Overcame Social Anxiety

How I Won The Battle With Social Anxiety

The burden of social anxiety weighed heavily on my shoulders for twenty years. It held me back socially, academically and professionally. Up until two years ago, I was one of the 15 million American adults living with social anxiety, and it was the most difficult time of my life.

The onset of my social anxiety took place sometime in elementary school. Growing up, I was called shy and quiet so many times that it became my identity. And the way these labels were placed on me made it seem that being so was a flaw. So I became a self-conscious child and did my best to avoid social interactions.

Going to school had become a form of punishment, and my sensitive nature kept me on pins and needles throughout my school years. In 11th grade, I could no longer take the pain of my social awkwardness, so I decided to drop out of high school and move across the globe. With the support of my family, I moved from Eastern Europe to North America. And I was so excited to finally be able to leave my misery behind. Little did I know that the worst of my social anxiety had yet to come.

Overcome Social Anxiety & Shyness

Would living the American Dream cure my social anxiety?

At the age of 18 I found myself in a foreign country, barely able to mutter a few words because I was so embarrassed about my broken English. But I was determined to immerse myself in the culture I had idealized as a little girl, and live the American Dream. Instead, I struggled to find myself in a world of seemingly confident people who had it all figured out. So I isolated myself, and I became dependent on loved ones just to get through my days. By my mid 20s I could barely get out of the house. My social anxiety was in full swing, and I was the epitome of unhappiness.

Mundane tasks like grocery shopping, or running errands, would fill me with anxiety and fear. I was afraid of people’s perceptions, judgements and assumptions. So I lived in constant worry that I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, and I tortured myself thinking that others would see my flaws. I didn’t want to be seen as anything less than perfect.

The taste of freedom

At the age of 27 I was already a mother of two, and I knew something had to change. I couldn’t possibly be a good mother for my children while being riddled with doubt, fear and anxiety. So I finally went to see a psychologist. But the high cost of quality therapy only allowed me a handful of sessions. However, they were enough to stir my curiosity about the underlying causes of what I was feeling. And I became excited about the possibility of healing. So I created the following three step plan for myself to win the battle with social anxiety. And it can help you do the same.

My 3 step plan to win your battle with social anxiety

Heal your mind

Work on discovering the root cause of your social anxiety. Take a walk down memory lane and allow your feelings to lead you to the first time you felt anxious in a social situation. How old were you? Where were you? What happened? How did you feel afterwards? Proceed to write down as many events as you can remember that triggered your social anxiety. Try to find the one event that affected you the most, and focus on discovering why it did. What would you do differently if you had the power to redo it? Rewriting that event with a positive outcome will help you cope better when you find yourself in a trigger situation. And it will also enable you to start the healing process.

Nurture your soul

Social anxiety can leave you feeling worthless and unable to see your strengths. It is important to enable yourself to flourish from within so you can face your social anxiety on the outside.

This is the step where you need to get to know yourself better, accept your imperfections, and love yourself more. So focus on finding your strengths, and highlight your qualities. Also, don’t measure your self-worth based on people’s reactions to your actions. When you suffer from social anxiety, trying to please others fuels negative perceptions of self. Instead, see and accept yourself as the unique human being you are.

Face your fears

As you work your way through the first two steps, your mind should be in a healthier place and your confidence level higher. Regardless of how severe your social anxiety is, you should start with slow exposure to situations that trigger it. Proceed with the following five steps:

1. Expose yourself to social situations that cause mild discomfort.
2. Increase exposure time slightly with each outing. Keep at it for as long as needed until you reach your comfortable place.
3. Try to engage in small talk as often as possible, it’s the best way to let go of social inhibition.
4. Smile! Studies have shown that smiling helps reduce the body’s response to stress, lowers heart rate, and makes us feel stronger. Exactly what you need when dealing with social anxiety.
5. Praise yourself every time you manage to function outside of your comfort zone. When trying to overcome social anxiety every tiny victory matters. So celebrate each one of them.

Today I can say I have finally won the battle with social anxiety and, by sharing my story and tips, I am hoping to help others win their battles too. But please remember that you will not connect with everyone you meet, and that’s OK. Your inability to connect with everyone doesn’t mean you are unlikable, or unworthy. Stay open minded and you’ll find your tribe. Don’t give up, the only way out of social anxiety is through it, you’ll prevail through persistence.

