It’s Xmas!

I must say I’m probably one of the few people I have met that loves Xmas. Xmas to me is family, and I happen to have an awesome family. We all just get on. I mean we have our little tiffs every now & then like any family does, but they are usually rare & small anyway. We enjoy each others company.

I don’t have a large family, it’s just Mum, Dad & my sister. My boyfriend & a few friends stop by too throughout the day. We have lots of yummy treats like cherries & nuts to nibble on all day, & mum usually makes a traditional Yorkshire roast (this year I’m doing a vegan nut roast).

I love the look on everyone’s faces when they get something they really want. That look of surprise. That is the moment that sums up the gift giving tradition for me. I’d be happy with no presents at all as long as I got to see that look on my family’s faces.

I admit I spent probably too much money on stuff this Xmas. Some members of my family are hard to buy for. I think in future I will think of things to make instead, as I’m usually pretty anti-
consumerist.

Once we open presents we just spend a day in total relaxation. We don’t have to impress anyone. We just take it easy, cook, eat, play with our new toys. I only have my nearest & dearest with me so it never makes me anxious. I just love Xmas.

I wish you a very merry Xmas too :)

What is your experience? What makes you thankful on this day?

A month without Facebook

I was talking with my Dad one day about social media. He tends to be the typical over-concerned parent who is afraid of all of our information being publicly displayed on the Internet. As though our lives are really that interesting. He also has concerns about social media replacing real life socialisation. I explained to him that many social events are organised through Facebook. To which he panicked about everyone seeing the event until I explained how it really works.

But I started thinking about some of the issues that I know Facebook causes me. I personally am often prone to envy. I put it down to my perfectionism & comparing myself to others. Seeing other people’s successes tend to make me feel bad about my own lack of success. Facebook tends to facilitate my seeing others successes.

Also in my opinion I felt like the ability to notify large groups of people takes the personal touch out of contact. If I saw something interesting & wanted to tell people, I’d put it on my Facebook wall instead of telling the person directly. But sometimes it is nice to receive a call or message from someone personally. It just lets you know that they are thinking about you.

So for these reasons I decided to do a little experiment. I decided to stop using Facebook for one month to see how it affected me. I put a message on my wall before I did to notify my friends that I wouldn’t be using it and that I would be contactable via phone & email. Most of my friends don’t use twitter, so I didn’t mention that.

The results: I didn’t miss it. At first I felt like checking all of the time. About a week in I felt I had to check it, so I allowed myself to check it once. I didn’t allow myself to reply or do anything besides read comments. So I did check it, but I didn’t find anything all that interesting, so I never felt the urge to check it again. It has now been over a month, and I don’t miss it. I also feel happier, although that may also be due to many other lifestyle changes. I have been comparing myself to others less & I feel more loved now that those people that I really care about contact me personally. I also find that I have much more free time.

Conclusion: I highly recommend giving it a go. Try a month, or even a couple of weeks just to see how you go. Keep your account active at least until you see how you like it, as it may not be for everyone.

Attention training

Here is another brain training technique for increased focus & concentration. It is essentially another way to meditate & be mindful. I do find that it is a great way to focus quickly, enabling one to practice anywhere, at any time, without tapes etc.

To start with find a comfortable place to practice, away from distractions. Wear comfortable clothing. I find sitting up to be best, but as long as you are comfortable, it doesn’t really matter what position you are in. Close or open your eyes as you see fit.

Take a deep breath in. As you do think of the number one. Focus on it. What colour is it? Does it have a visible texture? Is it numerical, written, Roman numerals? What language is it? Hear the word “one” clearly in your mind. Is it your voice saying it? Or someone close to you? Is it a voice you are unfamiliar with?

Now breathe out. As you do, hold the image of one in your mind. At the same time think “relax”. Feel any tension release from your body.

As you breathe in a second time, think of “two”. Same again, focus on anything you notice about the two in your minds eye.

When you are ready breathe out and relax.

Continue this pattern until you get to ten. Then repeat.

You should keep doing this exercise for about 10minutes, at least twice a day to get the full benefits. The idea is to keep repeating up to ten, not counting beyond that, as it can then encourage competitiveness. That is not the point of the exercise.

Potentially you could think of any object, I’ve heard of people using fruit, Buddhists often just focus on the breath or the body, or use a mantra. As long as the object is neutral & doesn’t cause anxiety or lead to thoughts that do.

Eventually you want to start practicing this in different situations, so that you get used to distractions. This will train your brain to focus despite any distractions.

This exercise can be a little boring once repeated many times. Also the results don’t become apparent immediately. Think of it like weight training. You don’t see results after one training session. But stick with it and you should see an improvement in concentration, focus & relaxation.

It’s ok to feel bad sometimes

I had my last session with my psychologist today. She’s away for a year and I’m kind of hoping I don’t need therapy by then. She gave me a really heartwarming goodbye. I’m feeling a little sad now.

For those that haven’t been to a psychologist, they become kind of like a friend. You tell them things you would never tell anyone else, and they help you get through some tough times. Some people will see them more often than close friends. They become a very important influence in your life if you let them.

Right now I am allowing myself to feel down. I am giving myself a moment to recover before I get back into studies. Sometimes we need some time out to recover. Sometimes we need to feel our emotions and not get angry or frustrated with ourselves. If we let our negative emotions cause us frustration or grief then we can spiral downwards, leading to worse & more intense feelings.

The key here is compassion for yourself. Allowing yourself to feel what you need to, telling yourself its ok, then recovering. Let the emotions ride out their course. It’s ok. Give yourself a moment.

