14 Simple Ways To Love Your Socially Anxious Self

There’s a time and place for working on overcoming anxiety, and there’s a time and place for going easy on yourself. Let this post be your gentle reminder to practice the latter when you need it.

On that note, here are 14 ways to practice a little self-love if you struggle with anxiety. (And even if you don’t. You deserve self-love too, you functional adult, you.)

These ideas do not involve extensive interaction with other humans or lofty goals like going for a walk through your neighborhood–because that’s where the people are, and I don’t know about you, but if I am having a social anxiety flare-up, I need solutions that are low-stress.

I’m excited to hear what you think of the list.

Note: None of the links are affiliates or sponsors — just things I like.

#14: Read a book that soothes your trigger areas

Three areas I have experienced a lot of anxiety are perfectionism, pregnancy, and parenting. These books have made a world of difference to me:

Whatever you struggle with (body image? self-esteem? hair pulling?), there’s almost certainly a book that can help.

#13: Get super silly

My kids and I always get a ridiculous laugh out of the filters on Messenger. I highly recommend them.

We sent this to a friend to say, “Have a good niiiiiiiight!” And we laughed our wee heads off.

Remember: You don’t have to actually send the video to anyone if you don’t want to.

#12: Remember your awesomeness

This only works if you’re not feeling like a total self-care rebel (à la “No, I will NOT do anything constructive for myself *foot stomp*). (It happens to the best of us…)

Try listing 3 things that you are quite sure are not-shit about yourself. For example, mine would be:

  1. I make people laugh sometimes.
  2. I have the power to create other human beings.
  3. My hot chocolate is my husband’s favourite.

#11: Reach out

If you’re not feeling TOO far gone into hermit mode, it can be nice to connect lightly, gently, quietly with another human, even if all you can manage is a heart emoji by text message. Sometimes that’s all it takes to get the ball rolling.

Actually, with one friend, we use the heart emoji as my code for “I see your message and I’m thinking of you, but I’m too caught up in anxiety right now to engage.” (A friend who will do that for you is GOLD.)

Related reading: 💜 To the Friends of Those With Social Anxiety 💜

#10: Reach in

Basically this comes down to self-compassion.

Just give yourself an inner pat on the back.

Sometimes I (silently) tell myself things like, “You’ll get through this.” or “You feel anxious, and that’s okay.”

#9: Get warm

I learned this from a podcast episode by The Savvy Psychologist on 4 Surprising Ways Depression Affects Your Body (bold emphasis is my own):

A recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study gave depressed participants just one session of whole-body heat treatment using infrared heat. The study showed that, even a whole week later, participants  who received the heat treatment experienced less depressive symptoms than those who got a sham treatment without heat.

So, if you struggle with depression, one inexpensive way to give yourself some relief may be to take a hot bath or do some hot yoga.

From 4 Surprising Ways Depression Affects Your Body

Here are four ways I use heat:

  • I like to take a bath after therapy, when I’m most drained.
  • I lie on a heating pad for a few minutes at bedtime every night. It helps me sleep and relax. (Actually, I just bought a replacement pad because the one my mom-in-law gave me finally died. THAT was a sad day.)
  • I have a microwaveable rice bag that my friend made for me years ago.
  • I ingest much tea (more on tea below).

#8: Do an anxiety meditation

I don’t meditate much. (I have this bad habit of resisting things that are “obvious” methods of self-care. I don’t know why… something something self-sabotage, maybe?)

But anyway, when I really need help stopping the thought-vortex, meditation is occasionally what I turn to, whether it’s for morning encouragement, mid-day relief, or sleep help.

I’ve been meaning to try Headspace, but for now I use the Insight Timer app’s free collection. They have a whole collection for anxiety specifically.

My favourite teacher is Aluna Moon because of her soothing voice and the fact that a lot of her content is short and also caters to my mom angst:

Aluna Moon courses in Insight Timer
Some of Aluna Moon’s courses in Insight Timer.

