First The Body
You can’t run good software on poor hardware. No matter how much you’d like it, it will just consume your time and energy. It’s like trying to install iOS 13 on the iPhone 3.
If you can get your body right, you’ll find it much much easier to work on your mind and for the sake of this book, your social anxiety.
Bodywork #1 Eat Right
A Strong Mind Is Built in the Kitchen.
Here are five guidelines for anyone to get their food right:
- Do not focus on NOT eating junk food. Focus on finding ways to just insert veggies, fiber and fats into your diet.
- Wean off sugar (the biggest anxiety drug out there) by substituting other forms of sugar temporarily (Fructose from fruit is the best temporary option) and over time, reduce quantities.
- Food is not about getting five minutes of tasting pleasure. You are what you eat. It’s not about getting fat; this is about your mental health, what kind of performance you are willing to bring to this playing field of life, and how you love yourself.
- Every bite you take is either bringing you closer to health and longevity or disease and dysfunction.
- Environment is extremely important for initially regulating what you eat.
If you want to take it a step further, try incorporating the following chemical compounds to feed your brain the right nutrients:
- Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B3
Keep in mind that everyone’s body is different and there is no such thing as universal truths. You will have to experiment for yourself to find the right combination.
What we do know is that each one of these compounds have been unconsciously utilized for thousands of years by the healthiest humans who had a healthy diet that had all the right minerals and nutrients to properly fuel your brain and body for what you want to do in life.
Bodywork #2 Sleep Tight
Sleep is one of the rare instances where it’s just you and your mind, nothing else. There is a real biochemical aspect when it comes to sleep, which is tightly correlated with our overall health, and there is another psychological side that involves much more and has to do with your identity, your purpose, regrets, and much greyer areas of life.
Sleep is the Golden Chain that Binds Health and our Bodies Together.
Here are some suggestions to sleeping like a champ:
- Eliminate processed food like junk snack foods, sugar, alcohol, etc. Eat a well-balanced whole foods meal filled with healthy forms of fat, protein, and carbohydrates to fuel your body’s recovery during sleep.
- Don’t eat or drink anything right before bed. You want your last meal to be consumed a minimum of 2-3 hours before you sleep, including any fluids like water, to ensure an uninterrupted sleeping pattern without going to the bathroom.
- Exercise in the morning or afternoon. Tire your physical body out via cardio, lifting weights or even just trying to reach 10,000 steps.
- Participate in a body relaxation technique like stretching deeply or a yoga session you can watch a YouTube video.
- Limit your caffeine intake to 1 cup of coffee before noon or as early as possible. If you must drink caffeine later on in the day, stick to lower caffeine sources like green tea.
- Engage in a regular meditation practice to relieve your mind and decrease anxiety around intrusive thoughts that may cause panic at night.
- Anchored Sleep Breathing – Each time you inhale and exhale, create a vowel sound effect and anchor it to your inhale, and a slightly different sound for your exhale. For example, breathe in play in your head AAAHHHH, and when you breathe out, play OOOOOO in your head.
- Sleep Is Sacred. Imagine your bedroom as an altar for one of the most important things in life: sleep. You should only sleep in your bed and nothing else except for engaging with a partner. Do not play with your phone or watch TV before falling asleep. Try reading a book to put yourself to sleep. I recommend a book that will not get your head thinking too much.
- Magnesium and Tea work as a relaxant for sleep. It may also be worthwhile to drink Yogi Soothing Caramel Bedtime tea as well.
- Write down your thoughts, on a piece of paper and capture what you are grateful for today and what went right and what you look forward to doing tomorrow.
- Don’t fall asleep watching TV. Fall asleep reading a book. Our subconscious can be accessed during sleep, which moves our conscious mind during the day. What you do during sleep is surprisingly important and leaving your TV on in the background is not the best environment for sleep.
- White Noise or Binaural Beats. At times it can be useful to put in your wireless headphones and play some white noise or binaural beats, which are sounds created for ambience to focus your brain on the sounds over your thoughts.
Bodywork #3 Move More
We were built to move all throughout the day, whether it was finding a fresh source of water, hunting, gathering, or other kinds of physical labor. The irony of this is in today’s world we have built hamster wheels called gyms. The truth however is that our bodies are not created to move for one hour heavily and then sit down slouched at our desks for the remainder of the day.
Mini-workouts are crucial to managing anxiety. Running for a period of time has been scientifically proven to produce what we call an endorphin high. Endorphins work on the same receptors as heroin or morphine you get at the hospital. Why is this important?
Because this is one of the main mechanisms our body uses to manage pain. What’s painful for someone with social anxiety? Talking to other people. Using heavy cardio as a temporary bridge for you to get into the experience of what it feels like to talk to people is unbelievably powerful. Again, this is an example of choosing a healthy coping mechanism over a not so healthy method to manage social anxiety.
