When you are called on or put on the spot, do the opposite of what anxiety wants you to do. No reason to panic. Instead, slow yourself down. Relax as much as possible. Loosen up your muscles and take your time.
If you are asked a question in public, you do not need to snap to attention and blurt out an answer. Anxiety loves it when you act speedily. Instead, slow your thinking down by relaxing, give yourself a second or two to answer, and then answer using slow talk. Answer the best you can -- that's all you can ever do.
Take your time. Do not let others rush you, and don't rush yourself.
We do not want to put pressure on ourselves, or rush ourselves, because that means we are causing our adrenal glands to release the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. It is the release of these two chemicals into the brain that makes us feel "anxious" or "afraid". How can we stop the adrenaline and cortisol rush?
One detrimental tendency of people working on overcoming social anxiety is trying to move too fast, too soon. We all want to overcome social anxiety disorder, but there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to do it. The best and most effective way is to choose the easiest person (or situation) to begin with, and keep doing this until your anxiety about that event is gone.
When you're in a new situation, follow the same procedure. You will find that you never, ever NEED to take more than "one step" in your movement against social anxiety. Soon, the level eight or nine anxiety situation will become a level one anxiety situation, so long as you continue on with the therapy.
In life, we are constantly put into situations that are unpredictable. This makes setting up hierarchies slow, cumbersome, and ineffective. Instead, if you are put into a meeting, a classroom, or anything social, do this: Look around, find an easy person to talk to, and gently try a few minutes of small talk.
If you try forcing yourself to go faster by talking to the most difficult people first, or to attempt to give a public presentation before you are ready for it, you will have setbacks and you will likely beat yourself up constantly for not doing things "right," and for not living up to the imposible standards you have set up for yourself in your own mind.
These negative experiences happen when we are pushing too fast and "struggling" too much with anxiety, rather than using calmness and acceptance when anxiety becomes present. It may seem like a paradox, but many things in life are: One small step gets you to your goal faster. If we are to truly overcome social anxiety disorder, it is crucial that we understand this idea and start applying it to our lives each and every day.
It is important that we make a start, and put ourselves in situations that do cause us anxiety, because we will never overcome the problem if we don't do that. However, exposing ourselves to anxiety situations in the "right way" makes all the difference in how quickly and efficiently we are able to overcome this traumatic anxiety disorder.
When comparing the "one step forward" approach to the traditional "anxiety hierarchy" approach, we found this to be significantly better for people with social anxiety. People go through anxiety situations with less worry, they move forward faster, and there are fewer major setbacks which slow our progress.
Comprehensive CBT Therapy Groups run three times a year at the Social Anxiety Institute.