Podcasts for Social Anxiety

Podcasts are an excellent way to connect with others without stepping out of your own home. Just hearing the voice of someone talking can ease the loneliness that comes with social anxiety. But podcasts provide more than just a friendly voice: they also can help you work with, through and around your social anxiety symptoms. Here are some of the best podcasts dealing with social anxiety and other mental health topics.

The Confident Mind

The Confident Mind is produced by psychotherapist Kyle MacDonald — a name familiar to readers of the New Zealand Herald, where he writes a column on mental health and making good use of his more than 15 years of clinical experience as a registered psychotherapist.

With weekly installments covering such topics as how to become more confident in your own mind, dealing with depression, social phobias, the importance of self-care and how to gently (but effectively!) change your behaviors, the podcast is available through MacDonald’s website, overcomingsocialanxiety.com, as well as via iTunes.

Calm Living Blueprint

Calm Living Blueprint is a weekly podcast produced by Candace Esposito, a naturopath and mindfulness coach. Rather than focus on the clinical and scientific aspects of living with social anxiety, the podcast helps empower listeners to take control of their anxiety through mindfulness, introspection and self-reflection. A top-ranking anxiety podcast on iTunes, the Calm Living Blueprint approach to social anxiety is to accept yourself and your life as it is and work with it, instead of through it. The podcast is available on Esposito’s website, as well as iTunes and on Android via the Stitcher Radio app.

Anxious in Austin

If you’d like a conversational, yet medical, approach to anxiety, Anxious in Austin is the go-to podcast. Produced by Austin-based psychologists Dr. Marianne Stout and Dr. Thomas Smithyman, the sporadic podcast covers topics ranging from making choices about whether to medicate for your anxiety to dealing with comorbid conditions like OCD, insomnia and perfectionism. Drs. Stout and Smithyman lay out the facts in an accessible, approachable manner.

If you want to understand the human brain and how it works via a conversational, talk radio-style podcast, this is it. It’s available via download from the doctors’ practice website, the Anxiety Treatment Center of Austin, the iTunes store, as well as via third party websites Podbean and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Mental Illness Happy Hour

If you’d rather not spend your time on clinical, scientific or self-help podcasts but instead prefer a little humor and entertainment, Mental Illness Happy Hour is possibly the best podcast around. The weekly cast, produced by comedian Paul Gilmartin, explores depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma and other mental health topics. In the host’s own words, “It’s not a doctor’s office. Think of it more as a waiting room that doesn’t suck.”

While the humor can, at times, be somewhat perverse or off-color, it’s a no-holds barred mission to remind listeners that mental challenges are shared and nobody is alone. With high praise from big-name publications like the NY Times and Psychology Today, the podcast is available via web at mentalpod.com, as well as on the iTunes web store, via the Stitcher Radio app for Android and on third party site Soundcloud.

Podcasts for social anxiety can connect you to others, educate you and occasionally give you a laugh. When it’s tough to connect with others, listening to podcasts can help ease loneliness while giving you something to focus on outside of your own thoughts.


Setting Goals to Move Further Outside Your Comfort Zone

Setting Goals to Move Further Outside Your Comfort Zone

Social anxiety makes a lot of common tasks difficult. It can affect your work, your social interactions and even your personal and family relationships. There are times when it might feel like your anxiety is an insurmountable wall between you and the things you want to do; this can make you feel powerless and actually worsen anxiety. Just because it feels like a wall doesn’t mean it can’t be conquered.

There are ways to move outside your comfort zone and slowly reclaim your life. If you aren’t sure where to start, you might try setting goals for yourself. Even if they’re only little goals, each step you take past your social anxiety is another step toward being the person you really want to be.

Setting Goals

Think about something you’d like to do. It doesn’t have to be anything major; goals work best when they’re little tasks that are slightly outside of your comfort zone. It could be even be something as seemingly small as smiling at a stranger or walking down a crowded aisle instead of going around.

Avoid the temptation to deride small goals as being insignificant; while it might seem like a big deal to people who don’t know the weight of social anxiety, you know just how big a step small acts like these can be.

Recording Your Progress

Write down each goal. You can give them dates if you’re comfortable doing so, although leaving them open-ended at first will make them seem less restrictive. Just make sure the goal is written down so you can read it. You might even make a “goal list” of several items you want to accomplish and choose one from the list before going out or at the start of every day. You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference writing down a goal can make in getting that goal accomplished.

Moving Past Your Comfort Zone

Once you have one or more goals ready, it’s time to work toward accomplishing them. You don’t have to rush to get everything done as quickly as possible, but make sure that you keep your goals in mind as you go throughout your day.

