Thursday, October 29, 2015

How to be a socially-functioning Ochlophobic introvert

I have always been an introvert. I'm the type that wants my space but also hates being excluded. I also have Ochlophobia (fear of being surrounded by huge crowds of people). The anxiety is awful - like I'm being suffocated and I can't escape because gravity is keeping my feet glued to the earth's surface and no one around me thinks anything is wrong.  I like my alone time, my space. But it was never fulfilling enough. Once you hang round with certain people, you realize how amazing they are for you. They provide an energy and feelings that you can't get on your own. Be alone for too long and you become swallowed in loneliness.

I had to learn that we as humans are not islands. We can be temporary hermits or have our own little personal "getaways", but we can't live without each other. We need the connection. We need to share with each other, to learn from each other, to grow. We need to be touched - we need hugs! It releases hormones in us that send signals to our brains. (In childbirth we call Oxytocin the "cuddle hormone")

So how does a girl balance this without her brain blowing up? It's about the balance of energy. Being around the positive energy of people we love but also re-charging our batteries with that alone-time we crave.

1) Be social in small groups : No need to go clubbing downtown in huge crowds; hang out with your core group of friends or organize events in smaller groups. This is where we're most comfortable. Our good friends have made the cut. We know that they make us happy, we make each other laugh. It's an environment of positive energy. No need to mess with a good thing. And when someone new comes around, yeah, we like to put them through a screening process. We're cautious with new energy. That's okay too. Take a deep breath and observe.

2) Escape to nature when you need it: If you're living in the city or your workplace is busy, filled with busy-body people, spending an hour or two on a crowded streetcar or subway, make the time during the week to get outside in a non-populated area. Hike through a forest. Walk barefoot in a large grassy park, run through a meadow, sit and look out at a body open water (lake, ocean, stream - depending on where you live).

3) Look up at the stars at night and remember how ridiculously gigantic the universe is. Think of how much space is out there. Let those thoughts of wonderment make you appreciate life, everything you have and of not being alone in such a vast galaxy. The second point here is that being alone in the universe is not all its cracked up to be. Even the Doctor (as in Doctor Who) takes a companion with him.

4) Journaling and colouring: Start writing. Write down your thoughts, feelings. If you need an escape from this world and this reality, write fiction. No one needs to see it but you. Introverts are energy-protectors. But if we shelter ourselves too much and bottle up our emotions, we build a time-bomb within our selves. Best to get it all down on the page and out of our stewing heads. An alternative: Adult colouring books!

5) Call your mom. Sometimes we drift away from family. We get busy, we have our own lives; or maybe there's family tension. Either way, never lose connection with your mom (or any family member who means the world to you). When you feel like you don't want to be social but you need to hear a human voice, call your mom. It doesn't matter if you're 18 or 38, that lady will always be there for you. Or even better, drop by her house for a hug.

6) Practice your breathing. Deep, slow breathing can calm the nervous system. Breathing is more effective at controlling your nervous system and immune system than you think. (I'll be posting more on Wim Hof's incredible methods on a later blog).

7) Schedule alone time or alone activities as well as social ones: Your daily "to-do" list should always contain at least 1 item that is for your own sanity; An activity for stress relief, or fun, whatever. List things that you have to get done, as well as the ones you want to get done.