Things I've learned. - Social Anxiety Forum
 
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-04-2008, 04:52 PM Thread Starter
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Things I've learned.


This may be a bit long (and I might break things up into individual posts if it gets too long) but I'm hoping someone will take something away from what I have to say.

After doing quite a bit of research and recently reading a book called "Self-Coaching", I've come to believe that SA is a psychological thing. When we were younger, we took rejection or issues with our own insecurity in a really negative way where we never learned to "get over it". As adults, we've taken this negative habit and forced ourselves to create a protective bubble over ourselves in an attempt to control our lives so that we don't feel the pain from rejection.

Recently, I've given up on taking supplements or exercising. The reason for this is because when we do these things (including professional therapy), we want to believe that our anxiety will go away. Although these things may help the physical aspects of our anxiety, it's up to us to truly get over it. If we don't start thinking in a more positive way, each time we are rejected, the anxiety will come right back.

I know some of you may think it's hard to fix yourselves when you may not like yourself or you lack the motivation to get better. However, if there wasn't even a little part of yourself that wanted to get better, you wouldn't be on this message board in the first place. We all want to get better. We all want to live the lives we've dreamed of. You can either wallow away until you're death years and years and years from now or you can slowly take the time to make your life the one you deserve.

The truth is, up until a couple of weeks ago, I was the type of person that I described above. I was looking for an easy way out. Medication, exercising, none of that did ANYTHING for me. It didn't even ease the physical problems I had. I was absolutely sick of feeling sorry for myself so I read a book that I had already read once before and something clicked. From this book, I learned that you will only be anxiety-free if you do two things- 1)Like yourself. 2)Learn to control your thinking. There are also a couple of things that I've learned on my own that I'll touch on later.

I'm not cured of my anxiety. I think that's something that will take time. But I've certainly learned to control it. I think some of us get upset because we experience anxiety in the first place. Why can't we do things that seem so simple to other people? Once you understand that your years and years of bad habits have lead you to be this way, you'll understand that it's not easy to break a habit and you have to train yourself to form positive habits. It may take months, but isn't that easier than wallowing away in your pain for the rest of your life?

Since this is getting long, I'm going to break up the "things I've learned" into individual posts. My next post will be on "Learning to like yourself".
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-04-2008, 05:23 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Things I've learned.


Learning to like yourself

Having read through quite a few posts on this message board, all I really see is negativity. SAers see things in black and white. Either your day went really bad or it was really good. And your day can't be really good if you swim in a pool of negativity. So of course it makes sense that just about every post is negative.

Like I said in the previous post, some of you may not have the motivation to do better because you don't like yourself. If you didn't like yourself or feel as though you're worthy of doing better, than you wouldn't be here now. If absolutely nothing in the world can make you happy or if you have no goals in life, then you have a reason to sit at home all day and sulk. But I know every single one of us has at least one goal and at least one thing that makes us happy.

Try this: Make a list of things you'd like to do and goals you'd like to accomplish. It can be something small or something important. For example, on my list I wrote down that I'd like to see a favorite band in concert. I also wrote down "graduate from college". Both things are on opposite sides of the spectrum concerning importance but they both would make me happy if I accomplished them. Take this list and post it somewhere that you'll see it everyday. Make sure you leave extra lines in case you want to add something else. As you achieve these things, cross them out and write the date that it was accomplished next to it. These goals will give you something to look forward to and thus, give you motivation to become happier.

It's extremely important that you treat yourself better. Sometimes being selfish is a good thing. Make a list of things that make you happy and do them whenever you can. If music makes you happy, play it when you can. If relaxing in a nice, warm bath after a long day makes you happy, try to have a bath at least once a week. Treat yourself whenever you can. Buy that shirt that looks good on you. Have a movie night with popcorn once a week. Do anything that promotes positivity in you.

