social phobics get only modest benefit from exposure to social
situations. Stopa and Clark (1993) have an explanation of why
cognitive methods may work better with social phobics, namely, social
phobics don't pay attention to actual feedback from others but are
preoccupied with their own negative thoughts ("I'm boring... stupid...
silly") which causes them to avoid interacting. Perhaps (a) social skills
training, (b) more focus on other people's reactions, and (c)
attempting to be more outgoing would make socializing more
rewarding. Certainly, stopping the automatic barrage of negative self-
evaluations while interacting would help.
Compulsions and little rituals of behavior, like washing our hands
excessively or checking the locks on the doors and windows several
times every night, are an attempt of reduce our anxiety. To stop these
useless behaviors, the most common approach is to expose ourselves
to the situation that sets off the compulsion but prevent the behavior--
the useless rituals--from occurring. See a discussion at the end of this
chapter about obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Find causes and escape stress
If you don't know the causes of your tension (called free-floating
anxiety), a careful analysis will be worthwhile. As with any other
behavior, consider the suggestions in method #9 in chapter 11. Make
up a rating scale for your anxiety. Whenever the stress increases,
record in a journal the severity and what is going on: when it is, where
you are, what you are doing, whom you are with, what you are
thinking, what you would like to be doing, what else you are feeling,
etc. Try to figure out the causes. Remember social uneasiness,
depression, anger, and other reactions to stress may be inherited.
Also, chemicals and physiological conditions, like poor sleep, diet,
premenstrual changes, and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), cause
emotions too, so look for those causes as well.
Escape the stress --if practical, one might simply avoid the
uncomfortable situation. Changing your environment is an important
self-help method. This approach is most appropriate for a short-term
stress, but it can also involve escaping a constantly stressful
environment for a few minutes of relief. For the person under
continuous pressure--a demanding job, conflict with a co-worker, your
own competitive drive, undergoing a life crisis--it is good to "take a
break" every 2 or 3 hours by scheduling and insisting on some time for
yourself. What can you do? Meditate. Nap. Exercise (60% say exercise
mellows them out but few do it). Call a friend. Take a break to
socialize. You can do other things to improve your environment: avoid
the person who "drives you crazy." Take the bus instead of driving.
Reduce the noise. Also, be sure you allocate your time wisely; do the
most important work first, allow a little extra time, learn to say no.
If you are in an unavoidable stressful environment, build up your
strength whenever you can. Get exercise and plenty of sleep, find
something interesting to do during your time off--a good book, a craft