Hello, nice to meet you! I have waited to see if people would reply to your post. Hmm, people are lazy... Well, to be serious, I think maybe it's also because we can all understand what you are feeling. This is social anxiety for most of us.
I just returned to SAI. I was here many years ago. At that time and in therapy groups, we referred to that situation where everyone was going around the room, like in a circle, as the "Circle of Death"! Now, I don't think the current groups call it that. But it's the same activity we work on - "Introductions". If you ask for hands-up who is anxious in this situation - I bet you will have almost everyone on this forum raising their hand. And then public speaking!! -I've always had this feeling that I don't really like to sum up social anxiety problems just by saying it's a fear of public speaking, when I try to explain social anxiety to someone who asks me. It's the easiest thing for someone to understand, but social anxiety goes so much deeper than that and touches every thought, every event potentially, in our lives. But yes, I used to think public speaking was "the impossible".
I think you say a very good thing - "I... am struggling with slowing down". First, this is a big part of social anxiety - the speeding up, the adrenaline, the cortisol, the flight or fight rush that seems uncontrollable for us in that moment. So much of the therapy is about slowing down. And this doesn't come easy. For some people, I notice that it is even harder, for the people who are really "speedy". These people need to almost practice twice as hard to use slow talk, to practice slowing down more than they think. And it's hard to change these habits. Don't be too hard on yourself for still feeling anxiety. I would advise continue practicing the slowing down, the slow talk. Really practice, and probably as we all must do, you will continue the therapy or repeat it.
When I first came to the therapy group, the cognitive part, and I had finished the series, that part got me mentally ready, but I still was truly scared of the behavioral stuff - the doing part. Speaking still freaked me out but I was able to slow down and see it rationally at least. That didn't mean it just comes easy. Still had to go through it and review the thinking and the doing many times.
By session 8, some big themes are: slow talk, catching ANTs, the ANTs handout, rational coping statements, the look around technique, the paradox of anxiety, and accepting myself as I am right now. Don't feel like you are failing at this. Remember in Session 4 the handout "Social Anxiety Makes You Believe That Getting Better is Impossible". It's not impossible if you stick with it. Slowly, surely if you keep up with the therapy, do the therapy, you'll get better at slowing down, start to believe the rational more, start to be able to tap into the slow talk and really slowing down more. All that adds up.
Now, for the "Circle of Death" activity, what do we actually do in the group? First, we have already talked about slowing down, relaxing the body, and we remind ourselves to focus outward. Focus as much as we can on what the other people are saying at that moment so we don't retreat into our ANTs thoughts. And we're breathing and trying to relax. Second, we think about it beforehand what we are going to say. Yes, we think about how we are going to introduce ourselves with a short, simple and professional introduction. So, we've PRACTICED it. Sometimes we pretend that it's a business meeting. In this case, the leader introduces the meeting and then asks each person to introduce themselves as the "meeting" gets started. And in this case we have some sort of short example like "Hi everyone. I'm Mateo from the XYZ department. I'm from Los Angeles, California. I like hiking and reading books." --And that's it. That's all you need to say. If we practice this like a class in school where the teacher asks for everyone to introduce themselves, we would say something like, "Hello everyone. My name is Mateo. I'm from Los Angeles. My hobbies are hiking and reading books." That's all, and that's all you need to practice really in most any situation. When we say this we try to use slow talk, slow down, and when we say the very end "...reading books" ... we try to make the tone of your voice go down, so that it is understood you are finished, and it's the next person's turn. And really, this short and sweet introduction is all people want - your name, maybe one fact about you - like where you are from, etc, and one or two of your hobbies. Nobody wants to hear more than that in real world situations - usually - especially not in large group introductions like that. You can try to think of your own, short introduction like this, and at home, alone, you can practice this in slow talk, and let your tone go down at the end. Even people without social anxiety, sometimes they get flustered or don't know when to stop talking, so they talk on and on a bit too much because being nervous is natural. You'd be very surprised how easy and professional the people sound in the group with such simple introductions, and each one of these people are terrified at first about this exact situation. But the point is - we practice.
We practice the slowing down, the rational, the relaxing, and focusing out. Then we put that into behavioral activities.
In Session 2, refer to the supplemental handout - "Four Foundational Areas Diagram". 1. Slowing down/calming methods. 2. Controlling/reducing ANTs. 3. Paradoxical/Counterintuitive Strategies - don't fight/resist. 4. Perception (how you view yourself). This sums up the four major areas that we need to keep reinforcing therapy about to overcome social anxiety. We keep working on these four major areas throughout the entire series. This sums up our cognitive therapy quite clearly. So, for you to still have not "mastered" or achieved some level of improvement that you want right now in all these 4 areas is very understandable. This is what we are working on, eventually all of it together and all of it reinforcing each other and the whole. And "mastering" is not a word I would want to use, too much pressure, unecessary pressure that we don't need to pile on ourselves.
I think for all of us, not just you, we all need to practice the fundamental slowing down and relaxing more than we think we do. Continue with that and continue with catching the ANTs and those big words like "impossible" and make that neutral and rational.