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13 Things to Remember if You Love A Person With Social Anxiety

13 Things to Remember if You Love A Person With Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is the 3rd most common mental health issue in the U.S. In fact, over 19 million people suffer from mild to severe social anxiety today, and “normal” individuals tend to see the symptoms without understanding the nature of the illness and thus do not respond with empathy to sufferers. Common reactions are lazy, aloof, unfriendly, malingerers, hypochondriacs, and misfits.

If someone you care about or work with has social anxiety, you need to recognize the symptoms, understand their illness, and find ways to support that individual, rather than criticize and/or condemn. Here you will find 13 common behaviors of people who have social anxiety and how you need to respond in order to support them.

1. They want to be recognized for something other than just their social maladaptation.

A mental health issue does not define a person – it is simply one trait possessed right now. People with this affliction can be intelligent, can be productive, and can have a number of personalities and professional traits that are quite positive. Recognizing and praising these positive traits will show that you see beyond this single “negative” and can see their value as a whole person.

2. They get tired easily.

And they may sleep more or may be too exhausted to engage in normal activites. Think about it. They spend all of their waking hours that are outside of their “safe” places (usually their homes) worrying about what situations they may find themselves in, what they will say if addressed in any manner, how they will cope with a meeting at work or a class discussion in school. Their brains are relentlessly churning, and that can be exhausting. Rather than criticizing them for their tiredness, how about putting yourself in that mental situation? Would you be exhausted? Of course you will be! Rather than criticizing them, suggest a short time out or nap.

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3. They can “shut down” or “zone out.”

This is a defense mechanism, and we all have them, even though they may not present themselves in this manner. Some of us may become angry or irritable; some of us may be subject to “rants” of sorts. So why do we criticize socially anxious people for their defense mechanisms simply because they are different from us? Part of developing empathy for socially anxious people is to recognize that they have their own responses to stress, just as we do.

4. They are horribly self-conscious.

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    While most people will accept a “bad hair day” or clothing that may not be wonderfully flattering, those with social anxiety put huge emphasis on physical appearance, convinced that they are being regularly judged by how they look. The best response? Give compliments on their physical appearance; tell them that their outfit looks good on them; tell them that the color they are wearing is great; praise any physical feature that you can. This bolsters self-confidence and creates a feeling of acceptance.

    5. They will have more health issues, as their immune systems are continually compromised.

    UCLA study showed that social anxiety increases inflammatory activity of those parts of the brain that trigger immune system functions. Continued activation of this system wears it down and makes the body more subject to illness and disease. Rather than criticize or accuse someone of hypochondria, understand and accept the fact that there is a real physical cause of more frequent illness.

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    6. They respond differently to stimuli that you consider normal and even pleasant.

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      Remember, research shows that people with social anxiety are on “high alert” all of the time. This means that noise, lots of conversation, and large groups of people can overload their sensory intake. They will retreat, shut down, or flee. A study conducted by Gottschalk, M.D. and Haer, Ph.D., published in General Psychiatry, demonstrates that sensory overload and social impairment are directly related, particularly in individuals who have generalized social anxiety issues. Thus, if you are “forcing” a socially anxious person to participate in such activities, you are presenting him/her with an almost “impossible” situation. Tone down the activities in which you are asking your loved one to participate, at least for now.

      7. They have a great deal of difficulty dealing with change of any kind.

      You may be excited about a career change or a transfer that will move you to a new city and new experiences. Your partner or spouse will not share that excitement if they suffer from social anxiety. Any changes can be a horrible threat to “safety,” and you must recognize it. In your excitement, you cannot dismiss the anxiety of your loved one. Find ways to acclimate your partner to the change gradually or share some information on how to organize your move to another place without any extra mess, to give small incremental experiences in the new environment, so that they are not overwhelmed.

      8. They want positive responses to their anxiety attacks, not just nebulous comments, such as, “Are you going to be okay?”

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        They don’t feel “okay,” and they do not want someone continually asking them that question. Instead, you need to recognize the immediate condition and provide reassuring and positive comments, such as, “You’ve had these attacks before, and you have gotten through them. You will get through this one too. I am here to give you whatever help you need or to just leave you alone if that is what you want.”