Read next: Become A More Mindful Person: 5 Easy Steps

Share with friends

Soothe a Broken Heart

How To Soothe A Broken Heart

The gut-wrenching feeling of a broken heart. We all feel it at some point in our lives, and we all desperately search for ways to overcome it. While there is no quick fix for a broken heart, there is a way to soothe it until the pain goes away.

Some common mistakes people make when they try to heal their broken hearts are: rushing into new relationships, drowning away the pain with harmful substances, or engaging in risky behaviors. But the key to mending a broken heart is to do the inner work first, which will lead you to make wiser decisions in the future.

Whether your broken heart is the product of a failed marriage, relationship, or friendship, the following three tips will prove efficient in soothing it.

fix a broken heart

1. Rediscover yourself

The best way to deal with heartbreak is to focus on the self. We often spend so much time tending to other people, striving to please them, that we lose ourselves in the process. Yet, we can’t offer much when our emotional buckets are empty and when we forget ourselves.

For instance, being in long term relationships shrinks our sense of self. As a result, our partners become part of our identities, which is why we struggle to find ourselves once a relationship ends. So you want to focus your energy on rediscovering yourself and your worth as an individual. Reconnect with old hobbies, do the things that interest you, or get in touch with friends you may have neglected.

There is nothing more rewarding than the feeling of growth. So why not embark on a journey of personal growth and become the best version of yourself? It will positively impact every other area of your life, and lead you to new beginnings.

2. Banish resentment

It’s so easy to get caught up in regret and wishful thinking. We often resent the people who have hurt us, or wish that things had developed differently. We wonder what we did wrong, what they did wrong, and why this is happening to us. And we dwell on what could’ve been, but wasn’t until it turns into a toxic cycle of resentment and self-pity.

Resentment hinders your ability to heal from heartbreak. It keeps you stuck in the past and unable to see the future. So learn to forgive and accept that broken hearts are part of life, they can’t always be avoided. Mourn the loss that broke your heart, but remind yourself that you will find happiness again.

3. Accept what is

Your broken heart will only get better if you allow it to. And the way you allow a broken heart to heal is to accept what is. Accept the outcome, the suffering, the mistakes and missed opportunities. Cherish the good memories you’re left with, and let go of the ones that cause you pain.

Sometimes, broken hearts are the greatest gifts because they force us to take steps we otherwise wouldn’t dare take. Perhaps now it’s your chance to evolve. So get excited about the upcoming experiences and possibilities. This could be the beginning of the greatest time of your life.

Stay open to trusting again, do your best to avoid past mistakes and you’ll get better than what you had. So when you meet new people, do give them a chance to prove trustworthy. Don’t make assumptions about them based on your past experiences. Instead, use those experiences to stay level-headed whenever you have to make a decision.

You’re only given one life. Are you willing to sacrifice fully living it for one person? Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’ll never recover from losing your “true love”, “soulmate”, or “best friend”, because you will. The pain may linger on, you may get some flashbacks, but eventually it will become a memory. One of the many memories we collect along the way in our complex, intriguing lives.

Bonus: 10 Activities To Soothe Your Broken Heart

1. Write your pain away in a journal.
2. Take a walk.
3. Talk to a person who makes you feel good.
4. Help a stranger.
5. Tell yourself out loud how much potential you have.
6. List 5 things you disliked about the person who broke your heart.
7. Write a note to your future happy self.
8. List three things you love about yourself.
9. Do something you’re afraid of.
10. Ask yourself: Do I want to allow the person who broke my heart to determine my future?

Here is a helpful quiz to evaluate your emotional well-being.

You may also like: 5 Mistakes To Avoid In A New Relationship

Poor Mental Health

How To Spot The Signs Of Poor Mental Health

The signs and symptoms of poor mental health are often so subtle that they’re hard to spot without a deeper understanding of self. Being in good mental health should be a top priority in everyone’s life. Mental health includes your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. When you struggle with your mental health, your mood, thinking, and behavior are affected.