I also like her Peaceful Sleep Meditation.

#7: Listen to a podcast

Podcasts are great for keeping my mind from going to blah and meh places, especially when I’m doing busywork but my mind is not occupied (and therefore free to spiral).

Here are two of my go-tos:

#6: Make it dark

Dark is cozy.
Photo by Designecologist from Pexels

This might just be me, but darkness is like a cocoon when the world feels a little too big.

I love taking a shower in the dark after the kids go to bed (bonus: heat therapy!).

#5: Normalize your body

If you experience body-related anxiety or insecurities like me (I learned that this is fairly common for those of us with social anxiety), one thing to try is to hop on Instagram and see the bad-ass content creators on there who are working to normalize all bodies and encourage healthier relationships with ourselves.

Some of my faves:

There are so many more. I could write a whole post on my favourite accounts and the uplifting work they’re doing.

And if you need a little extra love, check out my post You (Yes, You) Are Beautiful. xoxo

#4: Eat

Hunger + Anxiety = Hanxiety (Hanger 2.0).

I once cried the whole way to my favourite local Mexican restaurant because I was afraid it would be closed and I wouldn’t get my enchilada platter. (I was very pregnant and it was my birthday and we were running late.)

It was not closed. I got my enchiladas.

Moral: Pregnant, anxious, and hungry do NOT mix.

Just eat if your body needs to eat.

#3: Tea

Tea is warm and soothing and smells nice and it is a truth universally acknowledged that a tea-lover in possession of a kettle must be in want of a mug. Or… something.

Here’s your mug.
Photo by John-Mark Smith from Pexels

My favourites at the moment:

#2: Doodle

Ideally something funny. Like this:

I challenge you to draw a bumblebee ninja.

You will not be able to beat this rendition by a friend who shall remain nameless–unless she chooses to out herself as the bee-ninja artist she is–but your attempts will probably entertain you and anyone you show:

Update: She doesn’t mind being named. Everyone tell Julie how amazing she is and which bee you like best (left, middle, or right). I chose the bee on the right. (This was in her congratulations card to me when I was pregnant with James. We called him Bumblebee at the time. We still exchange many LOOOOLs and BAHAHAHAHs about this drawing to this day.)

#1. And the ultimate way to love your socially anxious self…

Wait for it…

Photo by @thegardenpics // More info in this article // My husband 100% sees the newer version of this on his way to work every day.

Think about it:

No partner = No performance anxiety.

Just sayin’.

(It’s a little more nuanced than that, as you might expect. Anxiety is rarely straight-forward. Read more here.)

There you have it!

Soooo… Would you try any of these ideas? Am I going to get to see some bumblebee ninjas? I will 100% accept bumblebee ninjas in my email inbox (blushygingersadie [at] gmail.com) or on Instagram or Facebook!

Go love your fabulous self in the way you like best!

And I’d be tickled pink if you’d consider sharing this with someone who could use a little pick-me-up today. xoxoxoxo

P.S. Word of loving advice from someone who does this very thing: Try not to let yourself get anxious at the thought of having to try ALL THE THINGS RIGHT NOW. Pick and choose, or come up with your own idea(s). Just go easy on yourself. 🙂

And remember:

Anxious Thoughts #2: How To Challenge Cognitive Distortions

Story time

So I’m working at Chapters (Indigo) right now, and when I first got here I couldn’t figure out how to access the laptop outlets under the big work table. I fiddled a bit, but then couldn’t bring myself to ask anyone for help.

So then I went to the Starbucks side of the store hoping for a table with an outlet, but they were full, except for one table where a man was packing up his stuff. But I couldn’t bring myself to stand there waiting awkwardly.

So I did a lap, and lost the table to another woman. Curses.

Now. Normally at this point I would have abandoned my mission of working in public (exposure in its own right, and something I try to do regularly). But instead, I forced myself to go ask an employee for help with the original Chapters outlets.