A month ago, I couldn't go out with friends without overthinking everything. I couldn't go to a movie without wondering what everyone was thinking of me. I've gone to the movies twice in the past couple of weeks and I've thought to myself "Who cares if my friend thinks I'm boring? I'm going to have a good time and watch this movie. And you know what? Even if my friend doesn't think that I'm the most exciting person ever, I'm thankful for the experience and I'm thankful that I'm doing SOMETHING to make me feel better". Because I stopped worrying, I had a really great time and my friend doesn't think I'm boring. We've made plans to hang out since then.

Once you've accepted the fact that no matter what, you were given this body and this life and you can either be good to it or bad to it, you'll see that the only option is being good to it. "But, childofsolitude, my life sucks because I live at home with my parents and I have no friends and I have no social skills!!" Let's put this into perspective, shall we? The other day I was talking to a coworker and complaining about how I hate wearing my glasses because they feel weird on my face but I need to use them since I can't see far away. The two of us were talking back and forth when another coworker walked in and basically told me that I need to shut up and be thankful for what I have. The reason? My coworker is blind. And the funny thing is that she's one of the happiest people I've ever met. Unless you're blind or a kid with AIDS living in the poorest parts of Africa (and I hate to be so blunt... I'm not trying to sound offensive), do we really have any reason to complain simply because we have difficulty being around other people? We need to stop treating ourselves like victims.

Next post will be on "Changing your way of thinking".
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-04-2008, 06:34 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Things I've learned.


Changing your way of thinking-part 1

Boy do I have a lot to say on this topic. That's why I'm breaking this down into two parts. In part 1, we'll discuss changing your way of thinking in terms of how you see the world and other people and how to think positive in general.

If there's one thing I've learned that I will always remember, it's that seeing grey is always better than seeing black and white. I remember reading an article in a magazine a few months ago that was titled "5 Secrets of Happy People". One of the "secrets" was appreciating the small things. Instead of being upset that summer is over, go for a walk and look at the colors of the leaves that autumn brings. Make it a point to brighten someone's day. If someone pays you a small compliment, take it. If you're anxious about having to go into a store to do some grocery shopping, give yourself a pat on the back after you're done because you got through it.

Instead of looking at everything negatively, think of at least one positive thing that came out of the situation. If a social situation didn't go the way you wanted to, think about how you at least had the courage to do something social or be thankful for the experience. In part two of this topic, I'll discuss why it's important to look at things positively because of how it effects your mood and anxiety.

It's common for us to feel worthless and abnormal when we're rejected. EVERYONE, whether they have SA or not, feels hurt when they are rejected. SAers just don't know how to process the situation so that it doesn't take a serious toll on our moods. Most people are able to let go at some point. SAers don't know how to. If we feel rejected in a social setting, we automatically assume it's because we're freaks and we're not capable of socializing. The funny thing is that an outsider might not even notice that we said something stupid or had nothing to say. Or instead of stewing in our social retardation, why can't we think that, gee, not everyone has the same personality so not everyone is going to want to be my friend. Think about it. If we all got along with each other, we'd be friends with everyone in the world. That's not possible nor does it make sense.

Something that used to bother me a lot was seeing other people out in public who appeared to be having more fun than me. Everyone else was happier, more social, better looking, etc. Think about the popular kids in school. You are envious of them because they appear to be happier than you. When I was in 9th grade, I stopped looking at the popular kids as people on a pedestal. I remember sitting in English class and two popular girls were sitting next to me. One girl asked me who I had a crush on. When I told her no one, she scoffed and said that I HAD to like someone because it's impossible to not have a crush on someone everyday of your life. Honestly, from that day forward I just thought that those kids were pathetic. If that was a requirement in order to be popular, I was fine being normal.

