What to Say to Someone With Social Anxiety

beach friends photoUsually I write blog posts in paragraph form, but this one is a little different. Here, I’d like to use a simple list, because, well, sometimes lists are fun. It’s nice to change things up once in a while.

So in a simple format, here is the list: 100 Things to Say to Someone With Social Anxiety

As you can see, what sets this list apart is that it is literally 100 things. If you’ve ever not known what to say to a friend or family member with social anxiety, consult this list!

  1. This must be hard for you.
  2. It’s not your fault.
  3. I am sorry you are going through this.
  4. Tell me more about how you are feeling.
  5. It’s okay that you have to cancel, we can try to meet up another time.
  6. Would you like to make plans just the two of us, instead of as a group?
  7. I am here if you need me.
  8. How can I help?
  9. What are you feeling right now?
  10. Would you like to go for a walk?
  11. Take your time.
  12. Would you like to talk?
  13. Let’s work through this together.
  14. I know it feels bad now, but this feeling will pass.
  15. I know you are not making this up.
  16. I know that your anxiety is outside your control.
  17. I love you no matter what.
  18. Is there something we can do together that would be less overwhelming?
  19. I want to know how I can best support you.
  20. I know you have a real illness.
  21. I know you can’t control how you feel.
  22. I care about you and want to help.
  23. You are important to me.
  24. It might not seem like it know, but how you feel is going to change.
  25. You are not alone, I am here for you.
  26. Talk to me, I will listen.
  27. I can’t really understand how you are feeling, but I can offer my compassion.
  28. I am not going to abandon you.
  29. I am sorry you are feeling this pain.
  30. Thank you for telling me how you feel.
  31. I am proud of you for seeking help.
  32. You are doing the right thing by taking care of yourself.
  33. Have you seen your doctor?
  34. Maybe we should schedule a visit with the doctor.
  35. It won’t always be like this.
  36. You are a strong person and will get through this.
  37. You don’t need to apologize to me for your illness.
  38. You are worthwhile.
  39. There is treatment that could help you.
  40. You will get through this somehow.
  41. There is still hope.
  42. Life won’t stay this way forever.
  43. Let’s go do something fun.
  44. I know someone who has been through this.
  45. I am here to listen.
  46. How did your appointment with your doctor go?
  47. Can I get you anything?
  48. Whatever happens, we will figure it out.
  49. I’m here if you want to talk about what’s upsetting you.
  50. Want to grab a bite to eat?
  51. Do you want to be alone or should I stay?
  52. I am proud that you stepped outside your comfort zone.
  53. I believe you.
  54. Would you like to go for a drive?
  55. I’m sorry you are struggling with this.
  56. It’s okay to feel this way.
  57. Do you need me to do anything?
  58. I can tell you feel overwhelmed.
  59. Don’t give up.
  60. I’m not going anywhere.
  61. I have all the time in the world.
  62. Talk to me about what’s going through your mind.
  63. You are not crazy.
  64. You will always have me.
  65. We don’t need to talk.
  66. I hope you can come, but understand if you can’t.
  67. Take your time.
  68. I am proud of you for doing this.
  69. I know you are trying.
  70. How can I make you feel better?
  71. Let’s go get some fresh air.
  72. How you are feeling is temporary.
  73. Do you want some space?
  74. You’re not a burden.
  75. I know you are scared.
  76. Let’s watch something funny on TV.
  77. It’s okay.
  78. I am with you.
  79. Can we look at this a different way?
  80. I believe you can overcome your fears.
  81. I would like to help you face your fears.
  82. Let’s do something fun to celebrate you facing your fears.
  83. I am here, you are safe.
  84. Let’s change the ending you see in your mind.
  85. Do you have calming strategies you can use?
  86. I’ve noticed you don’t seem like yourself.
  87. Do you want me to contact a therapist?
  88. I think you are capable of this, even if you don’t.
  89. How have you gotten through this before?
  90. Is there anyone who could help you?
  91. Anxiety is uncomfortable but not dangerous.
  92. What do you think is going to happen next?
  93. Tell me the worst thing that could happen.
  94. Remember when you made it through this before?
  95. You can do this.
  96. You are powerful.
  97. You are brave.
  98. How likely is it that things will go as badly as you expect?
  99. How many times have you gone through this?
  100. I believe in you.

