A Simple Way to Reduce Social Anxiety

A Simple Way to Reduce Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is like the ‘friend’ who shows up at the worst time – every time – gives you a squeezy, suffocating embrace and promises to stay by your side, warn you about everything, and keep you safe (read, ‘keep you all to itself’). Just in case you think this time might be different, the chatter sets in, ‘You know everyone is looking at you, right?’ ‘Have you thought about what they’re thinking of you?’ ‘What if you can’t find the words – or worse, what if say completely the wrong thing?’ ‘Is it just me or are you sweating – I’m pretty sure people can tell. And is your face glowing red?’ It’s relentless and it’s exhausting.

Social anxiety happens on the inside. On the outside, people with social anxiety are generally really well-liked by the people who know them. They’re sensitive, intelligent and socially very capable, often with a high amount of the qualities that make people pretty great to be around – emotional intelligence, sensitivity, creativity – and fun. People with social anxiety can be so much fun.

Social anxiety is common but one of the planet-sized lies it will tell is that you’re the only one – the only one people are watching, the only one who runs out of words and the only one who seizes up at the worst possible times. 

Ok. So tell me. What can make a difference?

Recent research has found something that can make a difference to the symptoms of anxiety. The role of the gut in mental health is now widely accepted in the scientific community. The healthier your gut (yes healthy gut bacteria, we’re talking about you), the healthier your mental health. The link between the gut and the brain has been well established by reams of research. 

A recent study found that people who tend to be socially anxious report less social anxiety if their diet contained fermented foods (which contain probiotics). As explained by researcher Matthew Hillmire:

‘It is likely that the probiotics in the fermented foods are favorably changing the environment in the gut, and changes in the gut in turn influence social anxiety.’

The research is in its early days, but the findings are supported by an abundance of research that has come before it, which has found that foods that contain probiotics may have a protective effect against the symptoms of social anxiety.

There is no doubt that probiotics are kind of wonderful in the way they improve the health of the gut, which we now know also improves the health of the mind. Fermented foods are probiotic powerhouses that work by increasing the good bacteria in the gut, the home of our ‘second brain’.

As a side note, the research also found that exercise was related to reduced social anxiety. The relationship between exercise and reduced anxiety has been shown over and over and ov… you get the message. Exercise helps to neutralise the physiological symptoms of anxiety. When the brain senses threat, it powers up the body to deal with that threat by surging the body with neurochemicals (cortisol, adrenaline etc) to make the body strong, fast and powerful. When there is no need for fight or flight (because the threat is not real), the chemicals build up and can contribute to the physical feelings that are associated with anxiety. Exercise is the natural end to the fight or flight response. It burns up the neurochemicals and helps to restore the body to its neutral state.

But first, something to keep in mind …

The introduction of probiotics to has to happen slowly. Introducing massive amounts of probiotics can lead to a worsening of symptoms because when probiotics kill off pathogens, they release toxins. It is these toxins that are likely to be already contributing to symptoms (depression, anxiety, physical illnesses), but when the release of toxins is suddenly increased (by the increase of probiotics), the symptoms may also increase.

So, when you say fermented foods …

Okay, so now that the cautionary tale has been told and you know not to go nuts on fermented foods straight up, here are some popular fermented foods that are generally readily available:

Miso (a Japanese seasoning made from fermenting soybeans).

Yoghurt (look for the ones that say they contain live and active cultures.)

Kefir (a drinkable yogurt, slightly more tangy)

Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)

Kimchi (fermented cabbage – the Korean version)

Tempeh (made from soybeans – tofu’s nuttier, chewier, firmer, less processed cousin).

And finally …

The connection between a healthy gut and healthy mind has been clamouring at us to notice – and we have. Strengthening the gut will strengthen the mind and is a low-risk intervention to relieve social anxiety – bring on the exhale.

[irp posts=”1675″ name=”Our ‘Second Brain’ – And Stress, Anxiety, Depression, Mood”]

[irp posts=”590″ name=”Anxiety, Depression and the Surprising Role of Gut Bacteria”]

4 Comments

Debi Powell

Your articles and this website save people thousands of dollars every week. 😉 Thank you for sharing your knowledge, at no cost to us. (don’t get me wrong, I’ll pay if you ever decide to charge to become a member of your website!). Thank you so much…. you will never know the impact you have made, just on my little family!

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Waismann Method

That is very interesting. We treat patients who have become addicted to opiates, and more often than not they are self-medicating emotional issues. Anxiety is a huge part of it. Sometimes small thing that we oversee, can make a difference.

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Michele

I wish mental health professions (and regular doctors who treat our “physical” illnesses) treated our bodes and minds as a whole and looked at how one part affects another, as you so well explained in the article above. We just get medicated without trying to find the culprit of our anxiety or whatever the problem might be. Frustrating the state of our medical system…medicate, medicate first rather than educate and then look at meds as a last resort.