Most likely, you have an annual checkup to keep track of your physical health. But what about your mental health? When was your last checkup? Or, when was the last time you asked yourself how your mental health was? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adults in the United States live with a mental illness. That is 46.6 million people affected by a mental health disorder, and less than half of them see a doctor for their condition. And the younger you are, they less likely you are to seek help for poor mental health.

The domino effect of poor mental health

Living with an unaddressed mental health condition creates a domino effect. You are the first piece to be knocked down by your inner struggles, then the rest of the pieces in your life begin to fall too. Your relationships, children and career bear the consequences of your poor mental health. Then, you reach that moment of despair where you find yourself gasping for air, and wish that someone, or something, will come to your rescue. But the only person that can save you is YOU.

You have to know yourself, love yourself and value yourself enough to understand how your mental health impacts your life. And you must learn to spot the signs of poor mental health. The best way to reach this point of deep self-awareness and self-compassion is to evaluate your mental health on a regular basis. Read on to find out how to get to know yourself on a deeper level and track your mental health.

Struggling with Poor Mental Health

Reflect on your triggers

What are the areas where you struggle most in life? Can you find a recurring event or situation that makes you nervous or unhappy? Would you describe your childhood as stable and happy? If your answer to the last question is “no” try to determine why not. Most mental health problems begin to form in childhood. So knowing how your upbringing has affected the adult you are today is a crucial step for self-discovery.

Bring your fears and worries to light

What are your three biggest fears in life? On the aspect of self (mind, body and spirit), what do you find yourself worrying about the most? You may be surprised to learn how the answers to these two questions correlate with your past history. Do your best to learn where your fears and worries are rooted. Based on that, you’ll find out how to address them.

Practice self-compassion

Self-compassion is the antidote to self-criticism and shame. No one is more deserving of your kindness than yourself, and this is not being selfish. Actually, they way you treat and see yourself is the way others will treat and see you, because these are the expectations you set. So find the sources that feed the criticism and negative thoughts you have toward yourself, and make peace with your inner critic. Learn to forgive yourself and others. Mistakes are inevitable, yet they teach us valuable life lessons. Remember, you have the power to choose who you want to be. You can turn those mistakes into a journey of personal growth, or let them weigh heavily on your shoulders. Be kind to yourself and choose wisely.

Analyze the five closest people in your life

You may have heard the quote “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” (Jim Rohn), and it’s true. We unconsciously surround ourselves with people who share our traumas, pains and struggles. But doing so prevents us from seeing the alternatives. When you go through a difficult time in life you need hope, and the people who share the same negative mindset are unable to provide it.

Therefore, take a close look at how the people in your life enable your negative behavior, or how they impact your thoughts. Sometimes, distancing yourself for a period of time from the people who keep you stuck, or drag you down, is the only way to grow. If you need to do that, do it. Afterwards, you may be able to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel too.

Track your mood and practice gratitude

Tracking your mood on paper everyday is a very effective way of staying in touch with your emotions. But you can also do it on your phone, computer or whatever way you find easiest. The best mood tracking method I found is adding an emoji to my daily planner to describe the overall mood for the day. It may sound shallow, but to be able to fill that emoji with the most frequent emotion you felt that day forces you to reflect on your day. Which acts as a moment to meditate, so you reap the benefits of meditation as well.

According to science, being grateful makes you happier. Gratitude is about appreciating what you have instead of thinking of what you’re missing. For example, one day you can be grateful for your good health, the next day you can be grateful for completing a task. The key to sticking with gratitude practice is to keep it simple. And for this, I have created my own daily planner. You can download it for free on my website. It includes a place to be grateful and an emoji mood tracker.

Learn when to get help

The above tips are meant to help you discover the subtle signs of mental illness, and bring self-awareness into your life. But if you find yourself in a dark place where you feel like there’s no escape, it’s time to get qualified help. Please don’t underestimate the power of therapy, it can change your life. There are also many free resources online that can help you figure out what you’re struggling with. One of them is The Self-Assessment Kiosk where you can learn about your mental health through different surveys.

Most importantly, it’s time for the stigma of mental health illness to disappear. When people say they suffer from a mental disorder, let’s not label them as broken, but tell them they’re strong. Talking openly about mental illness takes courage, strength, and a great amount of self-awareness. A mental health disorder can only break the people who never face it.