He was very helpful and it was only slightly embarrassing when we got back to the table and the (same) people who were (still) there watched as the employee–a kind, older gentleman–crawled (stiffly) under the table to (easily) pop open the outlet.

And then another patron made a (non-mean) joke about the employee earning his pay today. And I laughed along graciously and airily and all “Hahaha! I’m a normal human and you’re so funny and this is so not awkward AT ALL hahahaha HAHAHAHAHA okay stop laughing now.”

Anyway I’m not doing this story justice but the point is that it was AWKWARD (for me) and also a moment of bravery, because I didn’t just go home.

And now!

My last post talked about cognitive distortions, or “wonky thinking.” Check it out here: Bloodthirsty Jaws of Inescapable Death.

Last week’s post (clickable)

Based on one of your questions, I decided to do a follow-up post on how to actually challenge, or counter, those anxious thoughts.  

Countering a distortion involves asking healthier, more realistic questions to help pull you away from the brain bully’s toxic thought-vortex.

Using the same examples from my last post, here is how I would counter each distortion.

Countering cognitive distortions

Probability overestimation:

  • What it sounds like: This is for sure going to go downhill fast and end horribly.
  • How to counter it: What are other possible ways this could go? Is the Worst-Case Scenario the only or most likely outcome here?

Catastrophizing:

  • What it sounds like: If a kind-of-bad thing happens, then an even worse thing will happen, and then THE WORST will happen, and it will basically result in a zombie apocalypse.
  • How to counter it: If my worst-case scenario does come true, how bad would it *actually* be? A year from now, looking back, will I still think it’s earth-ending? [barring actual zombie apocalypse]
Rubber ducky who’s seen too much.
Photo by Tinyography from Pexels

Mind reading:

  • What it sounds like: I know what you’re thinking about me, and it’s bad.
  • How to counter it: Do I truly know what they are thinking? What ELSE might they be thinking? [there’s a very good chance they are thinking about their grocery list]

Fortune telling:

  • What it sounds like: This is going to end badly. I just know it.
  • How to counter it: Am I jumping to conclusions? Can I know FOR SURE what the future will bring?

Personalization:

  • What it sounds like: Whatever it is, whenever it happened, if it was bad, it was my fault, and I’m so, so sorry.
  • How to counter it: What other factors might be at play here? Does there HAVE to be someone to blame? Am I taking more than my fair share of the responsibility pie?
This girl is consuming all the responsibility fruit loops. Don’t be this girl.
Photo by Criativithy from Pexels

Minimizing the positives:

  • What it sounds like: You’re only calling me strong because [you don’t know me that well/I’m medicated/you’re trying to make me feel better].
  • How to counter it: Am I maybe, just maybe, focusing on my weaknesses and forgetting my strengths?

Discounting coping skills:

  • What it sounds like: If something bad or hard happens (it will), I won’t be able to handle it.
  • How to counter it: Am I forgetting similar situations that I handled well, or at least coped with and got through?

Should statements:

  • What it sounds like: I should be better at this. I shouldn’t need so much help or time. I should never be a bother to anyone.
  • How to counter it: Would I hold a friend or relative to the same standards?

All-or-nothing/black-and-white thinking:

  • What it sounds like: If I don’t get a new personal best on deadlifts, everyone will think I slacked on training and it will just prove to them that I am lazy and undisciplined.
  • How to counter it: Is there an in-between or grey area I’m ignoring? Can there not be reason for pride even if I don’t live the heaviest weight of my life today?
You must be THIS HAPPY ALL THE TIME or it doesn’t count.
[This is wrong. You can be half this happy or any amount of happy and it still counts.]
Photo by Jill Wellington from Pexels

Selective attention and memory:

  • What it sounds like: That one temper tantrum this morning means that my kids are miserable with me as a mother and I am not doing a good enough job.
  • How to counter it: Are there strengths in me I’m ignoring? Would an onlooker see it the same way?

Question!

I have several examples of real-life countering that I wrote down during therapy. One situation, for example, involves me mind-reading what our daycare supervisor thinks of me as a parent, and then notes on what questions I asked to talk myself through the anxiety.

