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Mindfulness meditation (also known as vipassana or insight meditation) can be helpful in learning to manage the symptoms of social anxiety disorder. Having good social relationships is important to health and well-being, of course, but the best way to cultivate them isn’t by pretending to be someone you’re not. Often, it’s our irrational thoughts that make us anxious. But sometimes those thoughts are so ingrained in us that they’re practically unconscious.
Instead of beating yourself up with self-criticism, self-compassion can help soothe your psyche and address the negative emotions that come with social anxiety, according to Hendriksen.
Self-compassion consists of being mindful and accepting of your thoughts and feelings; sending yourself kind messages—such as Even though I’m scared, it’s going to be OK; and embracing your common humanity by remembering that everyone is scared sometimes. One of the difficult things about anxiety of any kind is that the more we avoid doing something that makes us anxious, the greater the fear and anxiety grow. Rather than waiting for the time to “feel right,” we should start by taking baby steps and repeating them over and over until the fear goes away—a process called “in vivo desensitization,” better known as “fake it ‘til you make it.”
Socially anxious people have ingenious ways of trying to avoid The Reveal in social situations. They may employ one or more “exit strategies,” like avoiding eye contact, rehearsing what they’re going to say, taking deep breaths to calm their nerves, or smiling a lot to cover their discomfort. So one way to decrease anxiety is to identify your own exit strategy and experiment with letting it go.
Why do this? It allows you to be more yourself with someone, which helps them to feel more comfortable in your presence.
At its core, meditation is about making peace with your thoughts and learning to sit with them rather than trying to fight them. For this reason, it can be a useful tool if you live with social anxiety disorder.
Social anxiety can cause you to be hard on yourself or assume others are thinking the worst of you. The weak point, however, is that first step out of your comfort zone. It will likely be the scariest because you’ve invested so much energy in avoiding your fears. It’s a habit that’s difficult to break. You might understand that talking to a new person is probably harmless, but the habit of fear persists. And you might not even understand why. When you try to face your fears there is too much resistance and you might give up before you’ve even started. Thankfully, there is an alternative way to overcome those persistent fears before taking action.
For those of you who experience social anxiety, you know first-hand the isolation that follows. Being uncomfortable at social events, parties, and other gatherings, can affect your friendships or intimate relationships. And relationships, both platonic and romantic, are one of the pillars of happiness. In fact, research has shown that positive relationships could be the single most determining factor to happiness. People suffering from this disorder worry that others will notice their anxiety.
This can include blushing, fumbling over words, or having shaky hands. If the disorder is not treated, it can impede with your everyday life. Graduating college, applying for a job, building friendships and finding a life partner can be difficult to impossible. The beauty of meditation is that you can do it from anywhere ‚ even just a few minutes in the morning while sipping tea or an outdoor walking meditation in your backyard.