New Situation? Get Comfortable in Record Time

09.03.2017 |

Episode #5 of the course Overcoming social anxiety by Eileen Purdy MSW, M.Ed.


Life gets pretty isolating and lonely when you’re stuck in total avoidance mode. New situations require new skills. Conveniently enough, that is exactly what this course is helping you with!

That said, new situations can be the worst. You don’t know what to expect, everything seems unfamiliar, and often you feel you’re fending for yourself. All of this sounds like the perfect recipe for deciding to avoid new situations altogether…except for the fact that you are lonely and tired of being so isolated. So let’s start figuring out some skills to help overcome this avoidance tendency.

• The first one is to focus outward. With social anxiety, particularly in new situations, one’s first inclination is to totally focus attention inward. Your attention becomes laser focused on how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, how much you stand out, and what a total loser you are for feeling these things. Instead, when you enter a new environment, immediately turn that focus outward onto other people, other thoughts, what’s on the hors d’oeuvre table, paintings on the wall, etc. Each and every time your thoughts start focusing on yourself, consciously do a thought 180° and start focusing outward.

• The second skill to use is the false alarm labeling when uncomfortable feelings come up. Often you don’t have the time to argue with your thoughts and feelings or reason with yourself. So just label them false alarms and start disrupting the thought patterns that are no longer serving you. Remember, neurons that fire together wire together. When you wire the uncomfortableness with new situations to false alarms, you’ll start feeling better before you know it.

• The third skill is to “be the buffalo.” What? Let me explain. Wilma Mankiller, the first ever female chief of the Cherokee nation in the US, once said, “Cows run away from a storm while the buffalo charges toward it—and gets through it quicker. Whenever I’m confronted with a tough challenge, I do not prolong the torment, I become the buffalo.” Avoiding situations that make us anxious actually makes our anxiety stronger. So the next time you are in a new situation, “be the buffalo” and continue forward. Also, know that although your anxiety may initially get worse when you do what previously made you anxious, it will start diminishing as you remain in the situation.

• The last skill is to use your breath to connect with staying calm. So, just like with the Spotlight Effect, your breathing can play a pivotal role in helping your anxiety around new situations dissipate. Focus on slowing your breathing down and getting into a rhythm of deep belly breaths. Literally allow your belly to expand outward as you fill it with oxygen. On your exhale, pull your belly button back in toward your spine as if you are squeezing every last bit out. Also, remember your longer exhale enjoys VIP status with your parasympathetic nervous system and will help you calm down in record time.


Tomorrow, you’ll continue on your skill building road with three ways to speak up at work and with friends.

Recommended book

“My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind” by Scott Stossel


Share with friends