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During adolescence, our teens are more likely to pay attention to the positives of a situation over the negatives. This can be a great thing. The courage that comes from this will help them try new things, explore their independence, and learn the things they need to learn to be happy, healthy adults. But it can also land them in bucketloads of trouble. 

Here’s the thing. Our teens don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to go behind our backs, but they also don’t want to be controlled by us, or have any sense that we might be stifling their way towards independence. The cold truth of it all is that if they want something badly enough, and if they feel as though we are intruding or that we are making arbitrary decisions just because we can, or that we don’t get how important something is to them, they have the will, the smarts and the means to do it with or without or approval. 

So what do we do? Of course we don’t want to say ‘yes’ to everything, so our job becomes one of influence over control. To keep them as safe as we can, rather than saying ‘no’ (which they might ignore anyway) we want to engage their prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) so they can be more considered in their decision making. 

Our teens are very capable of making good decisions, but because the rational, logical, thinking prefrontal cortex won’t be fully online until their 20s (closer to 30 in boys), we need to wake it up and bring it to the decision party whenever we can. 

Do this by first softening the landing:
‘I can see how important this is for you. You really want to be with your friends. I absolutely get that.’
Then, gently bring that thinking brain to the table:
‘It sounds as though there’s so much to love in this for you. I don’t want to get in your way but I need to know you’ve thought about the risks and planned for them. What are some things that could go wrong?’
Then, we really make the prefrontal cortex kick up a gear by engaging its problem solving capacities:
‘What’s the plan if that happens.’
Remember, during adolescence we switch from managers to consultants. Assume a leadership presence, but in a way that is warm, loving, and collaborative.♥️
Big feelings and big behaviour are a call for us to come closer. They won’t always feel like that, but they are. Not ‘closer’ in an intrusive ‘I need you to stop this’ way, but closer in a ‘I’ve got you, I can handle all of you’ kind of way - no judgement, no need for you to be different - I’m just going to make space for this feeling to find its way through. 

Our kids and teens are no different to us. When we have feelings that fill us to overloaded, the last thing we need is someone telling us that it’s not the way to behave, or to calm down, or that we’re unbearable when we’re like this. Nup. What we need, and what they need, is a safe place to find our out breath, to let the energy connected to that feeling move through us and out of us so we can rest. 
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But how? First, don’t take big feelings personally. They aren’t a reflection on you, your parenting, or your child. Big feelings have wisdom contained in them about what’s needed more, or less, or what feels intolerable right now. Sometimes it might be as basic as a sleep or food. Maybe more power, influence, independence, or connection with you. Maybe there’s too much stress and it’s hitting their ceiling and ricocheting off their edges. Like all wisdom, it doesn’t always find a gentle way through. That’s okay, that will come. Our kids can’t learn to manage big feelings, or respect the wisdom embodied in those big feelings if they don’t have experience with big feelings. 
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We also need to make sure we are responding to them in the moment, not a fear or an inherited ‘should’ of our own. These are the messages we swallowed whole at some point - ‘happy kids should never get sad or angry’, ‘kids should always behave,’ ‘I should be able to protect my kids from feeling bad,’ ‘big feelings are bad feelings’, ‘bad behaviour means bad kids, which means bad parents.’ All these shoulds are feisty show ponies that assume more ‘rightness’ than they deserve. They are usually historic, and when we really examine them, they’re also irrelevant.
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Finally, try not to let the symptoms of big feelings disrupt the connection. Then, when calm comes, we will have the influence we need for the conversations that matter.
"Be patient. We don’t know what we want to do or who we want to be. That feels really bad sometimes. Just keep reminding us that it’s okay that we don’t have it all figured out yet, and maybe remind yourself sometimes too."
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 #parentingteens #neurodevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #neuronurtured #braindevelopment #adolescence  #neurodevelopment #parentingteens
Would you be more likely to take advice from someone who listened to you first, or someone who insisted they knew best and worked hard to convince you? Our teens are just like us. If we want them to consider our advice and be open to our influence, making sure they feel heard is so important. Being right doesn't count for much at all if we aren't being heard.
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Hear what they think, what they want, why they think they're right, and why it’s important to them. Sometimes we'll want to change our mind, and sometimes we'll want to stand firm. When they feel fully heard, it’s more likely that they’ll be able to trust that our decisions or advice are given fully informed and with all of their needs considered. And we all need that.
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 #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #adolescence 
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"We’re pretty sure that when you say no to something it’s because you don’t understand why it’s so important to us. Of course you’ll need to say 'no' sometimes, and if you do, let us know that you understand the importance of whatever it is we’re asking for. It will make your ‘no’ much easier to accept. We need to know that you get it. Listen to what we have to say and ask questions to understand, not to prove us wrong. We’re not trying to control you or manipulate you. Some things might not seem important to you but if we’re asking, they’re really important to us.❤️" 
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#neurodevelopment #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting

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