Would you be interested in seeing a real-life example like this? If so, I can share it as my next post. 🙂

Closing thoughts

If you experience anxiety, remember that anxiety is a shared human experience. Some of us just experience a lot more of it and it interferes with our lives.

You didn’t choose to experience excessive anxiety. It’s not something you “deserve” because of some mistake you made or some personal failing.

This doggy would love you anyway. Tap into your inner unconditional love pup.

Mental health disorders are worthy of immense self-compassion.

We’re all just doing our own version of muddling through.

P.S. Here’s a list of just the countering questions! 😊

  • What are other possible ways this could go? Is the Worst-Case Scenario the only or most likely outcome here?
  • If my worst-case scenario does come true, how bad would it *actually* be? A year from now, looking back, will I still think it’s earth-ending?
  •  Do I truly know what they are thinking? What ELSE might they be thinking?
  • Am I jumping to conclusions? Can I know FOR SURE what the future will bring?
  • What other factors might be at play here? Does there HAVE to be someone to blame? Am I taking more than my fair share of the responsibility pie?
  • Am I maybe, just maybe, focusing on my weaknesses and forgetting my strengths?
  • Am I forgetting similar situations that I handled well, or at least coped with and got through?
  • Would I hold a friend or relative to the same standards?
  • Is there an in-between or grey area I’m ignoring? Can there not be reason for pride even if I don’t live the heaviest weight of my life today?
  • Are there strengths in me I’m ignoring? Would an onlooker see it the same way?

6 Things I’d Tell My Shy Younger Self (About Mental Health and Self-Acceptance)

How many times have you wished you could go back and give your younger self a hug, or maybe a good shake, to spare them (you) from all the tough stuff that’s still to come?

On the one hand, I know that there is huge value in learning the lessons and doing the work. I don’t know if I would *actually* go back and tell myself the things below. But on the other hand, it’s cathartic and therapeutic to imagine what you would say, you know?

So here are 6 things I would tell a younger me about shyness, mental health, and accepting myself (including my body):

#1 You don’t have to please everyone all the time

I’m not saying you can’t please people ever. I’m just saying you don’t have to do it at the expense of your own needs. (I say, as someone who still does it. But this is a time travel letter so I can change the past which then changes the future, right, so do as I say and not as I have done thus far in my/our life.)

If you spend your life as a chronic people pleaser, it will lead to:

  • thinking of yourself as a social chameleon
  • censoring and filtering yourself to match the energy and personalities of the people around you because you’re afraid of how people will react if they know the “real” you
  • feeling like your preferences (and often just your existence ) are an imposition on others

The more time you spend grooming yourself to be as inoffensive as possible to the world, the more you will be tormented by the question, “Who am I, then?”

Don’t live your life apologetically.

#2 It’s okay to make mistakes

Perfection is a toxic mind mirage, and pursuing it will shatter your self-confidence and productivity. You will become desperate to just reach perfection so that you can finally relax.

Perfectionism in the clinical sense is not healthy. It goes beyond just being driven, or “Type A,” or having high personal standards. It is disordered thinking.

Here is the ridiculous list of things you will strive to make perfect:

You’ll want to be:

  • the PERFECT mother
  • the PERFECT wife
  • the PERFECT entrepreneur

You’ll be obsessed with nailing down:

  • the PERFECT daily routines
  • the PERFECT home organization system
  • the PERFECT wardrobes for you and your children
  • the PERFECT meal plans
  • the PERFECT workout routines
  • the PERFECT defensive driving techniques (not even kidding)
  • the PERFECT path that PERFECTLY balances your PERFECT career choice and PERFECTLY PURSUED passions

What, was that annoying to read? Was there clearly an excessive emphasis on the word PERFECT?

YES, YOUNGER SELF. TRY LIVING WITH THAT TRACK ON REPEAT IN YOUR BRAIN FOR 20 YEARS.

