Remember when you were a kid and your mom left you in line at the check out line in the grocery store and even though she said she will only take a couple of minutes to grab an item, you’re moving closer towards the cashier and your mom is not in sight. Your nerves are through the roof. Imagine that feeling every time you go out. That is how it feels to have social anxiety. At the peak of anxiety, I didn’t step foot in a grocery store or even leave my apartment for a good six months. Social anxiety is exhausting. The constant worrying and overthinking! Not to mention the paranoia. I constantly need reassurance that my family and friends do not hate me. Today, I can confidently say, I can leave my apartment without having intruding thoughts! I am so sure that I am loved. It took some time but here’s what I have learned throughout my journey.
Stop Owning It
One thing I have noticed when I used to talk about anxiety is that I would say “my” anxiety. My therapist explained why I should stop putting “my” in front of anxiety. When you say “my” anxiety or “my” depression, you are owning it. Mentally, you are making your mental illness part of your identity. You are not your anxiety or depression! Your mental illness does not define you. The first step to overcoming your anxiety is changing the way you speak about yourself and what you associate yourself with. Change your narrative!
Opening Up Can Help
Sometimes our family and friends may not be supportive when it comes to our mental health. When that happens, it sucks! Mental health was never talked about in my family growing up. I am making sure that cycle ends with me. I learned that I want to have open communication about mental health with my kids. My kids will know that they can be vulnerable with me when it comes to their emotions. I’ll be emotionally available for them when they are ready to talk.
Exercise Can Fix All
Me being the lazy person that I am, I hated this solution but it works. Your doctor was right about exercise! It can help with your anxiety and depression. According to Harvard Health’s Publishing article, “Can exercise help treat anxiety?“, exercise is a non-medical solution that can compress spiraling moods. Ever since I got my dog, I have no choice but to be active. We go on walks every day for 90 minutes. Walking with my dog also forced me to be social. I had so many people come up to me asking me questions about her. I noticed a drastic difference in my social anxiety before and after I got my fur baby. I owe it to her! My furry personal trainer keeps me active and my anxiety at its lowest.
Finding a Therapist Is Not Easy
Let me repeat that. Finding a therapist is not EASY. This is like finding a best friend. It is so important to find a therapist that you are compatible with because you are going to be completely vulnerable with this person on your first session. My experience with finding the right therapist for me was a little tiring but worth it when you find the right one. If you are on the search for a therapist or thinking about finding one in the future, I recommend a few things:
1) Give it two weeks before ruling out that this therapist is a fit.
2) Find a therapist with a similar background.
3)Research what they specialize in and their approach. If you have a specific anxiety that you would like to work on, double-check with your future therapist that they specialize in that. A lot of therapists will list anxiety as a specialty but anxiety has a lot of branches that differ. I’ve been to therapists that say they specialize in anxiety but don’t have a clear understanding of social anxiety. Which has ended sessions with just more anxiety than when I came in.
Some Family And Friends Will Not Understand You
After a few sessions of therapy, I decided to let my family and friends into what I’ve been going through. I expected my mom to not understand at first because older generations like to pretend that mental health is a myth, but she is trying to understand. Which is all I can ask for. After talking about social anxiety with my family, I did feel better and felt more support so I decided to tell a few friends. Some friends understood and some didn’t. I prepared myself for the possibility that I wouldn’t get support from everyone. The ones who do support me are the ones I need in the end anyway.
It Can Be a Lonely Journey
No one knows your struggles like you do. You have your own standards on how you want to tackle your anxiety so it may be hard to get others to help you. I learned to not hold anyone accountable but myself. My flaws are my responsibilities. It’s nice to have support but for your sense of mind, do not depend on anyone to hold your hand through it. My journey consisted of a lot of exposure therapy and writing. Those methods held my hand through it.
So start a hobby! Explore other options of therapeutic methods and change habits. Maybe less time on social media and more time being present. Whatever it may be. Just make sure it serves your mind, body and soul positivity!