I suffer from social anxiety, I would say, very severely. I have just finished a 6 week course on CBT and I honestly don't believe I have gained much; I know of course, that what you get out of it, depends on how much you put in - and out of 10, on how much effort I put in, I would give myself a 3. My therapist said that I am being too harsh on myself because she believes I have done really well and I am just catastrophizing.
Well, I have to wait 12 weeks now until I can go back for another 6 weeks. She has told me to always have some level of exposure everyday - well, I have already failed that. I have a self-help book that I am reading currently. My problem is I have no idea of what little "activities", or, as the book I am reading calls it, "mini-experiments" I can do - almost everything scares the hell out of me: going out anywhere, even having to answer my phone in public - just the act of pulling out my phone to check the time makes me fear that someone is watching upon me and judging, having to talk; even just saying please and thank you makes me anxious, the simple act of having to walk by someone in the street gives me an anxiety level of about 6, shopping, going for various appointments i.e. doctor, dentist, eye test etc.
The only activity I have done, and the one I feel a little confident about doing (although I have abandoned it the past 2 weeks) was to ask people the time. I had an exposure session with my therapist where I had to ask people for the time - I had asked 7 people I think. After this session, 2 days later I went out on my own for a little walk with the plan of asking every person I see for the time - I managed to ask one.
My problem is I look for any excuse to avoid asking the next person for the time i.e. if the person is a little old, my head will say "avoid asking old people" - if the person is with another, if it is a couple for example, my head will say "avoid asking a couple for the time" - if the person is rather attractive, my head will say "avoid asking attractive people" - if the person wears a certain style of clothes, or looks a certain way, my head will say "avoid people with that style of clothes with that look" - and eventually, I exclude pretty much everybody and end up not asking anyone the time. This get's me angry... and literally to the point where I feel I have failed at my whole life... where I feel life is pointless and meaningless... at this point I start losing energy and almost the will to live. Then, even with these thoughts come more thoughts like "all the fuss over asking people for the time" - which makes the anxiety far more worse... hello vicious cycle!
Now, if I am to think rationally, it is clear that I over catastrophize and always pull myself down. I know that. But knowing that, and identifying my irrational thoughts is not enough to change them. Having asked those 7 people the time, I remember thinking that night, "it is easy really... I was making a fuss out of nothing" and I honestly felt really confident - I can't remember feeling that confident - and the thought that it was achieved just by asking people the time made my outlook look good.
The next day however, I felt right back at square one - hence why I was too down to go out and follow through with the plan to expose myself everyday. Since then, there has been no improvement. I tried to look at the positives I got from doing it last time, but it is not enough.
I apologise for this long message and I hope I haven't deterred anyone from responding.
If you skipped this, basically, I just need some advice - any advice... but mainly, I need more ideas for little activities to do. I hoped that by giving this little explanation of the severity of the anxiety, that this will help you think of some ideas for me. Literally, just saying "Hi" to someone would probably give me an anxiety of about 7-8.