You may also like: Become A More Mindful Person: 5 Easy Steps

How to Be a Good Parent

How To Ensure You’ll Be A Good Parent

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”

-James Baldwin

Whether you plan on becoming a parent or you’re unexpectedly entering parenthood, it’s important to ensure you’ll be a good one. A good parent is one who raises a well-adjusted, self-sufficient child who becomes a valuable member of society.

The following nine steps will tell you if you’re truly prepared to be a good parent, and if not, how to achieve that.

Good Parent

1. Reflect on your upbringing

Was your childhood stable? Did you grow up in a happy, healthy family where children were heard and understood? How did your parents interact with you? What methods of discipline did they use? All these questions will provide answers to the parent you will be by default. When we have unresolved traumas from childhood we end up projecting them onto our own children.

Do: Understand how your history will affect your parenting. Work on overcoming your inner struggles.

2. Make sure you’re emotionally stable

How well do you handle stress? Do you become emotionally unavailable in stressful situations? Do you lose your temper quickly? While being a parent is an amazing experience, it’s also a stressful job. So determine how well you deal with stress. It can tell you how you will react when your children push your buttons (and at a certain age they do so daily).

Do: Learn how to deal with your emotions constructively so your children can do the same.

3. Consider your finances

It goes without saying that before you have children you must have the ability to meet their basic needs (food, shelter and a safe environment). But we all know that meeting a child’s basic needs is not enough to successfully bring up a child in our modern world. Unfortunately, access to good education, healthcare and safety comes at a steep cost. Do you have a plan in place to afford all this? Or, do you hope to achieve financial stability by the time your child is of school age?

Do: Work on reaching financial stability. It will allow you to increase your child’s chances of succeeding in life.

4. Check the health of your relationship

How would you rate your relationship with your partner? Did you grow up with parents who had a healthy relationship? We are prone to choosing partners that represent the role models we grew up with (our caregivers). So if your parents’ relationship was dysfunctional, you are likely to end up in the same situation. Unhealthy relationships leave children with emotional scars that affect their interpersonal and romantic relationships as adults.

Do: Avoid repeating history. Address any problems that negatively impact the health of your relationship.

5. Know why you want to become a parent

Do you want to become a parent because the clock is ticking? Do you feel pressured into becoming a parent by your partner or other family members? The right time to have a child is whenever you feel you can raise that child as you would’ve liked to be raised. And even if you’re unexpectedly thrown into parenthood you can still be a good parent. Simply be aware of what it takes to raise a well-adjusted child. It will motivate you to take the necessary steps to achieve it.

Do: If possible, plan ahead for having children and do so when you feel ready. If it’s an unplanned pregnancy, do your best to be as informed and prepared as possible.

6. Ensure you have enough social support

The importance of social support for a new parent can’t be overstated, yet it may be underrated. There’s good reason for the saying “It takes a village to raise a child”. Raising children can be overwhelming and exhausting. Parents need a break sometimes, and they can’t always afford childcare, especially in the early years of a child’s life. In addition, when you go through a difficult time in life your social support will be there to help you sail the rough parenting seas.

Do: If you have the ability, stay close to your support system. If not, become a member of parenting groups, or look for support within your local community.

7. Know the limitations of parenthood

When you accept the responsibility of becoming a parent you relinquish your rights to single living. That means sleepless nights are no longer a choice, they’re a requirement. As a parent, you have to share your quiet space with a not so quiet little person. So let go of perfectionism, and be willing to put your needs last. Because once you have children, everything revolves around them. All the decisions you will make will be for the best interest of your child, even if they are not the best for you.

Do: Be prepared to become selfless!

8. Decide the type of parent you’d like to be

It’s helpful to give some thought to the parent you’d like to be when you do have children. Think of what you liked and disliked about the way your parents raised you. What would you like to bring along (or not) from it on your parenting journey? Paint a realistic picture of your life as a parent. If your expectations are too high, you’ll feel like a failure. And if your expectations are too low you’ll be taken off guard by the complexity of parenting.

Do: Learn as much as you can about the best approaches to parenting and discipline techniques.