What is the best thing/worst thing someone could say to you about your anxiety? Share your answers to this question HERE.

Performance Anxiety

flow photo

Performance anxiety is a common experience, particularly for musicians and athletes. Anxiety about performing may also relate to public speaking or simply being put on the spot. When performance anxiety is significant, it may interfere with daily life, career plans, and attaining life goals. One way that performance anxiety can be alleviated is through promotion of “flow state.”

Understanding Flow State

Flow state as a term was first coined by psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi in the 1890s, when he noticed that artists lost themselves in their work. Flow might also be referred to as “being in the zone.” If you’ve ever found yourself totally absorbed in an activity, to the point that you did not notice time passing, it’s possible you were experiencing flow state.

The experience generally involves intense concentration in the present moment, a distorted sense of time, and feeling as though an activity is intrinsically rewarding—in other words, you are not caught up in thinking about the outcome.

What Influences Flow

Numerous factors influence how well you transition into flow, or whether instead, you experience performance anxiety. Confidence has been shown to relate positively to flow, while anxiety has been show to relate negatively to flow. In general, when flow is highest, performance anxiety tends to be lowest.

In addition, we know that level of skill is important for entering flow state. Without the necessary skill and practice, a task will feel too difficult for you to enter flow state. Once a task feels too difficult, you may also fall into self-criticism, which can also exacerbate performance anxiety.

What Happens in the Brain During Flow

You might wonder exactly what is happening when you enter flow state. In essence, your prefrontal cortex shuts down. This area of your brain controls your sense of self, perception of time, and complex thought. When this part of your brain goes silent, your brain waves slow down and you might even feel like an observer watching yourself. Indeed, this state is at the root of practices such as Zen Buddhism.

Promoting Flow State and Reducing Performance Anxiety

While it’s helpful to know about flow state, it’s even more helpful to know how to induce it to reduce performance anxiety. In order to enter flow state, you must feel relaxed and focused. Your goal then, is to create performance conditions that foster the flow state.

  1. Balance between skill and challenge. One of the most important ways to do this is to ensure that in any performance situation, there is an appropriate balance between skill and challenge. In other words, you need to be in a situation in which you can succeed. And, you need to practice sufficiently to develop needed skills.
  2. Stay in the present. Your focus should be on the present rather than the future, to enter flow state. Don’t think about the outcome of what you are doing. Instead, focus intently on your actions in the moment. By the same token, don’t focus on the audience if you want to enter flow state.
  3. Positive self-talk. While it may sound simple, saying uplifting things to yourself can help to boost your ability to enter flow state. Tell yourself, “I can do this” or “I am capable.” Go one step further an visualize yourself doing well.
  4. Work out before a performance. Do some exercise that encourages flow state such as low intensity jogging. This will help you to enter flow state.
  5. Practice mindfulness. Spend a set period such as 10 minutes focusing on your breath. As your mind generates various thoughts, acknowledge them but always return to focusing  on your breath. By practicing in this way, you are training your brain pathways to enter flow state.
  6. Develop a pre-performance routine. Choose a focal point, use positive self-talk, breathe deeply, and scan and release tension from your body. Take it one step further and imagine any nervous energy being channeled out of your core toward your audience.

Recognizing Flow State

You will know you’ve entered flow state when your self-consciousness is reduced. Fear tends to feed pressure, and pressure to do well may cause you to crumble. Pay attention to situations in which you naturally have no fear or feel no pressure to do well. When you don’t feel you are in danger, it will be easier to relax and enter flow state. Try to translate that feeling into all areas of your life. In essence, when you stop trying to impress everyone, and focus on the music, the shot, or the message of your speech—that’s when the magic begins and the anxiety fades away.

Sources:

Fullagar CJ, Knight PA, Sovern HS. Challenge/Skill Balance, Flow, and Performance AnxietyApplied Psychol. 2012;62(2):236-259.

Kirchner JM. Incorporating flow into practice and performance. Work. 2011;40(3):289-296.
Kirchner JM, Bloom AJ, Skutnick-Henley P. The relationship between performance anxiety and flow. Medical Problems of Performing Artists. 2008;23(2):59.
Koehn S. Effects of confidence and anxiety on flow state in competition. Eur J Sport Sci. 2013;13(5):543-550.