Or let me use another example: celebrities. People look up to celebrities because they're supposed to do no wrong. That is until they DO do something wrong and they're no longer god like. I was going through a bit of depression a couple of months ago because I had a favorite actress that seemed so happy and beautiful and just perfect and I looked at my life and thought I was worthless in comparison. One day I was watching a vlog (video blog) that she does with two other women and noticed that she was a camera hog. Talk about a turn off. After watching that, I looked at her as though she was a normal human being.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that everyone is different and everyone has issues. You're not going to get along with everyone so just stop trying to please/impress everyone you meet. If you're not being yourself, why would you want these people as friends knowing that you have to go above and beyond everytime you see them in order to keep up? Has anyone ever heard of Postsecret? If you haven't, it's a blog that basically is used for people to post secrets that they have. I've learned that everyone has a secret. Everyone has something that is bugging them secretly. NO ONE is ever completely happy. I have a quote written on a board in my room that says "Be careful what you say for everyone is fighting some kind of battle".

Don't feel like you have to be perfect because no one is. Don't feel like you're abnormal because you're certainly not. Even people who are boring and have nothing nice to say have friends. Don't feel like people won't like you for being you. And most importantly, try to look at everything you do with even a hint of positivity. I can almost guarantee you that if you do, you'll live a life even better than those pathetic popular kids in school.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-04-2008, 07:31 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Things I've learned.


Changing your way of thinking-part 2

In part two, we'll discuss changing your way of thinking in terms of controlling your social anxiety.

I hate, hate, hate going to the doctors. Something must've happened when I was younger that made me afraid as an adult. When I was much younger, my mom would put my doctor appointment dates on the refridgerator door so that I knew when my appointment was. And for about a week before my appointment, I freaked out. When I was 13 or 14, I asked my mom if when she made my yearly doctor's appointment if she could not tell me until the day before my appointment. One day, I was at a cousin's house where I went on a jet ski, caught crabs, ate good food, and just had a great time. When I got in the car to go home, my mom told me that I had my doctor's appointment the next day. I was so thankful that she hadn't told me earlier because I knew I wouldn't be able to have fun since I'd be thinking about the appointment like crazy.

So, as an adult, when I have a doctor's appointment or when I make plans to do something social, I fret about it constantly for days. A few weeks ago I had made plans to go out with a friend and my anxiety was killing me. I put on some music and sang along and about 30 minutes later, when the music stopped, I began thinking about my plans again. But for that 30 minutes, I wasn't thinking about it. I was living in the moment. And only until recently did I put two and two together and realize that the reason for my anxiety being so bad is because I think too much.

As I've mentioned a few times already, I read a book a couple of weeks ago that made something click. There was one thing that I took from the book that literally made me cry tears of joy because I finally understood. And that one thing is living in the moment vs. living in your mind. That's what SAers do-we live in our minds. Instead of enjoying what we're doing, we overthink and process and overthink and process until we go crazy.

I used to go into a store and the first thing I'd see was people. It's like my mind would zone in on every person in the store and that's all I could think of rather than looking at the items on the shelves. Today I went to the store, walked right in, and pictured the store as if there were no people in it. My mind was immediately at ease. Why do we let other people (who probably aren't even paying attention to us) run our lives? Those people are just going to go home, put their groceries away, and continue on with their lives. And what are we going to do? We're going to go home and overprocess until we're depressed because of what we THINK these people were thinking about us. Try this: If you're ever upset about something (and I'll explain later how to not let things upset us in the first place), say to yourself "Why is this bothering me?" over and over and over again. Eventually, you'll realize that there's no reason to be upset.

The book tells you that thinking anxious thoughts causes anxiety to set in. At first, I found it hard to believe that the reason why I get anxious is because my thoughts tell me to be afraid. Since my mind essentially goes blank in social situations, I thought it was impossible for my mind to "tell" me anything. However, I learned that out of habit, I subconciously told myself to be afraid. If I had time to think about it (even only a few seconds), my mind turned into panic mode. For example, I work at a grocery store. Whenever I'd see a customer coming up to me, I was telling myself "There is a customer coming my way. What if she talks to me? What if I say something stupid?". If someone were to tap me on my shoulder when I wasn't looking and ask a question, I was calm and not as anxious. So you know how to fix this? Stop thinking. I know it seems hard but just try it. We like to think about social situations hours (and sometimes days) beforehand so that we can rule out any possibility of embarassing ourselves or feeling any rejection. This makes things worse. Instead of being calm, you're more anxious because you allowed yourself to think about it.