Actually no, DON’T TRY THAT. I forgot the goal of this letter for a sec.

Listen. You will NEVER, EVER get “there.” Because “there” will keep moving even if you get closer to it.

Good enough is good enough and you’re good enough so stop it. (But also seek help because you don’t need to get over this alone.)

#3 Your body is okay

I’m not going to say “your body is perfect and flawless and you make sunsets cry” or any other platitudes that do no one any good.

No one has the perfect body. (If they did, they probably wouldn’t think it was perfect anyway and also everyone poops so next time you’re putting other people up on a pedestal just remember it’s not the only kind of pedestal they sit on.)

Someday, you’ll look back at photos of yourself over the years and realize how totally okay you’ve been all along.

But at the time, you were worried about things like:

  • Cellulite
  • Stretch marks
  • The scar from where the doctors saved you and your son’s lives with an emergency c-section (your tummy now hangs over the scar, creating what you consider a “shelf of shame“)
  • The fact that you think your face looks “weird” and “like a naked mole-rat” without glasses on. (You really need to work on your self-talk.)
  • The angle of your teeth (“underachieving on the bottom and overachieving on top”)
  • The slope of your nose (“it gets way too proud of itself halfway down and then wallows in its own shame at the bottom”)
  • Your cuticles (“who gave them permission to just keep GROWING all the time?”)
  • Your hair (“too ginger / not ginger enough / not the right kind of ginger / too curly / bad curly / too mom / too cocker spaniel / too unkempt / mutates when I sleep on it”)

And so on. You fixate on various things and then move on until you come back to them and realize they’re still there.

And in case you’re wondering, you will seek help for this and be screened for body dysmorphia. You will be told you don’t meet the diagnostic criteria, which will floor you, because if this level of body-criticism isn’t clinically significant, does that mean there are countless other women walking around thinking the same things about their perfectly imperfect bodies?

Look. It’s okay to care about your appearance and about looking/feeling pretty and dolling yourself up and exercising and all that stuff.

But don’t believe for a second that how you look is the most interesting thing about you.

#4 You are worthy of self-care

Many of us have a brain bully who whispers things like:

  • “The real you does not take care of herself.”
  • “You’re just faking it right now, going through a phase where you’re trying on self-care for size, but it won’t last because you never stick with anything.”
  • “You don’t really deserve this.”

The advice is simple here and comes from a future friend: “Fuck you, brain bully.”

It’s okay to take care of yourself. Act like you love yourself and slowly it’ll start to rub off on you. (It’s not that easy but it’s a start.)

#5 You deserve to heal

Eventually, when you burn out and hit your emotional rock bottom, you will see a psychiatrist and she will give you the permission you didn’t know you needed to start taking care of your mental health.

You’ll find out that over the past 20 years, you’ve developed severe social anxiety as well as perfectionism, generalized anxiety, and, eventually, depression.

And you will be RELIEVED to hear this… because you always thought you just “sucked at being a human.”

You will finally understand that this is more than just “sadness” or “shyness” or “being kind of hard on yourself.”

If you had been trying to walk around with a broken leg, you would have noticed it, addressed it, and let it heal.

Take your mental health as seriously as your physical health. Treat your mental and emotional wounds like a broken bone. Because broken bones can heal.

#6 You. Are. Good. Enough.

You have been seeing yourself through a cloudy, cracked, warped filter.

It’s the FILTER that needs to change. Not who YOU are inside.

Take a step back sometimes. Get out of your own head and take an honest look at other people’s imperfections.

Think about the people you care about and love. Do you see their imperfections and love them anyway? Of course you do, because you see the whole person. Start doing that with yourself. Start seeing your whole good messy self. (Yes, even when you have cocker-spaniel hair days.)

Give yourself permission to be a work in progress. Forever.

Life is not a fairy tale with a happily ever after. Not every day will go in the win column.

I don’t have it all figured out and I’m not writing to you from a place of “perfection.”

But that is exactly the point.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Let me know in the comments. 🙂

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