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Social Anxiety & Holidays

Nov 27, 2022

How Social Anxiety Almost Hijacked My Thanksgiving...

It’s Thanksgiving today. For me this involves a shortened morning breathwork/ exercise routine and a potluck, not having kids sure makes holidays simpler!! I am reminded of a Thanksgiving a few years ago that was very similar to this one.

Pressure and Social Anxiety:

On this Thanksgiving my partner and I had a party to go to. He was super excited to go meet new people, he’s always been much more social than I am, but all I felt was low grade dread.

I had recently realized that I probably had social anxiety. I say probably because this isn’t something that was ever spoken of when I was growing up, so I was used to thinking of it as “being shy” or “an introvert”. Whatever you want to call it, social experiences were always challenging for me, especially group situations. I never knew what to say and desperately trying to make conversation was exhausting.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to connect with people. I SO did!! Unfortunately, every time I tried to speak my mind would literally just stall out and be a complete blank.  It was like my brain was sinking in quicksand and the more I tried to make conversation the more mired and stuck it would become, so I would stand there smiling, saying nothing, while trying to convey with my eyes how much I wanted to connect with the person in front of me. I attempted to project calm when really, I only felt panic. In retrospect all these mixed messages were probably quite creepy, and I’m not surprised that people quickly moved away.

I never understood WHY my brain was such a blank and I could never think of any questions to ask, or a way to keep the conversation progressing, obviously stress played a part. I was essentially pointing a gun at my head and saying, “be likeable or else”. Never a good strategy!

My Personal Solution For Social Anxiety:

So, on this particular holiday, I thought “ok. What if you DON’T try to make conversation?” I was going through my coaching training at the time and a lot of coaching is learning to just drop into your body and focus on your breathing. This clears the mind and creates space to truly listen to the other person instead of sitting in your head, attempting to think of things to say.

Being present in this way allows questions to come to you, because you aren’t chasing them (as I had been doing in social situations).

With this thought I was able to reframe the entire situation and it transformed from an awkward experience I was dreading into a learning experiment I couldn’t wait to try!

This begs the question, where are you OVER TRYING in your life? Is there an issue that you could reframe into something positive? It could be a myriad of things- sleep, work, relationships with your in laws…. In almost every instance, adding stress and pressure only makes the problem worse. The truth is there are MANY things in our life we cannot control and struggling to only exacerbates the problem. So instead, I encourage you to try just breathing and letting go. If you can reframe to find a positive, then do so and if not just accept it for what it is. It might not make it go away but it certainly will not make it any worse!

Time and energy are precious, we only have so much, so save it for things that count and remember, not everything HAS to be perfect or positive. Some things just are. Every situation is transitory. Breathe, learn what you can and move on.

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