I have a group on Meetup.com about Social anxiety and Personal growth.
It’s called this not just because I wanted to meet other SA sufferers and talk about the problems we face. But also to find ways of overcoming it.
This I feel is an important point to make.
Social anxiety is more than just the physical symptoms and the mental anguish we endure. It’s also the various means by which such suffering is created.
In the struggle to free myself from the grip of this fear and worry, I have picked up ideas from many different subjects. From psychology, to philosophy, nutrition, lifestyle, sociology, and more.
I have found ideas in places that seem to bear little connection to the mental disorder, and others that are more accepted as part of the makeup of the disease.
To give you some idea I’ll go through a few of the topics I’ve looked at that do have some connection to SA.
An obvious example. What happens in our bodies has an affect on our minds.
Neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline, and GABA have been linked to anxiety states. Some of us may be more prone to anxiety than other due to genetic variations.
I also feel blood sugar levels, hormones, inflammation play a role.
This has lead to the development of drugs, herbs, and nutrients that may have an anti-anxiety effects.
Lifestyle and nutrition
With the findings in biology, we now know that how your live your life in the day to day can and does affect your mental health.
The diet you eat affects biological function, influencing your energy levels and mood.
How much stress you are facing has a big effect on anxiety and depression. So what habits you have to relax are crucial. [Exercise for the treatment of depression and anxiety]
Self-care is not something our society encourages yet it’s vitally important to our health.
Attitudes towards those with mental illness affects those with mental illness. Living in a culture that judges and persecutes those who have such health issues can create further suffering.
It leaves those who will mental illness feeling flawed, worthless. The cultural ideal about men for example discourages them from seeking help.
Another point to make is the definitions and values we hold. What constitutes a mental illness? Because definitions are vague and have been written by commercial forces that want to sell drugs and products. (Shyness post link). I feel a lot of people are falsely diagnosed as having a medical problem, when it’s more a problem medicalising normal feeling that we should have.
With globalisation, job insecurity, bad news through the ‘world wide web’. It can seem as though we are living in the most unpleasant time in history.
We have worries over our job, income, social isolation, climate change and more.
The way in which countries are run places the primary emphasis on making money. This leads to the population being dehumanized. Individuals are seen as nothing more than cogs in a giant machine. This leaves individuals feeling upset, depressed because their needs as people are not being met by those they work for.
Income Inequality is also a major source of our mental health problems. [Living in poor neighbourhoods is associated with greater levels of depression]
We can feel upset because the values we hold to be important are not held by society at large or the government. We can be made to feel persecuted, with discrimination based upon, race, sexuality, sexual orientation, introversion, sensitivity, disability, religious affiliation or the lack of it, and more.
The values we hold about ourselves and the world. They can come from established religions or more modern ideas about our existential selves.
This can affect our mental health because they can be the same as the values our culture has.
We can often feel as though we can never match up to a standard set by ourselves. Our ideas can be far too idealistic about how we should behave and live. Perfect bodies, perfect minds, perfect souls.
We never seem satisfied by our predicament, so we are constantly striving and searching, worried that we are not doing enough. The fear that someone is doing a better job of living that we are. We yearn for status and significance because we live in a world so vast that our life can be swallowed up so easily that our existence seems to mean nothing at all.
We don’t want to live without the world knowing we exist so our striving becomes a desperate scream to show the world we lived.
Our environment has an impact on our minds. Through chemicals in the water, air, soil, such as pollution, industrial and agricultural chemicals like pesticides, herbicides.
But its also the aesthetic aspect of the world around us. We can feel much better looking at a natural scenes that an urbanized ones. [Nature plays a vital role in human health and well-being]
The seasons can affect us with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), happening in the winter months due to lower light levels.
Environment can cover all the topics above and more. Biochemical, Cultural and society, ideas, familial and friends, professional and work and more.
The reason why I mention all of this is that we have an unfortunate tendency to want the quick fix. We want the pill, the treatment that once taken will make it all go away.
It’s is a consequence of how we live our lives. Our mental processes, behavioural habits, and values, as well as how we see ourselves and our place in this world. Our relationships to our fiends and family.
The cultural and societal milieu. Which It involves public policy of town and city planning, environmental issues and sustainability. Also how society is organised and run through the values and morals we collectively uphold.
Then there’s the unconscionable truth that we will never be of anxiety.
I hope the list above gives some idea of the vast scope of influences that affects our mental health, our levels of success and happiness.
All this I hope puts across the importance of looking outside the narrow realm of medicine. Fixing social anxiety/mental illness is far bigger, and reflects the reality that we are a individual who lives inside a reality. The nature of who we are and how that reality affects us far more important than we think.
As Einstein put it. ‘No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.’
What I’m saying here is look at your social anxiety in broader terms.
This post then is sort of a plea.
Social anxiety will never go away, but doesn’t have to be a prison.
But you can release its grip upon you, and still live a life that is full of the things that are important you.
But it does require that you stop seeking the simple answers and start to think big about the problem and it’s solution.
If you think anxiety can be solved by just taking pills, a little bit of meditation on and off, or some exercise. Then you are not giving it the respect it deserves. Or giving yourself the respect you deserve. It’s obviously important and so should your health.
We think anxiety shouldn’t be the big issue that it so obviously is. Because of this attitude we tend to downplay our suffering. The result is we don’t take care of ourselves perhaps as well as we should.
The problem I think is we are often not curious enough to find out more for ourselves, and work on ourselves. Self care is seen like self indulgent wishy washy nonsense, but that’s just one of the cultural attitudes I warn about above and we need to forget.
Instead what do we do? We hand over power and responsibility to another and hope they can fix us. Seeking help is one thing but that doesn’t obfuscate our responsibility for ourselves.
We need to spend more time on our own suffering, our needs and purpose by broadening our approach. All that stuff I have hinted at above can help.
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