        9. They store previous traumatic events in a different part of their brains than other people.

        We are all subject to traumatic events in our lifetimes – the death of a loved one; being the victim of bullying or abuse; catastrophes in our childhood or adolescence; violence in wartime. People who do not suffer social anxiety from such events store those memories in the left frontal portions of their brains; people who develop social anxiety store those memories in the back regions of their brains – those regions in which sensory perceptions are housed. Thus, the sights, sounds, smells, etc. of those experiences are recalled when similar sensory experiences are encountered (Dr. Ruth Lanius, University of Western Ontario, study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Jan., 2004). Understanding that the individual with social anxiety may be “re-living” prior traumatic experiences differently can go a long way towards understanding and developing sensitivity to their responses to current situations which stimulate those memories.

        10. They need their “space.”

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          While you are trying to get the anxious person to get motivated to participate in events and social situations, that person just needs to step back and get some perspective, allowing a gradual build-up to the participation that you may want right now. It is far better that you respond with a comment like, “It’s okay, I can go by myself. You stay here, and I’ll see you later,” rather than, “I don’t understand what is wrong with you! All I’m asking is that you go to this event with me!” Try to stop focusing on your needs and focus on theirs.

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          11. They know that their anxieties are irrational.

          You do not have to continually remind them of that fact. Instead of saying, “That’s just crazy!”, think of a response that validates what they are feeling right now. “I know what you are feeling; I know that you do not want to feel this way; how can I help?” This gives the socially anxious person trust in you and will allow them to voice their anxieties rather than keep them suppressed, which only causes additional stress.

          12. They fear a social situation that has not presented itself

          One of the cardinal symptoms of social anxiety is an irrational preoccupation with social situations that have not even occurred but may occur. If, for example, there is an invitation to a wedding and reception that is weeks away, the individual with social anxiety might obsess about the event. An inordinate amount of time may be spent thinking and re-thinking what clothing to wear, what hairstyle will be chosen, who else may be attending, where they might be seated at the reception, etc. You cannot change this thinking, but you can validate it and provide reassurances. Offering to help with selection of clothing and complimenting a particular hairstyle will assist in alleviating fears. Reassuring the individual that you will be “right next to them” throughout the event is important, and you must follow through with that promise.

          13. They will want to retreat to their “safe place” as often as possible.

          One of the things that social media has given to people with social anxiety is a method of communicating that is not face-to-face. Instead of criticizing the amount of time spent on Facebook or watching television, suggest an occasional walk or an evening out with dinner and a movie. These activities can reinforce the thinking that a social situation outside of the home can be “safe” too.

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          Elena Prokopets

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          Last Updated on August 13, 2018

          5 Exercises To Improve Intimacy and Create a Better Relationship

          5 Exercises To Improve Intimacy and Create a Better Relationship

          Making love can be simultaneously the most pleasurable and the most stressful experience that we share with another human being. It is a natural conclusion of the ritual of intimacy we engage in with a person we find attractive on both a physical and psychological level. Yet, we are far removed from our animalistic roots, and that which was once a matter of instinct has become somewhat complex. This is a good thing; we have grown as a society, and there are many factors involved when it comes to the relationship between sexual partners. However, we have also lost a great deal of the physical prowess our primitive ancestors had.

          They engaged in a huge amount of physical activities daily — activities that ensured their cardiovascular system and muscles were in great shape, which allowed them to have healthy libidos, strong erections, and the muscular strength, limberness and endurance to maintain different positions for a long time without getting exhausted. Luckily, we can regain some of these animalistic traits with the right kind of training. Here are some essential exercises that will help improve your relationship, but making you more confident in intimate settings, which means that you’ll have more satisfying intercourse.

          Don Juan

            1. Cardio for Stamina

            If you’re out of shape, the first thing you’ll notice during intercourse is that you start to breathe heavily, sweat profusely and tire easily. This means you’ll have to shift your posture frequently and limit yourself to a few positions you feel comfortable with or significantly slow down the pace. A high BMI has also been linked to potential problems with erectile dysfunction. Cardiovascular exercises like running, jumping rope, swimming and cycling will build up your aerobic stamina and enable you to perform longer before becoming fatigued, thus having better intercourse. They’ll also help manage your weight, possibly helping performance.

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              • Running – 10-20 minutes a day (1-3 miles a day is more than enough)
              • Jumping rope – 5-20 minutes a day
              • Swimming – 30 minutes a day
              • Cycling – 30 minutes a day

              The time in minutes denotes time spent actively performing the exercise, and you need to factor in a bit more time for warming up before and cooling down after the exercises.

              These exercises can be performed every day or every other day, and the goal is to work on both endurance and speed. Don’t just go at a snail’s pace; constantly try to improve your time or add some mileage.

