Social anxiety can be paralyzing. Anxious thoughts cloud your logical mind, and you or your children can become entrenched in a dysfunctional way of responding to real and perceived threats resulting in behavior inhibition and increased anxiety. This pattern easily turns into an endless cycle resulting in ever-increasing amounts of anxiety. Fortunately, you and your children can learn how to retrain your stress response to prevent and reduce feelings of anxiety.
The tips below come from the world of improvisation and can help you or your children “fake it ‘til you make it”:
1. Be Real! A sure fire way to stay locked in your fear and anxiety is to try to cover it all up and pretend it doesn’t exist. Instead of ignoring the anxiety completely, own it. Tell a trusted friend, or teach your child to tell a trusted adult, what you fear. If you are scared of speaking in public or being called on in class, let someone know. By owning the fear, you begin to take control of the emotion and the anxiety will dissipate.
2. Be Specific! Fearful and anxious thoughts are often all-encompassing. They bleed into many aspects of our lives, moving away from the actual specific fear to something more monstrous. Don’t allow the anxiety to grow and take over your lives. Instead, figure out the specifics of your anxiety. What are you afraid of right now? The more specific you can be, the more you will be able to develop a plan for dealing with that fear and anxiety and the sooner those feelings will be tamed.
3. Be Free! To help your children move past their fears and anxieties, you must teach them to let go of these emotions and/or events. This is often a very difficult task. Most of us hold onto our fear as though it is a cherished friend. But only by releasing the fear, anxiety and inhibition can you move forward. So, pretend you are a character in a play and act out a scene in which you and your children are letting go of the fears and anxieties of the past. Take a leap of faith. Once you do, the next will be even easier.
4. Be Change! Change is the natural order of things. Life has its own natural flow. Instead of resisting, learn to flow with life’s natural rhythm. Release your expectations and experience what life has to offer with an open mind and open heart. Removing your own resistance and helping your children remove theirs will enable all of you to embrace whatever life has in store. And that journey, whatever it is, may hold some of life’s most amazing moments.
5. Be Strong! We all have unique strengths. But sometimes the strengths get lost under our fears and anxieties. Take time to discover and refine your personal strengths. Most importantly, return to your strengths whenever life becomes too much and your fears and anxieties begin to run amuck.
Social anxiety and fear does not have to paralyze you or your children. Embracing the tips above can begin the process of taking back control over your life and taming the fears and anxieties that have hindered you or your children’s lives.
Christine Fonseca is a school psychologist and award-winning author of nonfiction and teen novels dedicated to helping children and adults find their unique voice in the world, including the books “Raising they Shy Kid,” “Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students,” “The Girl Guide,” and “Quiet Kids.” When she isn’t crafting new stories or working with student groups, she can be found sipping too many skinny vanilla lattes at her local coffee house.