Having social anxiety while maintaining a professional career, especially in the corporate world can be challenging at times, especially when your colleagues don’t know about your social anxiety disorder. As much as you care about your career, it’s not something that you want to disclose to everyone. However, it is definitely possible to manage your social anxiety and still advance in your career.
I have made a personal goal NOT to allow my social anxiety from holding me back professionally and moving up in my career. It’s really important for me to try and manage my anxiety as best as possible and maintain a somewhat normal life and career. That doesn’t mean I don’t get terrified and have a lot of anxiety when I am when I’m required to complete certain tasks like leading meetings or giving a presentation to my peers. Here are a few tips that have helped me in handling professional commitments even while dealing with social anxiety.
Find Co-Workers You Can Feel Comfortable With
Social events and networking are a big part of my professional career. So when attending events, if possible, I like to go with a colleague, this way I am not attending an event alone. When you have a professional commitment you can’t get out of, try to find co-workers you know and feel comfortable with. When you are going out to eat with your colleagues, sit next to your co-worker that you know and trust, and ride along to a work party with your friends from work. This can make it a little easier to socialize with others, as long as you stick to this person or small group of people.
Be Realistic About What You Can Handle
While your career should be important to you, it is not always more important than your mental health. There will be some situations you can handle, others you can push through, and some that are just so miserable you can’t stomach them. Be realistic about what you can and can’t handle. If your boss asks you to speak at a conference, and you just don’t think you can do it without breaking down, offer to help with the conference in some other way. Find alternatives so that you can take care of yourself, without letting other people down.
However, if public speaking or leading meetings is a requirement or necessity in your career in order to move up the ladder (as it is in mine) this next tip is helpful.
Try Breathing Exercises Before Work Events
Breathing exercises are great because they are easy to do without other people noticing, and can be done anywhere. Learn deep breathing, which can help you handle the most stressful of situations. Practice breathing exercises before any work event to calm yourself and ease any anxiety you might feel.
Focus on the Work Tasks You Enjoy
There are probably some work tasks you enjoy, and some that make you fearful. Try to focus more on the things you enjoy doing, regardless of the situation you are in. If you need to attend an event with your co-workers, let your other colleagues handle the speaking parts, while you do things in the background like organizing supplies or helping work on the video slideshow. This can work for any type of work commitment or function you have to participate in.
Practice and Prep
If you have a job where you have to participate in activities that really cause a lot of anxiety, practice beforehand. If you have to give a presentation at an event, make an outline of the key points you want to speak about and rehearse your presentation beforehand.
A couple of months ago, I was asked to give a 10-minute story about my career. I agreed to the challenge but instantly had anxiety just thinking about all the attention being focused on me for 10 minutes. So I made an outline for the key points I wanted to talk about and rehearsed it in my head over and over again. When the day came for me to give my presentation, I practiced the breathing exercises mentioned above, said a prayer and was able to get through my presentation. I was a little flush-faced at the end, but because I had mentally prepared myself, I was able to get deliver my thoughts without stumbling.
If public speaking is unavoidable for you too, practice your presentation or speech beforehand. The more you become familiar and comfortable with what you are talking about, it becomes easier to deliver the message. If you have to lead meetings, prepare the agenda ahead of time, so you can be familiar with how the meeting should flow. Attend a lot of networking events,? Prepare a quick introduction or elevator speech about yourself, so you ready when someone approaches you.
These tips have helped me a lot in my career and I hope they help you as well.