcome, however unhelpful thoughts, avoidance and using safety behaviours stop us from doing so. You can start to build your toolbox by learning to relax, this enables you to ‘tone down’ the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety, which can make it a little easier to face social situations. Such techniques include muscle relaxation and calm breathing or ‘conscious’ breathing. A further tool is adapting realistic thoughts as people within heightened states of anxiety or stress can have negative thoughts about themselves and about what will happen in a particular situation. If a person believes that a social situation is threatening or dangerous, then they are more likely to feel anxious. However, it is important to realise that these are indeed simple thoughts and guesses about what will happen, not actual facts. This can be discovered in more depth and support can be provided to help challenge negative thinking.
If your stress and anxiety is in place sabotaging goals and preventing enjoyment seeking support in this area is beneficial. The above strategies are certainly not exhaustive and individuals will benefit from different variations that suit them personally, which can include medication, psychotherapy and exercise. However stress and anxiety is highly treatable, getting better is an option and it also gives the ability to grow in the process.
At the Fresh Start boot camp in Chiang Mai, Thailand stress and anxiety can be a distant memory. We are fully equipped and ready to provide you with the opportunities you need to relieve stress and anxiety, develop your physical and mental health, and most of all improve wellbeing. Chiang Mai is the perfect location to set goals, achieve targets and boost your self-esteem whilst in Thailand’s gorgeous northern capital.
Markway. B, Dr.(2013) Decreased Social Anxiety in Just Minutes a Day Ph.D. on Sep 16, in Shyness Is Nice
Weeks, JW. (2013)Assistant Professor of Psychology and Director, Centre for Evaluation and Treatment of Anxiety