9. Discuss parenting styles with your partner

Mismatched parenting styles are one of the biggest sources of conflict when couples have children. For instance, you may prefer an authoritarian approach (strict and controlling) to child rearing while your partner is more of an authoritative parent (warm and communicative). When your parenting values don’t align the power struggles begin. And when this happens, not only do you hurt your relationship and children, but you undermine your parent authority, which leaves children confused and more likely to misbehave.

Do: If necessary, come to a compromise on your parenting styles and stick with the same rules.

Bonus: 5 Good parenting habits I learned and practice as a mom of three

1. Give your child at least 10 minutes of your undivided, one-on-one attention everyday.
2. Let tiny mischief slide, it will make for a calmer household.
3. Ask them what was the best and worst part of their day.
4. Tuck them in bed every night and remind them they’re loved.
5. When you run out of patience, remain mindful of how quickly they’re growing up and changing.

Here is a fun quiz: Will you make a good parent? 

You may also like: Become A More Mindful Person: 5 Easy Steps

Share with friends

How To Find Enduring Inner Happiness

Oftentimes, we place the fate of our happiness in other people’s hands. We expect them to fulfill us and make us whole. But this only sets us up for disappointment and misery. The people in our lives may strive to make us happy, but if we aren’t happy with ourselves the benefits of their attempts will be temporary. The right way to approach happiness is through self-awareness. You must know your whole self to learn what prevents you from being happy, and what will make you happy.

The following five steps will enable you to gain self-awareness, and experience enduring happiness.

How to Be Happy

1. Know your history

Identify possible traumas from your past to find out what keeps you from being happy. Childhood traumas affect our behavior and emotional well-being as adults. It helps to write down all the high-impact negative events you can remember from your childhood until now. Rate those events from the most painful to the least, and you’ll learn what is at the base of your unhappiness. You will refer to this base as you work your way through the next steps.

2. Evaluate your mental health

The mental health topic carries such a stigma still. We are even afraid to admit to ourselves that we may be struggling with our mental health. So we avoid assessing and addressing it. We tell ourselves “I’m fine” and find external excuses for our inner struggles. But not acknowledging our true thoughts and feelings sinks us deeper into a negative mindset. You want to know how past traumas are affecting you today so you can free yourself from their grip.

This mental health self-assessment screening can offer some guidance.

3. Determine your personal values

Our personal values shape our social relationships and well-being in the long run. Also, personal values have motivational powers and provide direction in life. So when you determine your personal values you learn what makes you happy. Take your values into consideration when you form new relationships. And don’t try to persuade others to follow them because it rarely works. Instead, make sure the people you surround yourself with share the same values. It will allow you to connect with them on a deeper level. Close connections are detrimental to lasting happiness.

4. Focus on your strengths to find purpose in life

I wish finding our strengths was as easy as pointing out our weaknesses. Yet it is crucial to discover your strengths to find purpose in life. So pay close attention to the things you do well, and the things people praise you for. Perhaps you are a very patient person. Or, you’re an empathic listener.

Another way to discover your strengths is to get out of your comfort zone. Do activities that bore you, try the things that scare you. Most importantly, do the things you love even if you don’t believe you’re good at them. You never know where they take you. For instance, I never expected my writing would be appreciated by thousands of people. I always loved writing, yet never believed I could write stories that people will want to read. But when I hit that publish button on my first article, it opened the door to an amazingly rewarding career.

Here is a great collection of questionnaires you can take to figure out your strengths.

5. Forgive yourself and others

A lot of the misery in our lives is caused by the high expectations we have of ourselves, and the grudges we hold against others. We are our own harshest critics and we create an image of self based on our failures and mistakes. But a happy life is not a perfect life with perfect people. We are all flawed, we all make bad choices sometimes, and we all occasionally hurt others.

The ability to forgive yourself and others is a must for greater life satisfaction. If you’ve hurt someone’s feelings today apologize and forgive yourself. If you’ve made bad choices in the past, forgive yourself and reflect on what you’ve learned from them. Or, for instance, if your upbringing left you bruised in any way, forgive the people that caused it. The benefits of forgiveness extend beyond increased happiness. They grant you the opportunity to live a guilt-free life.

