How to worry less in social situations (particularly when you’re an introvert)

Because let’s face it, introverts do spend about 90% of their time worrying about stuff. It stems from the fact that being around people drains us and with lack of energy comes that nagging self doubt that tends to plague us wherever we go. Did I just say the wrong thing? Is that person looking at me funny? Does everyone in the room hate me? Did I pick the wrong colour socks to wear this morning? It goes on and on and on. BUT, there are several really easy steps you can take to help yourself calm down and remember how flipping fabulous you really are.

So here are five of the first things that I go to when I can feel the panic beginning to set in.

Breathing

Taking deep breaths seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but when you are starting to panic it is the first thing that goes out of the window. It will help to fill the body with oxygen and clear the mind of the racing thoughts that go along with being anxious.

Smokers do get most of their relief in anxiety filled situations from the nicotine in their cigarettes, but they also calm down because of the style of breathing that is involved with inhaling and exhaling the smoke. It is absolutely ideal for calming the nerves. Now I’m not telling you to run out and buy a packet of cigarettes, but try and picture the way a smoker holds in their breath when you are next feeling the nerves. A good rule of thumb is to breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 and exhale for 8. Repeat this for a couple of minutes and you will normally see a difference.

It’s sometimes good to do this before you even go to an event that’s likely to stress you out. It’s like meditating in order to prevent the panic attack before it even happens. If not, it’s quite OK to just quietly excuse yourself and wander off to a quiet corner of the room, or to the bathroom to do this technique.

Removing yourself from the situation

That leads me nicely onto this point, and that is that it is perfectly OK to leave. If you are about to pass out with anxiety, nobody in their right mind would expect you to stay put. And you can either leave for a few minutes to practice that breath work, or you can disappear completely!

The ideal would be to train yourself to get to a point where you can talk yourself down and not let anxiety get you to the point where you have to leave any event, but in the meantime, leaving an event is not a crime.

Remembering that you are not bad

My problems always started with something small and by the time I reached the thought that I was evil and everything bad in my life was as a result of that, it was game over. It took a lot of therapy to understand where those feelings came from and now that I am more aware, it is far easier to stop those thoughts in their tracks. However, even if you don’t know where they come from, the chances are that they are a load of bull crap.

Repeat the mantra ‘I am a good person’ if you have to. Because you are. Even if you’ve done bad things in the past (I mean, come on, who hasn’t?) you can always turn over a new leaf and start afresh any day of your life. You deserve an amazing life and it’s awful to think that you might hold yourself back because of a lie that only you believe.

People just aren’t thinking about you all that much

One of the things that I have to regularly remind myself of when I’m anxious is the fact that everybody else has all their own crap to deal with, and actually, I don’t rate too high on their list of important things to worry about. We are each the centre of our own universe and it’s easy to think that people care but sadly (or gladly as the case may be) they don’t. In a way this is bad, because it means that we all have massive egos and a lot of people are willing to step all over you to get to where they want to go. But on the other hand, it’s very freeing to know that that stupid thing you did one Monday back in 2009 is all but forgotten about by 99.9% of people. Hooray for that!!

So really this one is all about looking at it from a different perspective. Worry can magnify everything intensely and distort the truth, so try telling yourself that a lot of it is just lies that you are telling yourself and you should start to notice that people really aren’t looking at you at all.

Stop trying to be perfect

Nobody is perfect and nobody really expects it. Not really. We may pretend that we’re perfect and that that’s what we want but none of it is real. The Instagram and Facebook accounts with thousands of perfectly filtered pictures are hiding the blazing rows with husbands and the kids that are disrespectful and throw regular tantrums. The old school friend who you recently found out has a CEO position in the city goes home to an empty flat and cries herself to sleep. Everything is an illusion to a certain extent. The trick is to focus on the good bits that you have in your life and stop trying to aim for what the next person has.

Trying to be perfect also puts a huge amount of pressure on you in your day to day life. Even if you just want to do everything in your crappy, low paid job absolutely perfectly, you are still heaping a load of unnecessary pressure onto yourself. And guess what? You’ll probably make yourself even more worried and make even more mistakes than you would if you just relaxed and accepted that sometimes you’re going to do things wrong.

If you make the teas for all the people in an office and you worry excessively about getting somebody’s order wrong, the chances are you will get an order wrong. The nerves will get the better of you and you’ll put two sugars in Gary’s coffee instead of one. But, if you relax and have a laugh with Gary he’ll remember you as the funny one who makes his tea rather than the one who got it wrong.

I hope that some of these can be of use to you. I find myself using them all of the time and although I’ve also had therapy for a couple of years, they really do help. I’d love to hear in the comments if you have any others that could be useful too.

How to find your passion and does it really matter?

So many people go into business or start some kind of new project solely with the aim of having big numbers. This could be numbers of views, clicks, likes or most notably, money. We live in a society where our very worth is determined by numbers and it’s so easy to slip into the mindset that it is the only thing that matters.

But if you are going to do something, day in and day out, then you’d better be sure that you really enjoy it and that you are passionate about the thing that you are filling your time with. After all, numbers will give you that initial high that comes with finding something that you are good at, but can it actually last?

