I know I said on Twitter that I wasn’t going to write a post today, but I can’t help it when creativity strikes. Yesterday, my mind felt blank, which is something I’m getting used to, slowly but surely. I also am trying to avoid some mistakes I made with my prior blog, namely writing when I shouldn’t. I am making a very large effort with this blog, to only write when I feel my creativity kick in. I’m not writing on a particular schedule, mainly to reduce the feeling like I have to write something by a said time or date. I want to keep this blog as honest and real as I can, so I write when I want to, not because I have to.
So, to the main topic that struck me today. Being uncomfortable. As I’m sure my social anxiety peeps reading this know this feeling very well. Y’know, avoiding eye contact, spurting out nonsense because you don’t like silence, sitting by yourself during your lunch break, etc. We do this in an effort to keep our anxiety low, and because we feel more comfortable when we do these things. Well, I hate to break it to you, but you’re going to need to get out of your comfort zone. That’s what I mean when I say, get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Things like keeping eye contact during conversations, even though it makes you feel like you’re crazy. Keeping your mouth shut during pauses or silence during the conversation. These things I am slowly forcing myself to do more, to get out of my comfort zone. I know that it’s hard, believe me, I know. It feels like I’m about to jump off a cliff every time I keep eye contact during a conversation. But I force myself to do these things, because I know in the long run, they’ll benefit me. I’ll eventually be comfortable doing these things, that at the moment, kick my anxiety into overdrive.
Anxiety is a normal human emotion. It’s part of our “fight or flight” responses. It’s how humans in the past avoided being eaten by lions, or whatever. Now that we don’t face the same survival difficulties in modern life, anxiety has popped up in other areas of your every day. For those of us with an anxiety disorder however, anxiety usually springs up for almost no reason. Imagine you just fell off a boat into shark infested water with a cut on your leg. That feeling is anxiety, and for most it has meaning, and a usually obvious solution. For us, with a disorder, it can strike at any moment, for any reason, and usually can’t be dealt with without medication. By that I mean, deep breathing might help, but it won’t stop my panic attack.
Since anxiety is a genetic antique, and we aren’t being attacked by a crocodile whilst bathing in our local river (hopefully), we have to actively put ourselves in controlled anxiety causing situations to be able to control it. Granted, I have yet to see much progress in my own life, and this approach certainly won’t work for everyone. But it follows the same design as “practice makes perfect”. The more you put yourself in controlled anxiety inducing situations, the more comfortable you feel doing so, ie less anxious. Like eye contact, the more you force yourself to maintain eye contact, the less scary it feels doing so. And most of the time, the other person in the conversation will see it as engaging, rather than creepy (hopefully). So next time you’re talking to someone you’re comfortable with, try to keep eye contact, train your brain to not think that it’s a reason for anxiety. Eventually, probably, you will be more comfortable keeping eye contact with the people who look for that stuff, ie future employers, customers, therapists, etc. From my mind to yours, Alan Wolfgang, signing off.