Social Anxiety and the Workplace: My Story

Hello, all!

I’m writing this post in a down moment during work. It’s checkout day today for the labs, so it’s been super busy and I’ve come into contact with no less than 200 people in the past two hours. As you know, I have mild to moderate social anxiety. I also work a part time job that involves customer service.

It can be trying at times, especially when I don’t know where to locate something or find my manager to help me out. I tend to get flustered easily, and when that happens, my stutter comes back to make things worse. So I have made myself a little mental list of what to do when my mind stutters briefly or if I start to have an anxiety attack.

The first thing I do is try to draw in a deep breath or two. That will automatically help lower my blood pressure and heart rate, making me feel more relaxed. It also gives my mind a chance to stop skipping and catch up to the situation. I also paste a smile on my face. It distracts both me and the person I’m trying to assist, buying me a bit more time as well. I usually try to apologize lightly after I regain ability to speak, or make a joke. This lightens the mood and dispenses with any awkwardness that might develop while the person is waiting. I also start to do things with my hands, such as writing or shuffling papers. It gives the person something to look at, and gives me a chance to sort my thoughts.

These techniques are techniques for buying time and offsetting a panic attack in public. The best guard against an attack, for my job at least, is knowing where to find whatever the student is looking for. The more knowledge I have about what I am doing, the less anxiety I have while serving someone I don’t know. These things allow me to work quickly and efficiently during a really busy day like today, when I have students clamoring for new locks and replacement glassware. Being organized also helps me keep up with demand, as well as lets me know where everything is.

These techniques still don’t stop my stomach from churning, or my cold sweats. They don’t cure this- they only help me curb the symptoms. I still get a bit freaked out at the prospect of going to work, but I honestly think it’s good for me to be exposed to lots of people. Life is that way. I may have social anxiety, but I can’t hole myself up and never come out of my room. I have to interact, and this job helps to give me the skills to hide my anxiety. I may never shake my social anxiety, but I can manage it well. I won’t let my disease control my actions even more than it has already.

I hope you have a great day!

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