Tips for Coping With Social Anxiety in Virtual MeetingsLindsay Chambers
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us didn’t rely on video chat routinely, though tools such as Skype and FaceTime have been around for so long. But when our world changed seemingly overnight, these apps became part of people’s daily routine. Now, you might find yourself having to adapt to having everything from doctor’s appointments to birthday parties taking place through the screen of your laptop.
As you may have quickly discovered, social anxiety isn’t exclusively a face-to-face phenomenon. Knowing other people are watching you – and simultaneously having to see yourself “perform” – can be intensely anxiety-inducing for some people. If you find yourself dreading virtual meetings and struggling to embrace online chat, here are some ways you can manage.
1. Be Honest About Your Feelings
If you hate hearing a recorded playback of your voice, it’s likely you’ll be uncomfortable watching yourself on video, too. Video chats can be awkward in ways that real-life interactions aren’t. If you’re nervous or anxious, it’s likely those feelings will come across in physical cues such as blushing, stuttering and avoiding eye contact. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging your embarrassment to others on the call. You might even feel relieved if several people agree with you.
2. Log on Early
Part of your worries about virtual meetings may stem from allowing others a glimpse of your surroundings. To combat this, log into the call a few minutes ahead of time for a preview of how you look on camera. Is there any embarrassing clutter behind you that you wouldn’t want others to see? Is there adequate lighting in the room? If the preview displays any elements you don’t want to share on camera, adjust them ahead of time, so you won’t have to spend the entire meeting feeling uncomfortable.
3. Use Positive Self-Talk
Social anxiety often rears its head hours or even days before the interaction takes place. Positive self-talk is an excellent way to counteract any anticipatory worries. When you catch yourself thinking, “Everyone’s going to think I sound silly” or “This meeting is going to be a disaster,” reassure yourself that people value what you have to say. It will also help to visualize the meeting going smoothly. If you’re giving a presentation or making remarks, rehearse what you’re going to say until you feel confident.
4. Practice Mindfulness Techniques
During the meeting, if you find looking at your face stresses you out too much, focus on other details. Center yourself by intentionally redirecting your attention to what other people are wearing or the details of the room they’re in. Concentrate on what they’re saying when it’s their turn to speak. As a bonus, being an active listener will help you retain more valuable information from the meeting.
5. Breathe and Stretch
If you’re feeling panicky, you might start breathing more shallowly. Allow yourself 10 to 15 minutes before the meeting starts to practice deep breathing that will naturally help you feel more relaxed. While you’re at it, do some gentle stretches to release tension from your neck, shoulders, lower back and legs.
Managing Anxiety on Your Terms
If anxiety has started to overwhelm you, especially in these uncertain times, it’s essential to know how to get the help you need to overcome it. Serene Behavioral Health’s mental health services are here when life feels too difficult for you to manage on your own. Contact us anytime you’re ready to learn more.