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How to Deal with Social Anxiety at Work and 5 Ways to Cope

Updated: May 9, 2023

Takeaway: Anxiety before work can be a normal experience especially if we have a day of important meetings, deadlines, and presentations ahead of us. Social Anxiety consists of thoughts, physical sensations, and behaviors that can often result in avoidance due to the intense level of fear attached to feeling judged. If you are experiencing social anxiety at work, know that relief and support is possible. Keep reading for tips on how to manage your social anxiety at work.


Table of Contents

  1. What is social anxiety?

  2. What are commonly feared situations at work?

  3. Feeling judged, the difference between shyness and social anxiety?

  4. What are strategies for dealing with social anxiety at work?


What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety can be defined as an intense fear or anxiety about

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Feeling Judged

social situations in which a person may be exposed to possible scrutiny and evaluation that could result in them feeling humiliated, feeling judged or embarrassed by others. When you suffer from social anxiety, you may fear that you will act in a way or show anxiety symptoms that will negatively be evaluated and because of this, you either avoid the social situation or endure it with intense fear or panic.

Social anxiety is maintained by avoidance (opting out of the anxiety producing situation), safety behaviors ( behaviors performed with the intent of reducing the likelihood of the feared outcome) and unhelpful thoughts. Managing social anxiety at work can be challenging, but keep reading for tips on how to deal with social anxiety at work.


What are commonly feared situations at work?

As a therapist that treats high achievers struggling with anxiety, I often hear my clients say, "I tend to focus on every little mistake I can make and assume that everyone else is judging me." Going into any situation with this pressure is stressful and when you bring it to the workplace, it can make your anxiety seem unbearable. The following is not an exhaustive list of commonly feared situations at work but these are common ones I hear my clients describe in sessions:

  • Talking to authority figures and supervisors

  • Presenting in front of co-workers

  • Speaking up in meetings and being the center of attention

  • Having to perform under pressure

  • Attending work social functions and get togethers

While it is not always an option to avoid these scenarios, it is not uncommon for anxiety to peak. Research shows that participating in exposures to feared scenarios can increase our comfort in the situation, change behaviors, and improve one's social skills. In fact, the best treatment for social anxiety includes exposing yourself to the feared situation and working with a therapist to address the possible thinking distortions keeping your fear going.


Feeling judged, the difference between shyness and social anxiety?

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Anxiety Before Work

People often confuse shyness with social anxiety, but the two are very different. While a shy person may be a bit uneasy around others, they will generally not experience the same intensity of anxiety as someone with social anxiety. Most shy people also don't go to the same extremes of avoiding social situations that are common to those who experience social anxiety. A person with social anxiety, will often do anything to avoid being in their feared situation.


What are strategies for dealing with social anxiety at work?

If you experience social anxiety in the workplace, it may feel challenging to experience confidence. Here are some tips on how to deal with social anxiety at work:

1. Use Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques including meditation and deep breathing has been scientifically proven to calm a person's nerves. By being still and focusing on your breath for just 10 minutes, you can learn to settle yourself which can be beneficial in helping you to manage feelings of anxiety, stress, and panic in the workplace. These techniques can also help you decrease tension and feelings of anxiety as well as help you to feel centered.

2. Focus on Performance, Not Feelings

People suffering from social anxiety often tend to focus solely on how they feel during a social situation, not the positive things that may happen. When you focus on how well you've done, you start to forget about your nerves. As an example, during your next staff meeting, don't focus on whether or not you are blushing or sweating (you can't control that anyway). Instead, focus on making good eye contact with people in the room. When all is said and done, you will have made such an accomplishment.

3. Practice Being Realistic

It's important to be realistic in the face of your anxiety. For instance, if you've given speeches in the past and have done well, then it is most likely unrealistic to tell yourself that you are "going to bomb." Try to separate negative assumptions and reframe them. How about telling yourself, "I have done well in the past, I am prepared and I will do a good job."

4. Seek Support

If you feel social anxiety is impacting your ability to show up and be your best self in the workplace or it has stopped you from stepping outside of your comfort zone at work, then please consider working with an anxiety therapist. Investing in therapy can give you the coping strategies you need to help you move forward, provide guidance, offer validation, and provide a supportive space to discuss challenges.

5. Self-Care

It is important to engage in activities that are pleasurable and enjoyable outside of work. This can help you feel relaxed and refreshed. This can also assist you in taking care of yourself physically and emotionally.

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Anxiety Therapist in Houston

Feeling judged? Get Help with Social Anxiety at Work!

If you're in Houston, New York, or California and you would like to explore treatment options for managing your social anxiety in the workplace, please get in touch with me and schedule a free consultation today. I'd be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

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