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.