Like I said, it may seem hard but it works. The other day I went up to a cashier and asked her a question without thinking about it beforehand. The result? I was calm and I talked normally. Try this: If you have an appointment or something social you have plans for, keep yourself busy up until the time you go. Try to involve yourself completely into whatever you're doing. If an anxious thought tries to creep in, don't allow it. Visualize yourself pushing that negative thought away. Or do what I do. If my anxiety starts to creep in, I breathe out very deeply and visualize myself breathing out the negativity. Then I continue whatever I was doing. You may have to do this several times but I promise you you'll feel better than if you were to allow those anxious thoughts to run around in your head for hours.

Last week, I found out that a few of my coworkers had a negative nickname for me. My first response was to be upset about it but I decided to practice self-coaching and I pushed it out of my head. Before I read this book, I'd probably process the situation for a long time until I felt that I was "OK" with it. Deep down, I wasn't OK with it because I ALLOWED myself to think about it and it put me in a bad mood. Although processing gave me temporary relief, it hurt me in the long run. You can't stop all negative thoughts to enter your head but if they do, you can "fix" these thoughts. For example, if you did something that made you feel like a failure, correct those thoughts and turn it into something positive. Tell yourself "You know what? I tried my best and I'll do better next time". Then stop thinking about it. Done.

Ever notice that even when you're in a good mood, your mood can quickly turn sour when you're with someone who's negative? That's because negative energy overpowers positive energy. If you allow yourself to think negatively, whether it's a complete thought or a subconscious thought, your mood will suffer. Learning how to control negative thoughts is the key to overcoming your anxiety.

Next post will be about controlling your breathing.
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-04-2008, 07:43 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Things I've learned.


This next (and possibly final) post will talk about easing your anxiety with breathing.

Did you know that the average person should only breathe 4 or 5 times per minute? Bet you thought it was much more. I encourage you all to visit this website: http://www.breathing.com/tests.htm and take the breathing test to test your breathing. I found out that I breathe incorrectly and this could make my anxiety worse.

Aside from the obvious health benefits, breathing correctly is beneficial because it can ease your physical anxiety symptoms. Think about it. In movies when people hyperventilate, they're given a paper bag where they breathe deeply in and out. This calms people who hyperventilate so it makes sense that it calms us anxious people as well.

Go that website that I posted above and practice breathing correctly whenever you can. Eventually the correct way will replace your old way of breathing.

Another great thing about breathing is that it helps people like myself who experience free floating anxiety. If you're experience free floating anxiety, concentrate on your breathing. Not only will this calm you, but it'll also take your mind off of the anxiety. This works for SAers when they're in social settings. Just take a minute to concentrate on your breathing and you'll feel much better.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-06-2008, 05:01 PM
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Re: Things I've learned.


Thanks for sharing this with us,

I actually found it very useful... I hadn't slept in a few days because of anxiety attacks (due to my over-thinking of the situation). I just sat in my bed and thought about place's I had been that I enjoyed and soon enough I was in a deep sleep. The thing is I was so use to thinking about what I was going to do in the days ahead that the only thing I could do was worry, and to be honest I have never thought about just not thinking about it.

I agree with the breathing thing too, when I feel anxious I breathe deeper and it helps a lot, just be sure to stop thinking of what is troubling you and you're fine. That's what I did today when going through my training at my job, a bunch of managers were sitting by me (making fun of other employee's, one being my friend LOL).

- Curtis
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 08-07-2008, 01:13 AM
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Re: Things I've learned.


