Social anxiety is the 3rd most common mental health issue in the U.S. In fact, over 19 million people suffer from mild to severe social anxiety today, and “normal” individuals tend to see the symptoms without understanding the nature of the illness and thus do not respond with empathy to sufferers. Common reactions to those who have social anxiety are that they are lazy, aloof, unfriendly, malingerers, hypochondriacs, and misfits.
If someone you care about or work with has social anxiety, you need to recognize the symptoms, understand his/her illness, and find ways to support that individual, rather than criticize and/or condemn. Here you will find 13 common behaviors of people who have social anxiety and how you need to respond in order to support them.
1. They want to be recognized for something other than just their social maladaptation.
A mental health issue does not define a person – it is simply one trait possessed right now. People with this affliction can be intelligent, can be productive, and can have a number of personality and professional traits that are quite positive. Recognizing and praising these positive traits will show that you see beyond this single “negative” and can see their value as a whole person.
2. They get tired easily.
And they may sleep more or may be too exhausted to engage in normal activity. Think about it. They spend all of their waking hours that are outside of their “safe” places (usually their homes) worrying about what situations they may find themselves in, what they will say if addressed in any manner, how they will cope with a meeting at work or a class discussion in school. Their brains are relentlessly churning, and that can be exhausting. Rather than criticizing them for their tiredness, how about putting yourself in that mental situation? Would you be exhausted? Of course you would be! Rather than criticize, suggest a short time out or nap.
3. They can “shut down” or “zone out.”
This is a defense mechanism, and we all have them, even though they may not present themselves in this manner. Some of us may become angry or irritable; some of us may be subject to “rants” of sorts. So why do we criticize socially anxious people for their defense mechanisms simply because they are different from our own? Part of developing empathy for socially anxious people is recognizing that they have their own responses to stress, just as we do.
4. They are horribly self-conscious.
While most people will accept a “bad hair day” or clothing that may not be wonderfully flattering, those with social anxiety put huge emphasis on physical appearance, convinced that they are being regularly judged by how they look. The best response? Give compliments on their physical appearance; tell them that their outfit really looks good on them; tell them that the color they are wearing is great; praise any physical feature that you can. This bolsters self-confidence and creates a feeling of acceptance.
5. They will have more health issues, as their immune systems are continually compromised.
A UCLA study showed that social anxiety increases inflammatory activity of those parts of the brain that trigger immune system functions. Continued activation of this system wears it down and makes the body more subject to illness and disease. Rather than criticize or accuse someone of hypochondria, understand and accept the fact that there is a real physical cause of more frequent illness.
6. They respond differently to stimuli that you consider normal and even pleasant.
Remember, research shows that people with social anxiety are on “high alert” all of the time. This means that noise, lots of conversation, and large groups of people can overload their sensory intake. They will retreat, shut down, or flee. A study conducted by Gottschalk, M.D. and Haer, Ph.D., published in General Psychiatry, demonstrates that sensory overload and social impairment are directly related, particularly in individuals who have generalized social anxiety issues. Thus, if you are “forcing” a socially anxious person to participate in such activities, you are presenting him/her with an almost “impossible” situation. Tone down the activities in which you are asking your loved one to participate, at least for now.
7. They have a great deal of difficulty dealing with change of any kind.
You may be excited about a career change or a transfer that will move you to a new city and new experiences. Your partner or spouse will not share that excitement if they suffer from social anxiety. Any change is a horrible threat to “safety,” and you must recognize it as such. In your excitement, you cannot dismiss the anxiety of your loved one. Find ways to acclimate your partner to the change gradually or share some information on how to organize your move to another place without any extra mess, to give small incremental experiences in the new environment, so that they are not overwhelmed.
8. They want positive responses to their anxiety attacks, not just nebulous comments, such as, “Are you going to be okay?”
They don’t feel “okay,” and they do not want someone continually asking them that question. Instead, you need to recognize the immediate condition and provide reassuring and positive comments, such as, “You’ve had these attacks before, and you have gotten through them. You will get through this one too. I am here to give you whatever help you need or to just leave you alone if that is what you want.”
