A few days ago I read an article titled, "Why Bar Hopping Beats Medication for Social Anxiety Symptoms". I'm not really the bar-hopping type and honestly I don't struggle with Social Anxiety Symptoms but I know a lot of 20somethings who enjoy going to the bar and I know several people who struggle with social anxiety as this title suggests. For the longest time, I've shared that with people who have a hard time in social settings (i.e. large groups, meetings, classrooms, etc.) to redirect their focus or attention onto someone else when they even get feel social anxiety bubbling up. In the article, the author suggests that "one of the most efficient strategies that has been used requires the redirection of mental focus from oneself to the folks around you." I didn't know that this could actually be proven by research or quantified.
In this research experiment, participants were asked to point out one unique attribute about the person they were meeting in a bar. For example, one person was asked to remember the color of the other person's eyes, or another would be asked to report the details of their hairstyle. This research proved that people who did this were less anxious than if they were asked to simply asked to meet someone new at the bar.
The article states, "The brain can only hold its focus on so numerous factors at a time, so if you crowd out the psychological processes that underlie the usual fast escalation of social anxiousness fears throughout a conversation with a stranger, the anxiousness becomes a significantly smaller enemy that you have to contend with." That's remarkable. Our minds can only do so much at a time, no matter how good of a multi-tasker you are, if you focus on one aspect of the conversation or individual, your mind doesn't have the mental capacity to think about yourself. But what about medication you might ask? I know several people who are on medication for social anxiety and depression and I'm all for it, but here's the catch: medication has a global impact, meaning it enhances or impedes most of your senses (even the good ones) rather than fixing the issue at hand.
So why did this article jump out to me?
First, it's true, if you focus on someone else, the pressure that you feel on yourself is far less. Rather than being inward focused, the opportunity to see someone as they are can have a stronger impact on personal anxiety than covering it up with medication (not for all but some).
What if our minds began to have the mind of Christ and was transformed by the gospel to hold beauty, strength, love, patience, kindness, joy and peace?
Second, one of the things we as Christians can revel in is that we have a person we can focus on all the time to give us the resilience to fight against anxiety. His name is Jesus. When we enter into situations that bring about anxiety, my hope is that we would fix our eyes on Jesus who is the one who can ultimately take away any anxiety. I know this can sound cliché but the truth is that our minds only have so much space to process fear, anxiety, doubt, frustration, struggle, etc. But what if our minds began to have the mind of Christ and was transformed by the gospel to hold beauty, strength, love, patience, kindness, joy and peace? What if our minds were so focused and concerned more on the latter than the former. How would we enter social situations? What would be our disposition towards community be like? What if we were attuned to what God is doing in others rather than having the microscope on our own deficiencies or weaknesses?
Third, I began to think, what would our communities begin to look like if social anxiety didn't have power over us in ways to debilitate our ability to love one another? What kind of community would be fostered as a result of focusing on one another rather than ourselves?
Here are a few tips for this week:
- When you feel socially anxious, try to find one thing in the other person that you want to know about. Maybe it's what their hobbies are, or how many siblings they have. Getting to know someone is key to overcoming self-centeredness.
- Share your struggle of social anxiety with someone you trust. I bet you're not the only one struggling with it. Ask that they would pray and support you.
- Focus on Jesus. Ask the Holy Spirit to transform your mind so that in moments of anxiety you will find a way of escape. In moments of anxiety, turn your attention and affection to Jesus, the one who has overcome your anxiety.
For more on this article visit GADFORUM.COM and if you know anyone who struggles with social anxiety, please send them this article!