Bump, because this is an excellent post. Probably should be stickied.
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 09-18-2008, 07:40 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Things I've learned.


Hey guys. It's been over a month since I last posted in this thread and I figured I'd give you all an update. Although my social anxiety is still there, I'm able to control it to the point where it doesn't effect my life anymore. I'm no longer depressed and I also have an awesome social life. I go out with friends a few times a week and I've been asked by coworkers to hang out in the future. I'm able to go in public places without completely freaking out. With that said, there are a few other things I'd like to discuss that I forgot to mention in previous posts and/or I've learned since my last post.

First of all, I'd like to talk about how to ignore the physical symptoms of SA. Because I stopped caring what others think of me, my social anxiety was certainly less severe than it was to begin with. However, because I hadn't trained my brain to stop feeling anxious in social situations, I still experienced physical symptoms of anxiety. I have to say that the physical symptoms literally and figuratively hurt the most. The jitters, the tightness in my chest, it was enough to make me want to puke.

So in order to get rid of this feeling, I decided to use a couple of techniques to rid myself of this discomfort. First, like I mentioned above, I used deep breathing techniques. When I'm entering a social situation and I start to feel nervous, I breathe out deeply while making a sort of hissing noise (not loudly obviously) and I visualize my body blocking the anxiety from entering me. It probably sounds stupid but it works.

Another thing I do is I turn my nervous feelings into positive feelings. One thing I noticed that I would do when I became nervous is that I would focus on my nerves to the point where I put myself in a terrible mood because I was mad at myself for feeling nervous in the first place. I'm telling you that a HUGE part of our problem is that we focus too much on our anxiety. Like I posted in another post in this thread, if we allow ourselves to think about a social situation beforehand, we become more anxious and I can almost promise you that thinking beforehand will make the situation worse. If you begin to experience physical symptoms of SA, turn your feelings into good ones. Picture that tightness in your chest melting into you. Or pretend you're feeling excited, not nervous. I've mentioned it before but I'll mention it again-what you tell yourself has a huge effect on your mood. I swear I can literally feel my anxiety melt away if I do these things.


Another thing I'd like to discuss is what's normal anxiety vs. what's SA anxiety. None of my friends have SA but they all experience anxiety even when it comes to things that you may think is SA related. For example, a friend and I were doing a test on a computer while a manager was watching over us. I began to freak out because I don't like people watching me but I eventually got through it. After the test, I was talking to my friend and she told me that she was so nervous to the point that she was sick because our manager was watching her. This whole normal vs. abnormal anxiety thing used to really bother me especially in one particular situation. Maybe it's just me but I used to feel anxious when I was walking one way while another person was walking towards me. I had this thing where I used to pay attention to other people so much that I couldn't walk in stores without being a mess. Instead of focusing on my shopping, I'd feel like I HAD to look at other people in the store and what's worse is that I saw them as people who were better than me rather than people who just needed to buy a gallon of milk. Does that make sense? I was so obsessed with everyone else that I wasn't thinking about me.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked a couple of friends what they look at when they're walking around in a store: the people or their own shopping? You know what they said? They said that they look at the floor because other people made them feel uncomfortable. Now these people I'm talking about don't have SA. This adds to the normal vs. abnormal anxiety discussion. Instead of focusing on which shampoo I would like to buy, I'd focus on the other people in the aisle. Even when I was at work, instead of focusing on the soda that I needed to stock, I'd look up whenever someone walked into the aisle. I wasn't able to enjoy shopping because I couldn't ignore everyone else. Now I'm able to ignore people when I'm shopping. Yes, it's hard to ignore the FACT that there are people around. But instead of seeing the other customers as people who are judging me, I see them as objects or faceless people who just want to get their grocery shopping done as quickly as possible.

So just two basic things I've learned: 1)Don't let your SA victimize you. If you constantly think about it, your anxiety will be much worse. 2)Stop allowing other people who don't give a crap about you run your life.
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