              2. Strength-Training for Your Lower Body and Core

              The next thing you’ll need to focus on is improving both the strength and muscular endurance of the hip flexors, abdominals and spinal erectors. These are the muscles engaged in thrusting and circular motions, and they also stabilize your body in a number of different positions. The legs also play an important role, particularly in standing and kneeling positions. Here are a few exercises that will help you strengthen up this area:

              Barbell squats
                • Heavy barbell squats – set up at a power rack at the gym and make sure you use proper form and weights that you can lift 3-8 times. Do this exercise before anything else in the gym for 4-5 sets to get big and powerful legs, as well as tighten up the muscles of the core. This is useful for both men and women, particularly if you enjoy the woman-on-top positions and standing positions. You can do hack squats on the machine if your gym lacks a power rack, but you won’t get the core-strengthening benefits

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                Zercher squat
                  • Zercher squatsthis type of squat is a perfect way for guys to strengthen their body for standing positions where the woman is lifted off the ground. Build up a foundation of strength first, and then use lighter weights and go for 10-12 repetitions to focus on muscle endurance.

                  Glute bridge
                    • Glute bridgethis exercise is great for working the glutes and hip thrusters, and should be done for ultra-high reps —up to 100 — to increase muscle endurance. Once you become stronger in this movement, you can upgrade to the barbell glute bridge and keep the reps high — around 10 to 15.

                    Hyperextensions
                      • Hyperextensions – excellent for strengthening the spinal erectors, this exercise (or a variation of it) may be done in most gyms and even at home. Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions at the end of your workout.

                      Ab wheel rollout
                        • Ab wheel rollout – this is a great exercise for strengthening the abs, and requires only a piece of inexpensive equipment. It will help you stay stable and hold positions longer without getting tired during intercourse. Do three sets of this workout for as many repetitions as you can.

                        Cross body crunch
                          • Cross body crunchthis exercise improves your ability to perform explosive twisting motions, particularly good for improving your stamina in the spoon position where you’e lying on your side. Do 2 to 3 sets of this exercise at the end of your workout.

                          Incorporate these exercises into your routine 2 to 3 times a week.

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                          3. Upper-Body Strength Training

                          Upper-body strength plays an important role in many popular sex positions where the arms are used to provide a stable base or hold onto the partner. These including missionary, doggy style, the stand and carry (with the woman holding onto the man’s neck) and others. Use these simple exercises to improve upper body strength and endurance:

                          Plank exercise
                            • Plank – while bench pressing is great for building a big chest, you will find yourself in need of static strength, muscle endurance and a strong core. This exercise is a great way to increase the amount of time you are able to hold positions that require you to support yourself with your arms. For added difficulty, straighten out your arms like at the top of a pushup and hold as long as you can.

                            Close grip pushups
                              • Close pushups – a pushup variation that focuses on triceps, which are the first to give out during a prolonged missionary or similar position. Go for very high reps, 20 t0 50, to work on muscle endurance.

                              Chin ups
                                • Chin-ups – A great upper back and biceps builder, this exercise will also target the core if you try to be as straight as possible when lifting yourself up. You can jump to help make things easier, or just hold as long as you can if you aren’t strong enough to perform a single chin up. Do 3 to 4 sets for as many reps as you can.

                                These exercises, done about three times a week, will help you develop a strong upper body that can keep going and hold you up for extended periods of time.

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                                4. Pelvic-Floor Exercises

                                You don’t have to perform these at the gym, although you could do them after your workout without anyone even noticing. The idea behind Kegel exercises is to improve blood flow to the sex organs and strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor in both men and women. By locating these muscles and tightening and relaxing them for intervals of 5 seconds for 10 to 15 repetitions at a time, several times a day, you can improve pleasure and performance during sex. Women can tighten their vaginal walls for increased pleasure to both them and their partner, while men can delay ejaculation by tightening these muscles.

                                5. Flexibility Moves for Legs and Hips

                                Lion stretching

                                  If you want to avoid getting cramps — or even worse, pulling a muscle during intercourse — you should do a few simple stretches every day. The more limber you are, the more comfortable you’ll be with more exotic poses. Here are a few simple stretches to improve hip and leg flexibility:

                                  Take a few minutes to warm up with some light running or jumping jacks before stretching, and spend some 10 minutes on these stretches. You can do them in the morning and at night, or shortly before intercourse.

                                  With just a few hours a week devoted to exercise, you can improve your relationship significantly. If you focus on these exercises, over time, you just might become dynamite in bed.

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