Does social anxiety stop you from starting therapy?

I wanted to share this great article (written by Arlin Cuncic, MA) on starting therapy when you have social anxiety. Social anxiety goes beyond mere “shyness”. It is a crippling fear of social situations. The individual experiences endless worries about being rejected, embarrassed or receiving negative evaluation from others. Social anxiety affects approximately 7% of the population. Unfortunately, the actual act of being in counselling is a barrier because it involves meeting a new person (the therapist) and opening up about vulnerabilities. So how can someone with social anxiety get started? Cuncic offers six great tips. Take a minute to read it at Very Well Mind.

Starting therapy with social anxiety. Contact Kasi Shan Therapy - services online and in Kitchener, ON
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As humans, we have an innate urge to manage anxiety through avoidance (i.e. scared of flying? Avoid being on a plane.) By attending counselling, you are exposing yourself to a situation that intimidates you. However, each time you keep showing up for therapy, it helps build up your level of tolerance and confidence in handling this social situation. Like any skill, the first time you try something new is challenging and requires conscious effort. There comes a point; however, when you have practiced a skill so frequently that you no longer have to think about it. Think about the first time you reversed your car into a parking lot. Does reversing still take the same level of attention and effort today as it did on day one?

I encourage following the 3-session rule. For anyone new to attending counselling, give it three sessions. The first session will likely be exhausting because your anxiety is incredibly high in starting a new relationship and treatment plan. The second session can be unnerving because we recall how much anxiety we experienced during the first appointment. By the third appointment, many of those fears have eased (at least slightly) because the therapist is no longer a new person, and you have survived two appointments already. Those initial anticipations about therapy (i.e. Will she judge me? Will she push me when I’m not ready? Will she really understand?) have been addressed and clarified.

Please feel free to share or reach out if you have any questions.


How to stop panic attacks: A quick strategy to help you calm down

Here is a quick DBT skill to help with your anxiety. Give it a try and see how it stops your panic attacks quickly!

One of my favourite teachings from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is the temperature exercise. This skill is based off of the “mammalian dive reflex”. Basically, if you jump into a pool of ice cold water, your body will slow down in order to conserve energy for survival. Any body functions that aren’t vital will start to shut down. There is no thinking involved; your body will automatically do this on its own.

A quick tip to stop panic attacks. Contact Kasi Shan Therapy. Treating trauma and postpartum/ pregnancy mental health.
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What does this have to do with panic attacks? When we’re panicking, it’s really hard to tell our mind “to just calm down.” There is no way that kind of malarkey is going to work when you’re freaking out. Instead of trying to change your thoughts, the temperature change activity forces your physiology to quickly change.

Here are the steps:

  1. Fill your sink or a large bowl full of cold water.
  2. Dump in a bunch of ice cubes (or frozen veggies, whatever you have handy!)
  3. Bend forward from the hip
  4. Place your face in water (Yes! Your whole face! I kid you not!)
  5. Hold your breath as long as possible
  6. Come up for breath as needed, and dive right back in
  7. Continue to keep your face in cold water until your body regulates (this usually takes about 2 minutes)

Check it out in action:

As you can likely see, this is a miserable strategy, and NO ONE enjoys it. But, if you have been struggling with panic attacks or severe anxiety, this skill will be able to calm you down as quickly as two minutes!

Words of caution: This is a really cold activity. If you have a heart condition, I’d strongly encourage you against trying this skill. This skill is effective in getting you to calm down, but it is a coping strategy not a problem solving technique. Meaning, if that original panic-inducing trigger has come back, you may need to plunge back into that cold water to get regulated. Give it a try and let me know how it worked for you!As always, feel free to share this post, or contact me for more details/support.