9. They store previous traumatic events in a different part of their brains than other people.
We are all subject to traumatic events in our lifetimes – the death of a loved one; being the victim of bullying or abuse; catastrophes in our childhood or adolescence; violence in wartime. People who do not suffer social anxiety from such events store those memories in the left frontal portions of their brains; people who develop social anxiety store those memories in the back regions of their brains – those regions in which sensory perceptions are housed. Thus, the sights, sounds, smells, etc. of those experiences are recalled when similar sensory experiences are encountered (Dr. Ruth Lanius, University of Western Ontario, study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Jan., 2004). Understanding that the individual with social anxiety may be “re-living” prior traumatic experiences differently can go a long way towards understanding and developing sensitivity to their responses to current situations which stimulate those memories.
10. They need their “space.”
While you are trying to get the anxious person to get motivated to participate in events and social situations, that person just needs to step back and get some perspective, allowing a gradual build-up to the participation that you may want right now. It is far better that you respond with a comment like, “It’s okay, I can go by myself. You stay here, and I’ll see you later,” rather than, “I don’t understand what is wrong with you! All I’m asking is that you go to this event with me!” Try to stop focusing on your needs and focus on theirs.
11. They know that their anxieties are irrational.
You do not have to continually remind them of that fact. Instead of saying, “That’s just crazy!”, think of a response that validates what they are feelingright now. “I know what you are feeling; I know that you do not want to feel this way; how can I help?” This gives the socially anxious person trust in you and will allow them to voice their anxieties rather than keep them suppressed, which only causes additional stress.
12. They fear a social situation that has not presented itself
One of the cardinal symptoms of social anxiety is an irrational preoccupation with social situations that have not even occurred but may occur. If, for example, there is an invitation to a wedding and reception that is weeks away, the individual with social anxiety might obsess about the event. An inordinate amount of time may be spent thinking and re-thinking what clothing to wear, what hairstyle will be chosen, who else may be attending, where they might be seated at the reception, etc. You cannot change this thinking, but you can validate it and provide reassurances. Offering to help with selection of clothing and complimenting a particular hairstyle will assist in alleviating fears. Reassuring the individual that you will be “right next to them” throughout the event is important, and you must follow through with that promise.
13. They will want to retreat to their “safe place” as often as possible.
One of the things that social media has given to people with social anxiety is a method of communicating that is not face-to-face. Instead of criticizing the amount of time spent on Facebook or watching television, suggest an occasional walk or an evening out with dinner and a movie. These activities can reinforce the thinking that a social situation outside of the home can be “safe” too.
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But, it’s not always easy to get in this kind of state or even harder, to stay in it. Maybe you even haven’t experienced it at all. The good news is, every person on earth is able to light his soul on fire. You just have to get into the right state of mind. Below I’ll give you some tips to help you become this driven person!
Creating a vision for the future is a powerful trick. It puts you on the right path immediately. Take your time to visualize it and repeat this. Try to do this as realistic and detailed as possible. Where do you want to go? How does the life you want to live looks like? Keep this picture before you, as you slowly move in that direction. Know that in 5 years from now, you won’t be the person you are today, just like you aren’t the person now you were 5 years ago. Make sure that the person you will be in 5 years, is the person YOU want to be.
Everyone has those things that can trigger great energy in them. It could be little or big things that make you happy and put you in the right state. Maybe it’s a song, a small habit you do every morning, a person you talk to, something to eat or drink,.. Keep track of all these little things that make you happy and use them more often in your life. We’ve also got the opposite. Those things or people who drown the energy out of you. What are these things? What’s stopping you? Define them too, and look for ways to get rid of them. Life is too short anyway. This technique requires you to really get to know yourself, so take your time!
Get a growth mindset
This is a set of beliefs in the mind. It’s proven that this mindset increases your motivation and achievement. People with a growth mindset see difficulties as an opportunity to grow. The main focus here is learning. You know that you can improve and develop skills through work and that every failure is only a lesson. You embrace challenges and want to invest in yourself.
