Work is supposed to be a place you can be productive while also building relationships with your coworkers. Unfortunately, if you have social anxiety at work, both of those goals can be compromised.
Social anxiety is more than an uneasy feeling in the back of your mind. It’s an all-consuming fear of dealing with unfamiliar people or facing scrutiny for your actions. Your internal alarm system is malfunctioning, telling you that there’s an immediate danger when there isn’t.
So what can you do to overcome it? Here are several tips on how to deal with social anxiety at work.
Practice What You’ll Say
While it’s not possible to know every situation that will come up at work, part of dealing with social anxiety in the workplace is practicing everyday encounters. If you have a friend or family member available, work with them on handling small talk in the break room, meeting a new coworker, appointments with your boss, and other encounters.
If you have a major presentation or interview coming up, you can practice that as well. Then, during the meeting, you can focus on what you’ve prepared, reducing some of the fear you feel.
Don’t have anyone to practice with? No worries — try talking to yourself in the mirror instead! You can still work through your statements and practice eye contact and other body language.
Practicing doesn’t just reduce anxiety; it also helps you come across as better prepared, which impresses your boss. It’s a win-win!
Replace Your Anxious Thoughts
Because social anxiety at work can be all-consuming, one helpful coping mechanism is to replace your anxious thoughts with something else. It doesn’t have to be a pep talk — although it can be. It could be a simple as looking around and finding all the blue items in a room.
Because you can’t think about two things at once, giving your brain something to do is a great way to reduce your fear.
Breathing exercises can also give your mind somewhere else to focus. Breathing in for a specific number of seconds, holding, and releasing for a few seconds can help you stay calm and distract yourself from unhelpful thoughts.
Another way to replace anxious thoughts is to focus on your performance, not feelings. This will help you notice positive things that happen rather than assumptions you’re making internally about how others feel. You can think about sitting up straight and making good eye contact at a meeting, for example, rather than how you assume others are reacting to you.
Remember, you’ve had success in the past. There’s no reason to assume you’ll do poorly in your next encounter. Try thinking about the things that could go right rather than the things that may go wrong.
Seek Professional Counseling
As a society, we’re moving away from the social stigma surrounding mental health, which is great! However, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to ask for help.
A therapist can work with you using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). These sessions will help you build confidence, learn coping skills, and take action to expand your comfort zone. For example, you might work with your therapist to build social skills through role-playing or identifying and replacing unhelpful thoughts.
Remember that counseling is always confidential. No one will find out that you’re seeing a therapist unless you feel comfortable sharing it. It can be something you, and you alone, know.
However, it might be helpful at times to let others know you struggle with social anxiety in the workplace. Your boss might be able to accommodate you in specific ways, for example. A therapist can help you understand your work dynamics and decide what’s best for you.
Are You Ready to Have Less Social Anxiety at Work?
Learning how to deal with social anxiety at work can be challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone. The coping mechanisms we’ve identified here will make a big difference in helping you feel more comfortable at your job.
When you’ve started to overcome your anxiety, you’ll notice that your work relationships and overall performance improve. That can help you build confidence, take more risks, and grow even further.
If you’re ready to tackle your social anxiety, we’re here to help. Contact us for information about an appointment today!