Achieving happiness is like putting together a difficult puzzle. There are many different pieces that go into being happy. But as you gather more information, and go through different life experiences you learn where each piece goes.

The secret to being happy lies in the willingness to challenge who you think you are, and allow yourself to try different ways of living. You can always go back to the person you were, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know who else you can be.

Finally, don’t expect to be happy every day of your life. Part of being happy is realizing that it’s OK to feel negative emotions too. Let yourself feel them, and remember, they won’t last forever. Tomorrow can be the best day of your life.

You may also like: Defeat Fear Of Change: Find Happiness

Share with friends

Mistakes to Avoid in A New Relationship

5 Mistakes To Avoid In A New Relationship

There’s no denying that starting a new relationship fills us with excitement and hope. We hope this is it. This is the relationship that may last forever. And we try so hard to convince ourselves that we’ve made a good choice this time around. But the thrill of a new relationship leaves us blind to potential dealbreaker signs.

To avoid wasting your precious time, and increase your chances of making a relationship last, don’t make these five mistakes.

New Romantic Relationship

Mistake 1- Allow the euphoric feelings of a new relationship to cloud your judgement.

The excitement of a new relationship can prevent you from seeing possible red flags of trouble down the road. You may have fallen hard for your partner’s looks, and may not care much about everything else for now. But reality sets in sooner than you may think. And when you begin to notice differences between you and your partner, you may already be in too deep.

Look beyond appearance. Instead, observe your partner’s behavior, body language, strengths and weaknesses. Detect the habits that bother you, and determine if they are deal breakers for you.

Mistake 2- Not discussing core values and long term goals.

Failing to discuss your goals and values when a relationship begins, can lead to partners heading in different directions.

Our core values are what guide us in life. When they don’t align with our significant other’s, they can be a source of conflict. It’s very hard to make a relationship work in which partners have misaligned values.

For example, you may want to go to your place of worship every week but your partner may not. So if religion is a big part of your life, you want to ensure your partner shares the same ideology. Or, if you plan on having kids next year but your partner wants to wait five years, this can end your relationship.

Make sure you’re on the same page with your partner, it will save your relationship and your sanity.

Mistake 3- Not talking about finances.

There’s such a stigma around talking about money in a new relationship, but it’s an essential conversation to have. It helps you avoid surprises and disappointments later on. Talking about money tends to make people uneasy. But partners should be aware of each other’s debts and assets before taking a relationship to a serious level.

Nobody wants to bear the burden of another person’s debt they weren’t aware of. At the same time, nobody wants to be misled into believing they are in a relationship with a self-sufficient person and end up having to support them.

There is nothing wrong with being the sole provider in a relationship, nor taking on your partner’s debt. However, you want to know about it and understand the implications.

Mistake 4- Not knowing your contribution to the demise of your previous relationship.

When a relationship ends we are often filled with negative feelings toward our ex-partners. We often blame them for the unfortunate outcome. But moving onto a new relationship without knowing how we contributed to the demise of a previous one is like trying the same diet that never worked for you once again. The truth is, unless we know the damaging patterns that we bring into a relationship, we will never be able to make one last too long.

So take a moment and revisit previous relationships. Do you see a repeating pattern that led to their end? Were there similarities between previous relationships? The answers to your contribution may lie in the recurring problems of previous failed relationships. Take note of them, and address them. Don’t rewrite history.

Mistake 5- Having unrealistic expectations.

It’s very common to enter a relationship expecting your partner to fit this mold you’ve created for them. And when they don’t, you may sulk and try to manipulate them into behaving according to your expectations. It may work for a short period of time, but it’s not sustainable. Eventually, the other person shows who they truly are. That’s when they are no longer willing to compromise their identity.

Allow one to be oneself and you’ll find out much quicker whether you like them or not. Don’t paint your partner’s picture in the colors you’d like to see, let them show you their actual colors. You’ll be happy you did.

As you enter a new relationship, keep your head on your shoulders. You can daydream about your future with your partner, but don’t allow these dreams to guide your everyday decisions. Love deeply, but not blindly. Good luck!

Here is a quiz to find out how well you know your partner.

You may also like: 9 Practical Tips For A Healthy Relationship

Share with friends