Did you know that 18% of the U.S. population struggles with anxiety disorders? Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Do you have marked fear or anxiety about specific social situations, where you may experience the scrutiny of others? Do you fear that showing your anxiety symptoms (shaky voice, trembling hands) will cause others to judge you? Do you avoid certain social situations? Have you experienced these issues for more than 6 months? If so, you may be struggling with social anxiety.
Social Anxiety affects 1/3 of those with anxiety disorders (6.8% of the U.S. population). This means that 88,400 individuals in the Kansas City metro struggle with social anxiety. I have met numerous individuals who have been affected by this particular mental illness, leaving them homebound, isolated, and feeling alone.
At the Anxiety Program’s IOP at Renew, we take steps to help our clients work through their worries, anxieties, and fears (WAFs). Consider journaling which areas of your life are affected by your WAFs, such as social, work, recreation, spirituality, education, family, intimate relationships, and/or community. Next, identify the things that you do to keep yourself in “safe mode” and to avoid your anxiety. For example, if you have anxiety about people watching you eat, you only eat “un-messy” foods in front of others. Or, if you avoid social gatherings, you may volunteer to help in the kitchen, so that you do not need to engage in small talk with others. The problem is, the more you avoid, the stronger the anxiety grows, and the smaller your world becomes.
After identifying these areas, it is time to work on getting out of your mind and being present in this moment, right now, without judgment. Consider the balloon breathing exercise. Pause, giving yourself a five-minute compassion break to tune out the world and breathe. Each time you exhale, imagine that you are blowing air into a big, red balloon. Exhale your worries, anxieties, and fears. Inhale peace and calm as the balloon deflates, breathing in rest and restoration. Breathe out tension. Continue to do this for several minutes, until your breathing is at a slow, calm pace, and your balloon is gently getting bigger, then smaller. This may seem silly, but slowing down, focusing on your breathing, and being mindful several times a day has been proven to help reduce anxiety.
What is one thing your anxiety has been holding you back from? If you did not suffer from social anxiety, what would you be doing right now? If you are stuck, we would be honored to provide you the tools to help you live the life you were meant to live. You are worth it!