Sadly, ‘Social Anxiety’ is a term that many of us are increasingly familiar with, whether this relates to our children, our workmates, celebrities or ourselves.
It’s a problematic issue, partly due to the fact that a good many people doubt its existence. It’s just another label; an excuse to ‘wimp out’ of life’s challenges. “I was shy at school!” they said, “They should just get on with it!”
As a sufferer myself, let me tell you that there’s a big difference between feeling anxious as you speak in front of others (the kind of anxiety that we’re meant to feel when we do something new/exciting/challenging/frightening) and feeling such a range of panic-like anxiety symptoms, that it eats away at your heart, soul and self-esteem every day. Telling someone like this to “get on with it” is like telling someone with clinical depression to “cheer up.”
What can work, however, is a structured, CBT-style approach, that allows you to unpick the thoughts, beliefs and behaviours that you’ve consciously or unconsciously been participating in. I’ve battled this condition for a good part of the last 20 plus years, but for the last 8 years or so, I’ve been the manager rather than the employee.
If you’re struggling with Social Anxiety, or wish to support a child, teen or adult who is, take a look at some of the free or affordable resources that have helped me along the way:
- NHS Northumberland’s website has some incredible resources relating to all aspects of mental health. This free Social Anxiety workbook goes through the steps that a CBT practitioner would also approach. This is really invaluable for children, teens and adults.
- Another fantastic freebie from the NHS, this time from NHS Scotland, this Moodjuice Self-help guide for Shyness and Social Anxiety will offer CBT-style structured support for those in need. I’ve shared this with anxious high-schoolers in the past, who reported good results after working through this independently at home.
- Janet Espositos’, ‘In the Spotlight’ will teach you that you’re not alone, whilst also giving you strategies to support you in making positive change. Though this is more suited to adults, the activities and strategies in here would work for a parent and child working through this together. I read this book a day after my 26th birthday, 8 years ago, and while I know it’s a huge clique, it really did change my life.
- When you’re coping with Social Anxiety, the world can often feel like a very lonely place. Make it a little less lonely by connecting with others going through the similar things. Social Anxiety UK have a great forum that allows you to listen to others sharing their experiences and advice, as well as sharing yours if you wish. The site is restricted to children aged 13+ with certain areas within being limited to 16+. Parents – It is moderated and there are rules to follow, though you may wish to monitor this yourself too if you’re concerned about your child using this site.
- There are so many awesome TED talks linked to building confidence and self-belief, as well as talks related to general and specific anxieties and mental health conditions. But that’s a list for another day… For now, I’ll leave you with my absolute favourite, Amy Cuddy’s talk on body language. It’s inspiring, moving and will give you to practical strategies for the next time you’re feeling those nervous butterflies.
These talks and resources are no substitute for actual medical help and if you’re suffering, you should contact your local GP.
Unfortunately, a lot of adults and children, find that when they do seek help, they’re place on a rather long waiting list, becoming increasingly desperate and feeling hopeless. If this is the case, these resources might just offer you (or your child) support, guidance and comfort as you wait.