Find your passions
This tip is the most important one. Nothing can light your soul on fire more than passion. We all got them, we just need to find them. Your passion will lead you to your purpose . Ask yourself, what makes your heart skips a beat? What is something that can bring your mind to another place, far away from all your troubles? When you know what you’re passionate about, don’t be ashamed to get excited. Let it have a contribution in your daily life. Don’t be afraid what other might think, just do your own thing, and maybe they might even get inspired by it.
- Become a better friend/lover. One of the greatest sources of happiness and satisfaction comes from having people around you who love you. You don’t need many friends, but you do need someone who loves you genuinely. The way to get those people around you, is being a good friend yourself. Be kind, show them you care, appreciate what people do for you, be open-minded, try to connect deeper, cheer for them, empower them,.. When you give more love, you will get more love. When you feel loved and supported, everything else becomes way easier and you can accomplish so much more!
- Set goals and take action. First of all set goals for yourself. Split them up in little sub-goals. Whenever you reach a goal, even if it’s a small one, celebrate it. Be proud of yourself and think about how well you did it. By doing this, you get more motivated and it prevents you from losing your drive. By setting your goals, think about what goals will give you a lot of satisfaction when you might reach them. Another important thing is to take action. Don’t make excuses. When you take action you would feel instantly better and more energetic in comparison with being bored and lazy. Just start. Don’t hold yourself back because of the thought you might ‘fail’.
- Whatever you do, do it well. Put your focus on doing things the best way you can. Deliver quality work. Don’t go for mediocre. If you’re finished you will feel good about your work and it will boost your motivation instantly!
- Do things that are out of your comfort zone. Do the things you’ve always wanted to do or do the things you’re afraid of. These challenges give you an instant energy boost!
- Take responsibility. You have to know what’s your responsibility and what not. First of all, it’s your responsibility to make yourself happy. Other people can help you, but never expect others to make your whole life awesome. That’s up to you. Plan excited things and make your own future something to look forward too. If you never reach a goal, you shouldn’t blame anyone else. Make yourself proud. Keep in mind what’s important to you, what you value in life. Secondly, know that it’s not your responsibility to please everyone. You also shouldn’t let other people define your life. They are too, responsible for their own happiness and life. When you can define what your responsibilities are and what not, life will become easier. It will help you take charge of your own life.
- Last but not least, work out. Working out has so many advantages when it comes to drive and feeling on fire. It helps to boost your confidence, make you feel healthier, gives you more energy, clears your mind, learns you to develop more stamina,.. If you need help or advice with your workouts, you can always contact us or take a deeper look into our site!
Remember, feeling on fire won’t come in a day or two. It’s a process of doing what you love and gaining strength, not giving up. It’s not always easy, but when you get in that zone, it’s so worth it!
Elite athletes use it. The super rich use it. And peak performers in all fields now use it. That power is called visualization.
The daily practice of visualizing your dreams as already complete can rapidly accelerate your achievement of those dreams, goals and ambitions.
Visualization of your goals and desires accomplishes four very important things.
1.) It activates your creative subconscious which will start generating creative ideas to achieve your goal.
2.) It programs your brain to more readily perceive and recognize the resources you will need to achieve your dreams.
3.) It activates the law of attraction, thereby drawing into your life the people, resources, and circumstances you will need to achieve your goals.
4.) It builds your internal motivation to take the necessary actions to achieve your dreams.
Visualization is really quite simple. You sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and imagine — in as vivid detail as you can — what you would be looking at if the dream you have were already realized. Imagine being inside of yourself, looking out through your eyes at the ideal result.
Athletes call this visualization process “mental rehearsal,” and they have been using it since the 1960s when we learned about it from the Russians.
All you have to do is set aside a few minutes a day. The best times are when you first wake up, after meditation or prayer, and right before you go to bed. These are the times you are most relaxed.
Go through the following three steps:
STEP 1. Imagine sitting in a movie theater, the lights dim, and then the movie starts. It is a movie of you doing perfectly whatever it is that you want to do better. See as much detail as you can create, including your clothing, the expression on your face, small body movements, the environment and any other people that might be around. Add in any sounds you would be hearing — traffic, music, other people talking, cheering. And finally, recreate in your body any feelings you think you would be experiencing as you engage in this activity.
