Social interaction can cause many people to experience bodily reactions that make them feel highly uncomfortable around others. Common social anxiety disorder symptoms are blushing in public, sweating, and trembling hands. None of these are harmful in any way, but if people become overly conscious of these symptoms, it can lead to shying away from social contact, sometimes to the point of leaving their jobs. I’ll describe the approach I teach people to help them end this problem. I’ll use the example of a trembling hand, but the approach is the same for both blushing and sweating as well.
I’ve communicated with many people—from dental hygienists to professional athletes—who are desperately seeking a way to stop their hands from shaking when they’re anxious or under pressure. In such situations, their careers were directly impacted. Other people may experience trembling hands with less frequency, such as situations in which they have to sign their names in front of others.
The trick to ending this social anxiety disorder symptom is using the opposite approach from what they’re already been trying. Take, for example, the dental hygienist who immediately starts to shake as soon as the patient sits in the chair. It only takes the memory of previous shakes to start her hand trembling. She gets upset by the shakes, and she desperately tries with all her will to make it stop by tensing her hand and arm muscles. All the effort and stress only causes her hand to shake further.
To end the problem, she should reverse her approach. Instead of forcing her hand to be still with all her mental power, she should allow it to shake. In fact, she should encourage it to shake even more. If she can fully accept the shakes and encourage more of them, she ends the pressure she puts herself under, and with that, the shakes begin to fade away. The effort used in trying to stop the anxiety actually caused more of it. The answer is found in moving with the experience not against it. This same approach works for nervous sweating and blushing as well as other social anxiety disorder symptoms.
Note: if the hygienist didn’t care what others thought of her shaking, then the problem would disappear overnight. None of these problems (blushing, sweating, trembling) are ever a problem if people are alone. The problem is directly related to how people feel they’re being perceived in the eyes of others.
To ensure a complete recovery, you can train yourself to be less worried about the opinions of others. Tackling the social element of this problem is best done through visualizations. Each night, before going to bed, imagine yourself in a situation that would normally produce the reaction you’re trying to stop. This time, however, see yourself responding in the new manner:
My hand is shaking, but I’m not getting upset or embarrassed.
My face is red, but I’m completely composed.
My brow might be wet from sweat, but it doesn’t faze me.
You fully accept whatever way your body behaves, and you don’t get upset. You might even make light of it to those around you. The whole situation passes without any embarrassment.
This takes practice, but the goal is to override the idea of social embarrassment and replace it with acceptance and grace under pressure. Generally, people with social anxieties are too hard on themselves. In most cases, other people are never aware that there’s a problem in the first place. The real issue is in your mind because you distort the reality of the situation.