There’s a good chance that we’ve all experienced feelings of nervousness and anxiety in response to real or perceived threats at one time or another. For most people, these feelings are absolutely normal as the brain is hard-wired to caution you at times of danger. However, for those of us with social anxiety, these feelings can be all-consuming, impairing our ability to enjoy life as we’d otherwise like to.
One of the most detrimental effects of social anxiety is its ability to isolate you; triggering feelings that make you feel fearful and unworthy of company. People with social anxiety might notice their anxiety increase during social interactions, even during times that are enjoyable and positive. Worse still, feeling immobilized and powerless against their feelings, they suffer in silence and avoid situations that bring them in contact with people.
Social anxiety disorder (or social phobia as it is sometimes called) is more than being awkward or shy. It is a type of complex phobia of negative judgement that can impair an individual’s confidence, mental stability, lifestyle, emotional wellbeing, and relationships to say the least.
Fortunately, despite being complex, social anxiety is a surmountable disorder. By making lifestyle changes such as the ones discussed in this article, you can, in time, learn ways to manage your anxiety. You can also learn ways to approach social events with confidence while allowing any perceived flaws to go by without prejudice or judgment.
How our Brains Respond to Anxiety
In essence, our thoughts have the ability to manifest as physical reactions in our bodies. In fact, our bodies- in response to the flight-or-fight response- trigger stress hormones into the bloodstream the moment they’re subjected to any type of anxiety. These stress hormones, if not put to rest in quick time, can manifest into responses such as accelerated heartbeat, headaches, nausea, sweating, muscle tension, stammering, and trembling. Worse, over time and negligence, they can also weaken the immune system and leave us vulnerable to a host of ailments.
The Role of Nutrition in controlling Symptoms of Social Anxiety
When it comes to controlling the symptoms of social anxiety disorder (SAD), what you eat can help determine how your day is likely to go. Incorporating healthy eating habits can mean the difference between a turbulent mind or a steadier state. In general, experts suggest:
- Consuming smaller but regular meals
- Choosing whole grains and good carbohydrates instead of processed grains and complex carbohydrates
- Avoiding refined or artificial sugar as well as canned or packaged foods
- Consuming herbal tea instead of caffeine-rich drinks
- Avoiding alcohol
- Getting your daily dose of multi-vitamins
- Consuming foods rich in omega-3 Fatty Acids such as nuts, seeds and cold water fish
- Consuming probiotics and fermented foods
- Staying well hydrated
Exercise as an Anti-Anxiety Treatment
Exercising regularly can help alleviate triggers of social anxiety. If you suffer from social anxiety disorder and don’t already try to engage in regular exercise, then it’s time you consider incorporating a physical activity into your daily routine.
Yoga in combination with breathing and meditation techniques can help decrease anxiety while allowing you to be mindful of your thoughts and feelings. Likewise, Tai Chi can reduce stress and blood pressure while improving self-esteem and mood. Additionally, general aerobic exercises such as walking, running, cycling and swimming work wonders at controlling overall anxiety-driven symptoms. Your best bet is to find a routine that suits your interests and convenience.
If leaving your home is a problem, you can still reap the benefits of exercise by following along with yoga (or other exercise) videos such as this one.
Going to to bed early and getting enough sleep can take down those jitters
It’s common understanding that people with erratic sleep patterns are more vulnerable to feeling anxious and jittery. Let’s face it, there’s a good chance we’ve all felt anxious, pessimistic, and irritable as a consequence of getting little or poor-quality sleep.
A bored and wandering mind, when left to its own devices, can drift towards repetitive and unrelenting thoughts that take the form of debilitating worry. Fortunately, getting better quality sleep is one of the immediate benefits of exercising regularly. If you can push yourself to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and sleep adequately, you’ll find yourself having greater control over your anxiety.
The Power of Breathing
In essence, your experience of life is defined by the thoughts in your head. If you can slow the flow of your thoughts and utilize the time in between to observe these thoughts with detachment, you’ll realize that nothing in life is worth stressing about too much.
The key is to shift your mind towards a state of “mindfulness” such that you bring it back to the present every time it slips away. Staying mindful of your breathing patterns will help you find a way to settle your thoughts and overcome all that might be stressing you out presently. As a result, you’ll be able to zone out of situations and energies that breed negativity and distress.
Breathing Meditation for Anxiety
- Observe your breath, bringing your entire awareness to it.
- Observe the reactions it has on your body.
- Now, when you become comfortable watching and observing your breath, shift your focus to the rest of your body, singling out each part one at a time.
- Observe your nostrils flex while following the rhythmic patterns of your breath. Observe the sensations they stimulate while following their natural rhythm.
- Continue to observe your entire body, starting from the top of your head to the rest of your body. Observe their responses to your breath. Do you feel your muscles stiffen, perhaps at the thought of being watched? Do you sense some stiffness and pain around the regions you focus, sensations that you never thought existed until then?
- If you do, simply continue to observe them until the resistance or rigidity you face drops and melts away.
- If the experience is a bit too overwhelming, feel free to break away or stop mid-way. Remember that you’re merely an observer and do not want to control your actions or thoughts in any way. However when you choose to resume your meditation, revisit the body part you’d left mid-way and continue to observe its response to your breath.
- As you progress further into this meditation, you will notice your breath integrate seamlessly with your mind and body. You’ll also notice your mind stay willingly inside your body and recognize a sense of peace flow through it.
- Lastly, when you’ve completed the practice and are maybe feeling more peace from within, take a few moments to surrender to the peaceful energy that vibrates within you while staying grateful for the liberating experience.
Mindful Meditation as a way to find Peace and Stability
Anxiety is the mind’s defense mechanism to short-term emergency crisis. The stress you’re likely to feel at the thought of being subjected to company might stem from insecurities of being judged, ridiculed or isolated even more.
As negative as these feelings might be, your mind is more than capable of handling the situation when you train it to be mindful of its thoughts. Now, I understand that this might not be easy for many of us. However, in time and with practice, you can train your mind step back and release. Practicing meditation regularly can help you achieve exactly that.
Practicing Verbal Affirmations
Verbal affirmations are words you wilfully use, and by that I mean you think, speak, and believe in order to flesh out the reality you seek.
Practicing the below meditation can help reverse any doubts to life-affirming positive thoughts.
Begin this practice by saying “I can and I will!”
Use absolute positive statements to bring life to all your dreams and aspirations. Use statements such as:
- I love myself and am at ease with my mind.
- I can and will overcome this trouble quickly.
- I believe I can make this happen.
- I am good at what I do.
- I feel happy and content from the inside.
- This too shall pass and I know my way out of it.
Repeat these power statements as and when you want to, maybe just for a minute, or even for 10 minutes. Additionally, I urge you to practice this meditation at a time when you’re feeling most anxious. You’ll be surprised at the increased level of confidence and happiness you’re likely to feel soon after.
Now that you’ve gained insight on ways to address social anxiety, I hope you feel able to take the effort to incorporate some of these changes. The choices you embrace can help you achieve a greater sense of self and calm. Simply put, they can help you be the version of yourself that you know you're meant to be.
Remember that there’s always a way out of any anxiety-driven thoughts and feelings that you might be experiencing. Most importantly, remember that you are not alone. The whole world is waiting to discover and befriend you. All you need to do is meet them half-way.
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Glad you enjoyed it Jonathon!
Written on Wed, 04 Jan 2017 22:16:44 by Adam
Really good read - Thank you!
Written on Wed, 04 Jan 2017 21:55:42 by Jonathan