Accomplishing some of these goals might nudge you into a high-anxiety state, but you can remind yourself that this is only temporary and you’re really accomplishing something by completing a goal.

Setbacks Are Okay

Sometimes you’ll fail to meet your goal when you try. That’s okay. Social anxiety can be intense – you won’t always be able to overcome it. Avoid the temptation to be hard on yourself for not completing the goal; there will be other opportunities and other goals down the road. Setbacks are okay: they’re often very much a part of eventual success, so don’t give up.

Goals as Milestones

The goals you set don’t have to be independent of each other. If you have a larger goal in mind, set small goals and use them as milestones toward what you really want to accomplish. Every little goal you complete will be a step toward your ultimate goal. Even goals you miss will help toward this, as each misstep and setback will help you learn new ways of dealing with your anxiety on the path to your big goal. Each small goal is a victory too.

As you accomplish some of your goals, set new ones that build upon them. These don’t have to be big goals – they’ll help you expand your recent successes and prevent you from retreating and possibly becoming stuck behind that wall again.

By continuing to push yourself, you’ll eventually normalize those behaviors you struggled with when you first set a goal. Every goal you accomplish is another step in conquering your social anxiety. Moving into the future with the added confidence each success brings turns these small steps into giant wins.


Dating Tips for Social Anxiety

Dating Tips for Social Anxiety

Dating is a terrifying prospect, when you think about it. You’re getting to know a person you’ve never met before and auditioning them to see if they fit in your life as a romantic partner. The mere thought of being emotionally vulnerable to a stranger – who is also auditioning you for a similar role – can be enough to cause panic. But dating with social anxiety doesn’t have to be impossible.

Take the Pressure Off

There’s a cliché that you find love when you stop looking for it. Make dating easier on yourself by focusing on your experiences rather than the urge to find someone who’s compatible. With that in mind, choose dates that involve doing something you find enjoyable.

Rather than meeting at a bar, coffee shop or other typical date spot, join a small group activity with opportunities to break off from the group for more one-on-one interaction. Hiking groups and book clubs, for example, are low-pressure activities where you can meet someone but also take time out if the interaction becomes too much.

Be Honest About Your Anxiety

Don’t necessarily bring up your anxiety when you first introduce yourself, but it pays to be honest about the role anxiety plays in your life. If you feel your anxiety creeping on, speak up about what’s going on. People are usually understanding and if your date is someone who may or may not have a spot in your future, they’ll let you know up front if they’re able to deal with it.

Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario

What’s the worst thing you can think of happening on a date? You’ve probably already run over every nightmare scenario in your mind a thousand times. But it’s time to have a chat with your mind: the worst that could happen on a date is that you never see the person again. And if for some reason they dislike something about you, are hurtful in some manner, reject you or just aren’t a good fit, never seeing them again is a POSITIVE thing. Practice your responses to your worst-case scenarios and try to find the positives in them.

Stay Busy After Your Dates

Don’t give your brain a chance to have enough down time after a date to play continual reruns of the night in your head – you’ll only worry and start over-thinking every detail. Instead, make sure you keep busy in the hours and days after you have a date.

Whether this means scheduling a breakfast date before work, a lunch date before attending a class or an evening date that ends with dinner out with your best friend, keep yourself (and your mind) active and engaged in other activities to ward off any negative feelings that might unfairly color your perception of your date.

Dating with social anxiety isn’t impossible. At worst, you gain some enjoyable experiences. At best, you might find someone who is worth stepping out of your comfort zone and spending some time with.

Keep the pressure low, explore unconventional date spots, be honest about your anxiety and anticipate the worst-case scenarios of dating. Keep yourself busy after dates to avoid over-thinking the things you said or did.

One bad date doesn’t mean doom, and one good date doesn’t mean you’re stuck with someone for the rest of your lives: knowing you’re in control of your dating life can do wonders for combating social anxiety as you navigate the waters of the dating world.


Medical Professionals Versus Your Social Anxiety

Medical Professionals Versus Your Social Anxiety

Medical appointments are often nerve-wracking. Even if it’s only a general checkup, it feels like the most stressful event in the world because your health is of paramount importance. If you find yourself getting anxious at the mere thought of showing up for a medical appointment, there are some steps you can take to calm yourself and get the most out of your doctor’s visit.

Scheduling Your Appointment

Phones are scary – more so if you have social anxiety. If picking up the phone is a hurdle you struggle to overcome, see if you can schedule your appointments in-office after your previous appointment. If not, check to see if your hospital, clinic or medical provider does online scheduling via an app or e-mail. Not all practices do, but some integrate appointment scheduling with apps like Follow My Health.

