Beating any kind of anxiety is super easy. We need to start with basics here, obviously a right level of awareness is most crucial to beat any kind of anxiety including social anxiety. Any kind of anxiety or panic they all have one and most important emotion and feeling behind them, which is Fear and Doubt. Also there is always a trigger, this trigger can be anything from seeing someone to watching tv or things happening around you. Learn more about how anxiety begins, click here.
There could be multiple reasons for these triggers to become a trigger. A trigger is something which has enough power to instigate that chain reaction of emotion which could be a mix of fear, dissatisfaction or inability towards something. In this case the trigger is fear of leaving the house, meeting new people, making friends. Whenever you got put in such situation, your fear just engulfs you and things comes to standstill. All the bodily reactions which you go through for eg. feeling of needles and pins through body, dizziness, depersonalization, heat flashes are just body response to extreme fear.
There are multiple ways of dealing with this, but let's first deal with this fear and then we can work on the how part more easily. Crucial thing to understand is, it all starts with a thought and mostly you only suffer because of your memory of similar event in the past plus your imagination on the top of it.
For eg: You see, smell, hear something, a thoughts comes to your mind which becomes the trigger, at the same time from your Memory bank a experience comes to surface and results in chain reaction of uncomfortable feelings on the body(as mentioned above). During this process our Imagination takes over us and the whole incident becomes unbearable with highly bad experience. Point to notice is, this leads to formation of new really bad memory and start of a new chain reaction.
Memory and Imagination are such two powerful tools, if not understood well can result in lots of sufferings. Our past and future can’t affect us, as past is gone and future is not here yet. It is our memory and imagination is what troubling us.
Next important thing to understand is these memories and imaginations, they always happens via thoughts, means they are processed in our mind through thoughts. So itall comes down to thoughts. This is how things happens.
Input(Trigger) > Thought(Mind) > Memory Bank > Fear Feelings on the body > Anxiety/Panic Attack> Bad Experience > New Bad Memory
Why our memory bank effects our body, is because mind and body are highly interconnected. A good thought will always yield good feelings on the body and bad thought bad feelings. It will never be the case, where good feelings comes with bad thoughts. So our mind and body are extremely cross linked. Why these memories and thoughts they affect us so deep and bad? Because we start personalizing them. Whatever comes to our mind and body we feel its us.
For e.g. Say a memory got triggered, now a thought which will arise in the mind will say I can’t do this or I m going crazy or I m going helpless or I m getting scared or panicked. What we are doing is we are personalizing every thought way too much. Only because these thoughts they are bringing feelings on the body, we feel these thoughts are us. So feeling is, I m my thoughts plus the resultant feelings arriving on the body. Once body is under the control of these feelings, it becomes hard to get out of that chain reaction.
How to break the chain?
With right understanding this chain can be easily broken.
1: ME and Mine: There are two things one is mine and other is me. Something coming out of your body can be yours but that can not be you. Your body produces sweat, that sweat can be yours, but that's definitely not you. Same way you cannot be the hair falling from your body. They can be yours but not you.
It’s like a chair in your house can be yours but not you. Point is what thoughts coming to mind, they will produce feelings, you are not your thoughts and the resultant feelings. If a thought is coming to your mind which says I m scared, I cannot do this then understand it will certainly going to produce some feelings, but if you realize you are not those thoughts, you are just producing them, then you can break this chain of anxiety feelings just there.
2.Thoughts: You are not your thoughts period! If I ask you to stop your thoughts and then I again ask you to start thinking? Can you do that, of course you can. Its like eating food, you eat and then it becomes your body and then it leaves your body. But you are not that food, right. Same way your mind works through thoughts, you are not your thoughts, when you can switch them on and switch off. You are producing them, you are not them. To much identification with thoughts is wrong, just see them as thoughts.
4.Exposure, Response and Prevention: By now you must have understood this is mostly a issue of thoughts, which is stopping you step out in social world. Thoughts which are just and just governed by Fear and Doubt. And the only way to deal with fear and doubt is to face them. Expose your self to the situation, you need to make new memories regarding those fears which you have stored in your memory bank. By exposure you are telling your body that those fears has no base and highly un effective. Because when you go out, meet people you will find all those fears are just fears and they have no power to affect you. They are all just your imagination.
Important part of this strategy is you do no rationalization or prevention in terms of the arising fear, you just sit with your fear. Do no talk back, do not tell yourself everything will be ok. Just sit with your fears, until body comes back to normality, all those uncomfortable feelings leave you and you realize all the fears are baseless. This exposure will rewire your brain and make you take control of your fears.
So next time when you plan to go out to socialize and a thought comes to your mind which says you cannot, then like a master tell the monkey mind to stop jumping and only use it when you need it. I know it wont stop, it will do its best to stop you. But go our socialize, rewire your mind, reduce the fear factor. Do it few times and things will change, see your thoughts as thoughts and the feelings as something arising of your thoughts.
You are not these thoughts, its just you are playing this game of lawn tennis with your mind and not putting the racket down. Can you play a tennis non stop your whole life? Put the racket down, just stop this game you playing with your mind and go out. It is so simple, as simple as just opening your mouth and saying hi how are you. Things will happen automatically from there.
You need to make new bright memories, train your mind with this new mindset. It will take time and patience, but it will change definitely.