STEP 2. Get out of your chair, walk up to the screen, open a door in the screen and enter into the movie. Now experience the whole thing again from inside of yourself, looking out through your eyes. This is called an “embodied image” rather than a “distant image.” It will deepen the impact of the experience. Again, see everything in vivid detail, hear the sounds you would hear, and feel the feelings you would feel.
STEP 3. Finally, walk back out of the screen that is still showing the picture of you performing perfectly, return to your seat in the theater, reach out and grab the screen and shrink it down to the size of a cracker. Then, bring this miniature screen up to your mouth, chew it up and swallow it. Imagine that each tiny piece — just like a hologram — contains the full picture of you performing well. Imagine all these little screens traveling down into your stomach and out through the bloodstream into every cell of your body. Then imagine that every cell of your body is lit up with a movie of you performing perfectly. It’s like one of those appliance store windows where 50 televisions are all tuned to the same channel.
When you have finished this process — it should take less than five minutes — you can open your eyes and go about your business. If you make this part of your daily routine, you will be amazed at how much improvement you will see in your life.
Create Goal Pictures
Another powerful technique is to create a photograph or picture of yourself with your goal, as if it were already completed. If one of your goals is to own a new car, take your camera down to your local auto dealer and have a picture taken of yourself sitting behind the wheel of your dream car. If your goal is to visit Paris, find a picture or poster of the Eiffel Tower and cut out a picture of yourself and place it into the picture.
Create a Visual Picture and an Affirmation for Each Goal
We recommend that you find or create a picture of every aspect of your dream life. Create a picture or a visual representation for every goal you have — financial, career, recreation, new skills and abilities, things you want to purchase, and so on.
When we were writing the very first Chicken Soup for the Soul® book, we took a copy of the New York Times best seller list, scanned it into our computer, and using the same font as the newspaper, typed Chicken Soup for the Soul into the number one position in the “Paperback Advice, How-To and Miscellaneous” category. We printed several copies and hung them up around the office. Less than two years later, our book was the number one book in that category and stayed there for over a year!
We practice a similar discipline every day. We each have a list of about 30-40 goals we are currently working on. We write each goal on a 3×5 index card and keep those cards near our bed and take them with us when we travel. Each morning and each night we go through the stack of cards, one at a time, read the card, close our eyes, see the completion of that goal in its perfect desired state for about 15 seconds, open our eyes and repeat the process with the next card.
Use Affirmations to Support Your Visualization
An affirmation is a statement that evokes not only a picture, but the experience of already having what you want. Here’s an example of an affirmation:
I am happily vacationing 2 months out of the year in a tropical paradise, and working just four days a week owning my own business.
Repeating an affirmation several times a day keeps you focused on your goal, strengthens your motivation, and programs your subconscious by sending an order to your crew to do whatever it takes to make that goal happen.
Through writing down your goals, using the power of visualization and repeating your affirmations, you can achieve amazing results.
Visualization and affirmations allow you to change your beliefs, assumptions, and opinions about the most important person in your life — YOU! They allow you to harness the 18 billion brain cells in your brain and get them all working in a singular and purposeful direction.
Your subconscious will become engaged in a process that transforms you forever. The process is invisible and doesn’t take a long time. It just happens over time, as long as you put in the time to visualize and affirm, surround yourself with positive people, read uplifting books and listen to audio programs that flood your mind with positive, life-affirming messages.
If you would like a step-by-step, comprehensive approach for defining your goals, creating affirmations for them and how to create a powerful visual support system, take a look at our Vision Boards Kits… they contains a everything you need–just add your dreams!
Repeat your affirmations every morning and night for a month and they will become an automatic part of your thinking… woven into the very fabric of your being.
Author: Jack Canfield.
Jack Canfield, America’s #1 Success Coach, is founder of the billion-dollar book brand Chicken Soup for the Soul® and a leading authority on Peak Performance and Life Success. If you’re ready to jump-start your life, make more money, and have more fun and joy in all that you do, get FREE success tips from Jack Canfield now at: www.FreeSuccessStrategies.com