If you truly cannot face the phone to schedule an appointment, consider asking a family member or trusted friend to call on your behalf. Not all appointments can be scheduled this way, as it’s sometimes viewed as a violation of HIPPA privacy standards, but many doctors’ offices will allow another person to speak on your behalf after verbally confirming with you that it’s okay.

Arriving at the Office

Your arrival at the doctor’s office can be the cue for your anxiety to ramp up. Signing in and being forced to wait to see your doctor gives your brain plenty of time to think over everything that’s potentially wrong – such as worrying about whether you’re making the most of your time with your medical professional.

If you don’t keep a list of points you’d like to discuss with your doctor, taking the time to jot down notes as you wait can give your mind a purposeful task to concentrate on. If you already have a list in hand, consider bringing along a soothing activity like a book, a small craft project or a fidget toy.

Talking to Your Doctor

There’s no question that talking to your doctor can induce fear. If you don’t have a good rapport with your doctor, it may be time to find a new one who doesn’t make your heart rate shoot through the roof. But if it’s tolerable, it helps to remember that your doctor works for you. You pay your doctor’s salary and it’s his or her job to manage your health and listen to your concerns.

If your physician isn’t living up to that task, you have the power to fire him. Sometimes just knowing that you hold the upper hand in the doctor-patient dynamic can make the visit less stressful.

If you don’t know where to start, or worry which concerns are worth mentioning, refer to your list. Having a concrete list of talking points is common even for people without social anxiety – no one will think twice if you pull one out.

If you’re truly having a hard time enduring medical appointments because of your social anxiety, bring it up with either your doctor or your psychological health care provider. They can help you work on strategies to make visits more bearable.

Nothing is more important than your health and each doctor’s visit is an integral part of keeping you in top shape. You shouldn’t let anything prevent you from seeking the healthcare you need and deserve.

What It’s Like to Live with Social Anxiety

What It’s Like to Live with Social Anxiety

Not everyone who lives with social anxiety experiences the same symptoms, but the overwhelming feelings of fear, apprehension and worry are understood by all who live with it. Many people with social anxiety have learned to mask their symptoms. It’s an isolating mental illness often made worse by the stigma attached and the comments of “but you LOOK fine!” from well-meaning family and friends.

What Social Anxiety Feels Like

One Reddit user describes life with social anxiety as being “… like knowing you have a problem and the solution is right in front of you, but still not being able to do anything about it.” For those living with SA, this statement resonates all too deeply.

Social anxiety can induce terror when confronted with social interactions – it’s not always big things, like going out to a social function or large gathering, either. Sometimes the fear creeps in during the simplest of day-to-day tasks, like making a telephone call, answering the door or even walking down the walk to fetch the mail.

Social Anxiety Feels Embarrassing

Not only is the fear and apprehension caused by social anxiety overwhelming, it can also feel embarrassing and humiliating. Those living with SA feel like they should be able to do the things that everyone else can seemingly do with ease. Even though you might know, logically, that no lasting harm will come from making a phone call, the fear is very real.

Social Anxiety is Lonely

Because it’s easy to feel like there’s something fundamentally wrong or that you’re doing something wrong all the time, social anxiety induces loneliness.

At times, it feels hopeless because it might be too difficult to speak about what’s going on or reach out to find someone to speak to. It can be soul crushing, because a majority of people living with SA don’t want anyone to know the amount of fear they live with on a daily basis.

The Stigma of Social Anxiety

Because so many people with social anxiety have found ways to cope with or work around the disorder, it’s easy for others to overlook the signs of social anxiety.

A person with SA who consistently cancels plans may be viewed as flighty or flaky, while a person who doesn’t speak up much at work may be seen as unfriendly or aloof. Because the symptoms of social anxiety are largely internal and fear-based, it’s easy for those living with SA to take these snap judgments to heart.

The Power of Words

Further, the term “social anxiety” is casually used in conversations and the media as a synonym for mild discomfort in social situations and not given the respect it deserves as a serious, debilitating, life-altering illness.

When someone mentions they have social anxiety, it’s easy for others to brush them off as overreacting, hyperbolic or attention-seeking.

As with other mental illnesses, social anxiety is met by some with a “just get over it” attitude – that with enough willpower and determination the person living with SA can just power through it. But that isn’t the case – social anxiety is as real as cancer or diabetes, but no one would think twice about telling someone with those illnesses to just “power through it”.

It’s not necessary to explain your social anxiety to others, even if they ask. But if you feel like sharing what it feels like to live with social anxiety, consider talking to your doctor or counselor about the best way to describe your life. Sometimes it helps to have someone help you formulate the words.