A meditation for social anxiety to help you cope when you're feeling overwhelmed
So, you’ve tried everything you can think of for your social anxiety, right?
You’ve tried so many things to deal with it. You've tried to ignore your social anxiety, doing things to try to relax, and maybe even medication. While you may find these outlets do help take the edge off, they often only go so far.
You want to just be able to talk with people and be in social situations without your mind racing. You want to be able to connect with friends without the doom and gloom radio blaring so loudly in your head.
If any of these situations sound like you, meditation or mindfulness practices may be the key to overcoming your social anxiety and releasing yourself from the grip it has on your life. Let’s talk about what mindfulness is, and how implementing a few techniques can help you not only conquer your anxiety but improve your entire well-being.
What Does ‘Practicing Meditation’ Mean?
In the simplest sense, meditation is practicing mindfulness and being aware of the present moment. A meditation practice allows us to tune into a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and our surrounding environment through a gentle, self-compassionate lens.
Mindfulness and meditation is focused on acceptance of our own thoughts and feelings, without being harsh or critical of them. The goal of mindfulness techniques is to allow yourself to sit in the current moment with all your emotions and baggage and simply be present. No regret from the past, or worries about the future should be plaguing your mind.
Of course, it’s always responsible to plan for the future, but when we constantly find ourselves in a state of worrying about what lies ahead we can become overly anxious. Meditation aims to step outside these stressors and tune in to what you’re feeling right here, right now.
How does meditation help with Anxiety? Learn 4 Benefits of Meditation For Social Anxiety:
There are many other techniques you can use to calm your anxiety, accept what you’re experiencing, and acknowledge your ability to be present in the current moment. Meditation has been proven to not only help anxiety but relieve symptoms of depression, chronic stress, and anger.
Mindfulness for Social Anxiety Increases Body Awareness:
Social anxiety is not a condition confined to the brain. Anxiety spreads like wildfire and affects everything from our heart rate, to our appetite, to our sleeping patterns.
In order to overcome these intense feelings of anxiety and feel better physically, we must acknowledge their presence.
Many people with social anxiety would rather run from these uncomfortable sensations rather than face them head on. This may lead to excessive alcohol or substance use, or simply ignoring them (in return, suffering day in and day out).
When we spend time practicing mindfulness, we force ourselves to feel those subtle changes in our bodies, allowing for greater self-awareness. Self-awareness enables us to regulate, and respond to feelings of social anxiety when they arise. In addition, being able to identify anxiety ahead of time by spotting early physical symptoms can help us interrupt anxiety before it manifests further.
Mindfulness Regulates Our Sympathetic Nervous System:
Our sympathetic nervous system, or SNS, is our body’s built-in alarm. The SNS is responsible for our unconscious fight or flight response to distressing situations.
If faced with a stressful situation, our sympathetic nervous systems will jump into action sending stress hormones to help us either run or fight back. Once the situation has passed, our parasympathetic system then works to counteract this heightened state and return us back to normal.
If this system is unregulated, we can experience chronic anxiety. A nervous system can become unregulated through trauma, childhood experiences, or consistently high levels of stress. When our SNS is damaged we may perceive threats and danger, when there really is none. In addition, our parasympathetic system isn’t able to return us back to a calm, tranquil state.
When mindfulness practices are used, we are retraining our SNS to only respond to real threats. Techniques such as meditation activate the parasympathetic system, guiding our bodies back to a peaceful state of mind.
Spending time in quiet stillness will deregulate the SNS response, enabling us to see a situation more clearly and less as a threat. When we are no longer constantly ‘on guard’ our bodies can relax, ultimately relieving feelings of stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness Redirects Our Thoughts:
is especially true if you struggle with anxiety, as every situation may feel like a ticking time bomb.
Despite our worst fears rarely coming true, we still run through every outcome in our heads over and over again until it drains us from the inside out. We may imagine embarrassment, rejection, pain, or failures that seem like a hamster wheel with no end.
When we sit with our thoughts and acknowledge them for what they are, they lose their power. Identifying them as just that, thoughts rather than solid, concrete reality, we can begin to see our situation through a healthier lens.
Letting our thoughts, fears, and emotions come and go is a particularly important skill in breaking free from anxious thinking patterns. It’s encouraged to allow yourself to feel them, however, let them go. Holding on is likely to bring more harm than good.
Mindfulness Enhances Our Physical Health:
There’s no doubt that the mind-body connection is incredibly strong. However, this connection isn’t often felt as vigorously than when it relates to anxiety. Think about how you may feel when you’re in the midst of an anxiety attack: you may experience painful headaches, stomach upset, and crushing fatigue. The same idea applies when we practice overcoming and healing from our anxiety, as well.
When we engage in mindfulness techniques, we begin to feel better from the inside, out. Mindfulness practices have been proven to lower stress hormones, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, alleviate gastrointestinal discomfort, and more.
No matter how much work we put into our mental health, if our bodies feel sick and rundown, our minds are likely to feel the effects. However, the emotional regulation side of mindfulness can make it much easier to cope with your feelings, increasing levels of happiness and life satisfaction. When we feel good mentally, we are much more motivated to make healthy choices, benefiting our entire well-being.
How To Develop a Meditation Practice for Social Anxiety:
The first step in developing a meditation practice is to understand why this is important to you. Think about how you want to show up as person and in social situations and what core values are important to you. Reflect on what core values you want to bring into interactions with other even if you're feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
A simple guided meditation for social anxiety to practice: PEACE.
Pace your breath. Keep your breath even and slow. Start to feel the physical sensations n your body as your slow your breathing to a steady, slow pace.
Explore. Start to explore and get curious about what you're experiencing. Notice what physical sensation, thoughts, and feelings are showing up for you. Use curiosity to tune to this moment and explore what you're feeling in its entirety.
Accept. Radical acceptance is being truly present in the current moment without trying to change it. Allow the feelings and sensations to be without judgement or trying to change them.
Core values. Connect this moment and exercise back to your core values and why this is important to you. Perhaps your core values are compassion and kindness. Practice being compassionate and kind to yourself and your struggles in social situations.
Experience. Truly experience this meditation and recognize the time and energy you're dedicating to moment to move towards how you want to show up as a person. Recognize that you're aligning your intentions with what's most important to you.
This meditation is important to practice before social situations so you can practice start to feel more comfortable with mindful awareness. Many people try mindfulness techniques when you're triggered and feeling very anxious, however it is difficult to use these techniques during difficult times if you haven't been practicing before. Meditation is like anything that requires practice, it will be hard maximize its positive effects the first time.
Keep the PEACE:
Mindfulness practices create a space for us to accept ourselves, thoughts, feelings, and emotions while becoming aware of the present moment. Focusing on the moment in front of us gives our bodies and minds a break to observe our situation with a clear mind.
When we practice mindfulness we’re able to slow down, in turn becoming less reactive to the context of our thought (whether rational or irrational). This is why mindfulness techniques are so useful in relieving symptoms of anxiety.
If you're interested in learning more about how mindfulness can help social anxiety, schedule an appointment today. Living Openhearted Therapy and Wellness provides therapy for social anxiety in San Jose, CA and San Juan, PR. Reach out to connect with our team to learn more.
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