The Ultimate Social Anxiety Cheat Sheet

The ultimate social anxiety cheat sheet
The ultimate social anxiety cheat sheet. Getty / Photo Alto Laurence Mouton

According to Google, a cheat sheet is

"a piece of paper bearing written notes intended to aid one's memory, typically one used surreptitiously in an examination."

What would a cheat sheet be in relation to social anxiety?

If you could only have a few key pointers written on an index card to help you with your social anxiety what would they be?

I am going to help you out here. Get out an index card and a pen.

If you don't have any index cards handy, a piece of paper will do just fine. But eventually, you'll want to get some sort of more permanent-type card on which to write your cheat-sheet notes. You might even want to get it laminated. Maybe.

Now... I want you to write down five headings as follows:

1. Thoughts

2. Physiology

3. Genes

4. Practice

5. Progress

Sounds simple, doesn't it? That's because it is a cheat sheet. It should be simple.

Now, underneath those 5 titles I want you to write down a few main points related to those headings.

For example, under "Thoughts" you might write down what to say to yourself about negative automatic thoughts.These should be short phrases (2-3 words) that keep you focused on what you already know about how to cope (from reading them here on this website! If you haven't already read about all these tips, now is the time).

Such as,

"Nobody noticed" (CBT restructuring)

"Interesting thought" (ACT defusing/distancing)

Under physiology, you might write something like,

"Breathe deep" (Meditation/progressive muscle relaxation)

Under genes, you could write,

"Forgive yourself" (Social anxiety is not your fault)

"Be kind" (To yourself, and others; we are all fighting battles not of our choosing)

Under practice, you could write,

"Just one thing" (Choose one obstacle to overcome today, such as making a phone call)

Under progress, you could write,

"Better each day" (To remind yourself that it is a marathon not a sprint, to overcome social anxiety)

Making yourself a cheat sheet with these simple short phrases is a way to keep yourself focused when social anxiety starts to take over.

Pull out your index card, zero in on whatever you are beating yourself up about, and repeat that simple phrase.

For example,  if you find yourself going over all the things you did wrong in a conversation with a stranger, pull out your index card and say (inside your head):

"Interesting thought."

"Nobody noticed."

"Breathe deep."

"Forgive yourself"

"Better each day."

Or whatever combination of phrases works to get you through the situation. Imagine that someone else is saying these things to you.

You: "I just made a fool of myself."

Helpful other: "Interesting thought."

You: "But I really did mess up. He must think I'm an idiot."

Helpful other: "He didn't notice."

You: "I feel all worked up now."

Helpful other: "Breathe deep."

You: "I'm just no good at conversations."

Helpful other: "Forgive yourself."

You: "I am never going to be any good."

Helpful other: "Better each day."

Over time, that little voice on the index cards might become a bit more cemented in your memory, to the point that it becomes a voice that automatically responds each time you come up with something negative.

Guess what? You just took many of the tools professionals use to combat social anxiety in their clients and packaged it into a mini-CBT session for yourself. Practice is what is important, so don't give up.

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