There are things that we are specifically gifted with and it is so important that you really start to explore what your thing is before you commit to going into business yourself. There are so many opportunities out there in the world and so there is bound to be SOMETHING that will resonate with you. If you try and go after somebody else’s dream then it’s more than likely you will run out of steam before very long. I, for example, am bloody terrible at selling but I love to teach and to write. So what’s the point in me even trying to go into a sales position? I have been tempted with the promise of money before and gone into a sales role that was totally unsuitable for me. As could be expected, I didn’t make a single sale and I bombed out of the job after just 11 weeks. It’s funny to look back on now, but it was a horrid experience to go through and if I can save just one person from making the same mistake then I think I may have done my work in this post.

Your passion in life should not be influenced by numbers in the slightest because your passion is the thing that sets your heart on fire. You know you’ve found it if you can feel that burning desire for it every time you talk about it. And the truth is that even the most unprofitable of subject matters can become good ideas if you have drive behind it and can frame it in a way that will make others feel the same way. For example, somebody who has a passion for pole vault may not have a big captive audience but if you look at the athletics community in general and then the sporting community too, you already have a huge amount of people who could be at least open to your message about pole vault. Pretty crap example, I know, but you understand where I’m coming from.

I think that the way to find your passion is to remember what you loved as a kid. When we become adults we get bogged down with worries about how other people view us and how we are going to pay our bills. When we are kids we can really find the joy in things we like with none of these worries holding us down. Try to picture what it was that brought you to life as a kid and that’s probably a good starting place. Of course, tastes change but you will find that if you were an arty person as a kid, you’re probably still an arty person as an adult; you’ve just forgotten about it because you’re too busy working for some knob in an industry you don’t have any interest in.

You also need to start reading and watching as much material as you can about business and start getting ideas about what you could do. Also, talk to as many people as possible because you’ll be surprised by what is out there. There are probably a tonne of things that you’d enjoy doing that you didn’t even realise where profitable jobs. “What do you do for work?” is one of the first questions I ask anyone I meet and I am often surprised by their answers.

But above all, passion will give you the drive to keep going. There are so many failed ventures out there and so many dreams that are just given up on and a lot of it is because people have run out of steam. If you have a passion for something you are far more likely to find other avenues and routes to success. Not many entrepreneurs get success on their first rodeo and the reason they pick themselves up and have another go is because they really, genuinely love what they do.

And remember that business isn’t just about selling something. I would have given up a long time ago if that was the case. I’m quiet and I want to inspire other people who a bit introverted and just want to be ‘nice’. I don’t want to be the ball-breaker that everyone is scared of and is all about the sell, sell, sell! We can all club together and support each other and there are lots of ideas out there that rest on this kind of foundation. So think about what you are good at, what you enjoy and what your vision is for a world that you want to live in. That’s a great place to start and you’ll probably end up surprising yourself a bit in the process.

I like to shout at people on Twitter

Nope, actually I don’t like to shout at people on Twitter. But I’m amazed at how many people actually do. I’m well versed in Facebook etiquette and I like to put my artwork up on Instagram so I have used that a fair bit. But I’ve only got my teeth into Twitter for the first time very, very recently. And I’m finding it terrifying and fascinating in equal measures.

Is Twitter just a really aggressive place?

I started this blog and all the other stuff along with it to try and build people up a little bit and particularly people who are introverted and have in interest in the bible. You don’t have to be or have either of these but I still want it to be a positive and uplifting place to be on the internet.

However, I realised quite quickly that you need to set up a Twitter account to be considered ‘present’ on the internet, otherwise people just look at you like you’ve crawled out from under a rock. So I did set one up and started to Tweet a little bit on really inane topics like how much I loved a certain contestant on Strictly (Mike Bushell is the best, just for your info).

Once I’d got a little bit of confidence and gained a whopping three followers I decided to start tweeting about the bigger topics that are bothering me. I had a whole list all stored up in my mind and now that I’ve tried out one of them I’m a little scared to try any others.

I decided to start with the climate change issue because it is something I’m genuinely worried about. I tried to make my tweet light with a little humour about people complaining about traffic jams because of the protests and then I took a deep breath and pressed the tweet button.

Now my tweet didn’t set the world on fire but I got back a bit more hate than I would get for my thoughts on Mike Bushell’s paso doble. The comments that I received back were all entirely fair and valid but they were more aggressive than I am used to when sharing things with my friends on Facebook. This space actually felt quite hostile all of a sudden.

I had to close my screen down after a while because I knew that engaging with people is about the worst thing you can do, especially when you’re starting to get a bit upset by what people are saying. But it did make me think about how sensitive I am and how little some people seem to care at all. Perhaps I brought that one on myself by trying to poke fun at the situation but the speed and the force with which some of these Twitterers (is that the right word?) come down on you is frightening. It’s kind of made me a little bit scared to say anything on there because if someone disagrees they just shout at you. I can see myself poring over the wording of each tweet for hours before sending out into the world.

My conclusion is a pretty blunt one and it is that Twitter is no place for a feeling introvert. If one reply that wasn’t even that bad nearly brought me to tears and made me worry that the police were going to come around and confiscate my laptop then I dread to think what would happen if I inadvertently riled up the masses. People seem to love this shit but I find it so scary! I think I will continue to comment on Strictly and throw in the odd tweet about things that really weigh on my heart because I’m intrigued by this new world. But I think that if anything, Twitter will be an excellent place for me to do some training in growing a pair and dealing with conflict. So thanks Twitter and all the angry people on there.

Much Love

Rachel xx