Aside from cardio, moving throughout the day is so important for managing most kinds of anxiety. Anything can help, including just a 10 minute walk. As you get into the habit of taking daily walks, aside from the morning at the gym, you will fairly quickly notice your anxiety decrease, and a more manageable form of your energy rise instead.
Bodywork #4 Mind Your Body Language
It’s okay to be shy at times and everyone might experience it to a degree. However, being shy at times like going to a crowded party is different than living in social anxiety, a bubble of your own creation of being afraid to talk to people because you just don’t know how. Who knew that making direct eye contact with others was important to establishing a connection built on trust? Who knew that depending how you stand and what you do with your leg position enables the other person to unconsciously realize you are socially anxious and uncomfortable?
Mark wrote, “All of these things that I learned then, and then looking back at my life, were making perfect sense. It’s not like people didn’t like me, but they thought I didn’t like them based on my body language and other mannerisms that presented to people that I was shy and anxious.”
Perhaps the most important element to body language is not necessarily how it will make you feel but how it will make other people feel. Some suggestions:
- Body and Neck Posture. Pretend there’s a string that pulls up your head straight at all times. Stand with your shoulders back straight like a Superman pose.
- Use your hands and open palms when you speak with others naturally. Don’t get overactive and pretend as if you’re directing puppets and don’t keep your hands by your side, not moving or unseen to the person speaking with you.
- Don’t frantically tap your legs or twist them together. You want to have a stable foundation from your feet as to where you are standing with someone else.
- Exercising to release energy, as well as body relaxation techniques like Yoga and stretching, can greatly benefit someone’s body stability on a daily basis.
- Unclench your jaw by leaving a tiny amount of space in between your lips. Be mindful of your facial expressions at all times. Are you smiling? Are you frowning? Do you look annoyed? How would you look to a bystander?
- Don’t breathe like a submachine gun. Focus on taking somewhat deep slow controlled breaths through your nose to the bottom of your lungs, in and out.
- Practice talking with clear articulation. Read a book and try to pronounce every single word clearly again and again. You can do this in front of the mirror and other exercises with your lips to improve voice clarity; don’t mumble.
- Unless you don’t have social anxiety, always speak louder than you think you sound. Having a loud and clear voice will make you a beacon of communication, not an invisible shy person.
- Experiment. There is not one magic formula that fits all. Play around and don’t get too serious. You can always practice with strangers because you’ll never see them again.
Now The Mind
Mindwork #1 Expose Yourself
Once you have built a foundation through your body and you’re giving your body what it needs to produce the right kinds of hormones and chemicals to operate, it’s much easier to begin to push and claw your way out of this identity and pattern of behavior you have unconsciously created in your life
Today, go outside and talk to 5 random strangers.
Slowly but surely, this is a good first step in giving your mind a chance to see what happens when you do speak. Most people when attempting to eliminate social anxiety may start and end with this practice of exposure therapy. But remember this is just an initial step, not a solution you can slap on and think your social anxiety is gone.
Mindwork #2 Unearth the Past
Trying to hide everything in your life creates the ultimate breeding ground for shame to build up. Living a hidden, shameful life leads someone to having no confidence, a bad self-esteem, and, in turn, developing poor mental health.
Obviously, Mark is not saying you should scream from your balcony everything about your life, but if he could scream one thing from the rooftops it would be to “share your insecurities and fears appropriately.” Why? Because the more you share about that big bad scary monster under your bed, the more that monster loses power over you and actually controls your behaviors and thoughts less. The really bad thing about shame is that if it goes unaddressed, it seeps into your identity, which determines your level of self-esteem, confidence, and your day to day behavior at perhaps a subconscious level.
Write down all the things you did back then that you feel shameful about.
Gain clarity over your list, it may take a few days or weeks to truly remember what happened, vividly forgive your younger self who was in survival mode, and personally contact and apologize to the people who were impacted.
Mindwork #3 Start Meditating
Everyone’s experience with meditation is different. However seasoned meditators almost all talk about the same thing. It’s like when you finally shine the flashlight at the monster under your bed and realize it’s just a shadow of a dust bunny. Meditation doesn’t necessarily calm you down; it changes the very structures of how your brain works and emits thoughts on a moment to moment basis. Eventually, after years of meditating, you can get into a state of mind that understands problems, discomforts, pains, and insecurities; fears will come and go, arise and disappear from your mind on a daily basis. You will come to peace with the flow of paradoxical human nature and appreciate life for being what it is: a wide ranging beautiful and meaningful experience.
Open up your calendar and schedule a 10 minute block for meditation daily.
Try meditation out. Download an app. Watch a YouTube video. Reach out to a Meditation expert/ guide. Do whatever it takes because meditation truly has the ability to fundamentally rewire your brain, show you to yourself, gain more self-awareness, and focus in all environments. In the words of Sam Harriss,
“Meditation is preparing you for the worst day of your life.”