Suggested Activities for Behavioral Activation to Defeat Social Anxiety
(for teens and young adults)
© Anthony Pantaleno,
is just a shrink’s fancy language for getting you off of your butt and
away from your computer screen.
When social anxiety
keeps you away from people because of your irrational fears about
failure, “looking bad”, freezing and not knowing what to say, avoiding
or escaping social opportunities, etc, what you need is a fresh activity
where you can become engaged. It does not have to involve the actual
setting that you fear most! In fact, if it is a neutral setting where
people don’t already know you, that’s even better! No one will know
what is in your head, and no one will know your history of social
anxiety or that your heart is pounding when you show up for the very
But let’s be VERY
clear about one thing – psychiatric medication may help to manage your
symptoms, which are VERY REAL – however, the one scientifically
validated way out of this is not to avoid social situations. You have
learned that avoidance SEEMS to work because when you stay home and take
no risks, your anxiety symptoms are zero!! So – will you plan to stay
home and avoid people your whole life? Not a great game plan.
The harsh truth is
that the way OUT of social anxiety is to DIVE STRAIGHT INTO IT!
This sounds crazy, I
know, but research has shown time and time again that socially anxious
people who slowly APPROACH and work to STAY IN various socially
challenging situations WHILE they are symptomatic WILL, over time,
conquer their anxiety. Think of learning to swim or ride a bike or
drive a car. All humans have about the same capacity to learn each of
these skills. For those of us who have not mastered them, I would
suggest that they may have initially struggled with the task, found it
difficult, experienced some level of frustration or embarrassment, and
just decided to live their lives without ever swimming or driving in the
summer ,or riding a bike throughout the changing seasons of the year.
How sad is that?
I want you to have a
life worth waking up to every day, not a life of just “settling” for
those activities which do not seem to trigger the physiological and
cognitive symptoms which maintain your anxiety.
Here are a few
recommendations to get you back in the game. They say that talk is
cheap, but THERAPY IS NOT! Take action…NOW!!
an extracurricular activity at your college or attend a club “mixer” at
the start of the semester or school year where all the clubs hang out
and tell you what they do, how to join, etc.
doing volunteer work for an organization that helps people with
something that YOU have a passion about. Do you like working with
children? Senior citizens? Cleaning up a beach? Caring for animals?
Playing cards or chatting with retired armed forces veterans? Check out
volunteer association web sites.
You can get training to become a hotline volunteer at RESPONSE of
Suffolk County, work with senior citizens at the Gurwin Nursing Home,
mentor a child through the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program or the
Mentoring Partnership of Long Island, or work as a volunteer in the Long
Island Special Olympics. Search their web site – A LOT of very cool
choices are available, and you can apply to be a volunteer in some
programs as young as fourteen years of age.
a complete list of volunteer organizations on Long Island.
the art and fun of public speaking at
There are MANY branches of this international group on Long Island.
an adult education course of YOUR choosing at a place like the
Huntington Art League. Visit them at
out vocational training opportunities for adults with disabilities at
the NYS ACCES program. Go to:
6. If you’re
over 21, you may want to check out some of the social networking
venues that offer a variety of social opportunities
for young adults… like
However, be cautious. Don't give personal information to
strangers you meet online (such as your home address). If meeting
in-person be sure it is a safe, public place you are familiar with
(such as a restaurant in a busy location) and watch your drink, cell
phone and wallet. You could ask a friend to call your cell
phone during that time so you can say things are OK or have a
pre-arranged signal that you need help. These precautions are
not to scare you, but to make you feel safe.
7. Join a gym or
take a yoga class in your community. Enroll in a one-day workshop
or a retreat weekend with a friend or loved one to learn the
physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness meditation.
There are a number of beautiful mountain retreat settings in
upstate New York and in the Berkshire mountains of
Massachusetts. Check out
8. Check out
the web pages of two highly trained and experienced colleagues in
the field of social anxiety:
9. Find a
mental health professional who runs psychotherapy groups or a social
skills groups. Find out about when the group meets, how many people
are in the group and what are their ages, and the cost of a group
session. You may go to
and click the Find A Psychologist link. Under Area of Interest,
or Social Skills Groups.
If you don’t have access to a car to get yourself to these venues,
perhaps you should consider getting a NYS
learner’s permit! Go to:
and click on Drivers Licesnses and Learners Permits.
SOMETHING TODAY… LIFE IS WAITING FOR YOU… NEVER GIVE UP!!