Barefoot philosophy

“Going barefoot is the gentlest way of walking and can symbolise a way of living — being authentic, vulnerable, sensitive to our surroundings. It’s the feeling of enjoying warm sand beneath our toes, or carefully making our way over sharp rocks in the darkness. It’s a way of living that has the lightest impact, removing the barrier between us and nature.”
— Adele Coombs, “Barefoot Dreaming”

I’ve been slightly obsessed with being barefoot lately. One day I just realised how good it feels to walk around barefoot. Shoes are so cumbersome & restrictive. Yeah it seems totally hippy, I’m ok with that.

Somehow I stumbled across barefoot running sites on the Internet. And I got lost in them. I can’t seem to get enough of this barefoot lifestyle. They tell of the magic, wonder & freedom of running barefoot.

Naturally with my experimental nature I thought I’d give it a go. I went down to the park & chose some nice smooth asphalt with no glass or stones & had a bit of a jog. Now I’ve run forefoot strike my whole life (though certainly not regularly), this was nothing new there. But running without shoes is liberating. And it feels just a little naughty, like you’re naked. It was fun! It got me into running again.

I feel like there is an extra level of awareness when walking/running barefoot. The soles of feet are so sensitive and once you get used to it, rocks can feel like a foot massage, grass like soft carpet, concrete & asphalt are your pumice. It’s really quite meditative. I highly suggest everyone try it.

Celebrities with SA

Think those living with social anxiety can’t be successful? Think again. You know I love my lists. Here is another one of all the celebrities who have had social anxiety in varying degrees at some point in their lives:

Actors:

  • Kim Basinger
  • Sir Laurence Olivier
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Donny Osmond
  • Brooke Nevin
  • Alexis Bledel
  • Ann-Margret Olsson
  • Annie Oakley
  • Blake Lively
  • Brad Pitt
  • Courtney Cox Arquette
  • Evan Rachel Wood
  • Gene Hackman
  • Harrison Ford
  • Johnny Depp
  • Kristin Davis
  • Kristen Stewart
  • Lucille Ball
  • Michelle Pfeiffer
  • Michelle Williams
  • Nicole Kidman
  • Richard Gere

Comedians:

  • Carol Burnett
  • Jim Carrey
  • Johnny Carson
  • David Letterman
  • Don Rickles
  • Joan Rivers
  • Robin Williams

Musicians:

  • Adele
  • Thom Yorke
  • Morrissey
  • Justin Timberlake
  • Barbra Streisand
  • Jonathan Knight
  • Bob Dylan
  • Britney Spears
  • Carly Simon
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Cher Bono
  • David Bowie
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Donny Osmond
  • Elvis Presley
  • George Harrison
  • Gloria Estefan
  • Jarvis Cocker
  • Jessica Simpson
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Jonathan Davis
  • Kurt Cobain
  • Lady Gaga
  • Margo Timmins
  • Marilyn Manson
  • Martha Argerich
  • Rivers Cuomo
  • Trent Reznor

Authors:

  • Agatha Christie
  • C.S. Lewis
  • Cormac McCarthy
  • Elfriede Jelinek
  • Emily Bronte
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Garrison Keillor
  • George Bernard Shaw
  • Harper Lee
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • J.D. Salinger
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Kimberly Willis Holt
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Robert Frost

Athletes:

  • Susie O’Neil
  • Ricky Williams
  • Khalil Greene
  • Dontrelle Willis
  • Zack Greinke
  • Cathy Rigby
  • Joe DiMaggio
  • Mia Hamm
  • Nick Diaz

Historical figures/academics:

  • Albert Einstein
  • Albert Ellis
  • Orville Wright
  • Neil Armstrong
  • Thomas Edison

Politicians:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Al Gore
  • Bob Dole
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Ulysses S. Grant

Business figures:

  • Bill Gates
  • Brenda Barnes
  • Craig McCaw
  • James Copeland
  • Katharine Graham
  • Leroy Grumman

Models/fashion:

  • Adriana Lima
  • Claudia Schiffer
  • Heather Graham
  • Kate Moss
  • Rene Russo
  • Anna Wintour

I’m sure there are many more. I will add to this list over time.

Normal thoughts for the socially anxious

I attended another social anxiety meetup yesterday. I love these groups. It’s so scary to go along and meet a group of strangers, but so great to find out that you’re not alone. Here are some common negative thoughts that go through our minds. These are all negative thoughts that go through our minds quite often either before, during, or after social events. I am posting these so that anyone who relates can know that they are not alone or “going crazy” as I originally thought myself.

  • Nobody will like me
  • I should have said something differently
  • I offended someone
  • I can’t concentrate
  • I keep thinking about myself all the time
  • I should focus more on others
  • Others won’t want to hear what I have to say
  • People will think I look weird
  • I am probably walking weirdly
  • People will think I’m pathetic if I open up too much
  • I am weak if I admit flaws
  • People will think I’m weird if I want to be friends and hang out socially
  • I should be perfect all of the time
  • No one will want to talk to me
  • I am talking too much, no one wants to hear my views
  • I have to talk more or other people will think I’m too quiet
  • I need to contribute to the conversation
  • I shouldn’t show emotion or I will be seen as weak
  • I am crazy for thinking these thoughts

There are many more that could be added here. Perhaps you can relate to them? These thoughts are all unhelpful & I would suggest if ever you notice one, that you use the CBT techniques from this post to rationalise them.

Feel free to comment about your experience below.