Best Advice For Social Anxiety – Creative and Highly Sensitive People

Writers and creative people share traits of Highly Sensitive People (HSPs).  Think about it.  Creative people spend long hours alone, writing, or crafting their projects.  They tend to live inside their heads for extended periods, playing with ideas, trying new things, struggling to be original.  Building their project in their heads.  Hence, many are shy and experience social anxiety.

onredYet, writers have to be social, for example, they have to pitch ideas to rooms full of executives. They have to collaborate in films or other creative projects. Another reality of working as a writer in film or TV is networking. The point here is not so much to meet the most people, but rather to find some people and nurture your relationship with them. As writers meet colleagues, make a point of staying in touch outside of the parties or events where they meet.

One suggestion is to put together a contact list, and make a point of calling or emailing one person on the list every day. Since writers can communicate alone, better than they can in a room, send an email or text.

I’d also recommend befriending other writers who are currently experiencing some success. Keep in mind, they are probably shy, too.

Make friends with writers who are already working on a TV show, or writers who’ve had their screenplays optioned, or who already have an agent or a manager.  A key, when you talk to them; talk about them, what can you do for them?  Read a draft, and give feedback?

While at this stage, why not consider collaborating with another writer who’s had some success? Your partner may be better with people, better at networking.

For another writer to consider partnering up, they’re going to have to be mighty impressed with your writing or your contacts. You might as well try it. You have nothing to lose.

With a writing partner, you won’t feel so alone in what may be the most competitive job market ever. You’ll have someone to celebrate with when the news is good. And more importantly, you’ll have someone to commiserate with, if the news is bad.

Let’s examine some of the tools that may help a sensitive and/or introverted writer handle social situations.

I encourage writers to be more aware of their self-talk about socializing, about going to parties, and particularly about networking. When they hear “I’m too nervous, I’m going to embarrass myself.” Take some deep breaths, and strategize.

For example, think about past successful attempts to open a conversation with a contact. Remember how it felt. Redirect your thinking from, “I’m too nervous,” to something like, “I’ve done this kind of thing before, and it worked out. It’s going to make me nervous, but it’ll be okay.”

At first I recommend always making sure the discussion centers on the person you’re networking with, and is complementary. Even better – have facts to back up your compliment, like “I loved the way you used a hand-held camera in that scene, it gave the film a lot of energy.”

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Image credit: Creative Commons (185/365) :: on Red 2009 by Lucia Sanchez is licensed under CC By 2.0

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy: 4 Steps to Emotional Freedom

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This exercise adds a moment of mindfulness to the traditional cognitive behavioral thought-stopping & redirecting exercises.  Mindfulness is about being in the moment, sensing whats going on as it happens, staying in the present.

The exercise is meant to help people break cycles of negative thought, and shift away from types of thinking we’ve learned over the years that don’t serve us and keep us stuck in stress, anxiety, depression, and even addictive behaviors.

Mind traps are styles of thinking, which are basically wasted time, like obsessing on negative thoughts, worrying, catastrophizing, (over-reacting) self-blaming, blaming others, and exaggerating the negative and discounting the positive.

The Mindful Letting Go Exercise

Pay attention to your thoughts during the day. When you notice a Mind Trap, or common negative thought, obsessive thought, blaming, or self-critical thinking, first stop;

Now — stay in the moment (don’t go to What if, in the future, or Only if in the past. Then take a deep breath and from this more mindful space, move through these next four steps (Name, Feel, Release, Redirect):

1. Name it

Actually name the style of negative thinking or behaving that isn’t serving you in your mind or say it (maybe even out loud) e.g., worrying, obsessing, over-reacting, creating negative scenarios, etc.).

This is the moment you use “thought-stopping.” As you name it, stop thinking it.

Naming the thought creates more awareness of your patterns, but also stimulates the part of your brain that has to do with emotional self-regulation.

2. Feel it

Recognize how this moment feels in the body. This will ground you to the reality of the moment and give you an access point—a point in time where you can choose your next move.

This is part of “processing” the emotion that comes up when you think these negative thoughts.

3. Release it

Practice this phrase while breathing deeply, “Breathing in, I acknowledge the feeling that’s here; breathing out, I release it.”

This is the part where you let go of the thought/feeling. Let it fade away.

4. Redirect it

Shift your attention to something that is healthier and/or more important to pay attention to; make some tea, watch a tv show, listen to loud rock music, play a video game, run, lift weights, call a friend, get a hamburger, something different, and positive.

Remember, most importantly, this is a learning process. That means don’t measure success by whether “it works” every time or not, instead you’re training your brain to name, recognize, release, and redirect. 

Mastery is only created with a learning mindset. Like learning how to ride a bike, as you practice and repeat this over time, your brain will start making this more automatic.

Eventually, the way you think about memories, or thoughts that float through your brain, called “automatic thoughts” will change, and the neural pathways in your brain will change too.

Remember most worry and depression comes from OVER-THINKING. Keep it simple. Live outside your head. Be social, focus on real things out in the world. Make stuff. Be productive. Write to friends on social media. Get ideas from the inside to the outside.

You’ve been giving thoughts that run through your head automatically, and memories of bad situations TOO MUCH POWER over you. You’re allowing these thoughts and memories to bother you.

It’s designed to help you take back your power. Everyone can CHOOSE what they think about and do. Choose wisely. Chose to challenge negative thought. Chose to do positive things. Good luck. Don’t give up. Give it time.

(Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) which was developed by psychologists John Teasdale, Mark Williams, and Zindel Segal.  Che3ck out their workbook, “The Way of Mindfulness.”)

To learn more about how to stop worrying, stop thinking negatively, stop being anxious or depressed, check out my website (David Silverman, Stanford University Psychotherapist), CLICK HERE.

 

Survival Guide For Highly Sensitive, Anxious, Shy & Creative Individuals

David Silverman, LMFT

Just being aware that sensory and emotional overload are out there, and that Highly Sensitive Persons, (HSPs) shy, introverted, and creative individuals are particularly susceptible, to stress, and anxiety, and overwhelm, will help them cope and plan out  ways to protect themselves. The better they understand their temperament the better prepared they’ll be.

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Creative individuals include writers, actors, artists, and designers –the obvious creative careers.  However, even business people, teachers, and scientists all need to be creative, as well.  This group generally tends to spend long hours inside their heads, creating stories, art, design, or working with ideas.

Creatives tend to be very empathic, intuitive, and sensitive emotionally. Considering that they tend to be more attuned to other people, their behavior, and their emotions, it’s important to realize creative individuals have to be careful about absorbing negative emotions from others in Los Angeles or (especially) Hollywood.

Creatives, and HSPs  need to be prepared to check in with their emotions, especially if they find themselves outside their comfort zones, and pay attention to how they’re feeling. If all the networking, auditioning, marketing meetings, dealing with agents, or producers, are causing frustration, or anxiety, think about taking a break.

I recommend taking a walk, taking a drive, listening to music, go window shopping, find a park to relax in, anything to lift their spirits, and to ground themselves.

Everyone in the world experiences negative self-talk and self-critical thoughts, sometimes fairly often. A great way to deal with these thoughts is to acknowledge them, but don’t engage with them, or dwell on them.

Let them go. This is the basis of mindfulness, in general, and mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is about staying in the present, enjoying the moment.

Another common scenario with HSPs occurs when they’re creating or working. They may spend day after day working, and because they’re into their “flow,” they want to keep riding that wave. After a while, their energy levels will get sapped, they may start dwelling on how they feel so alone.

I recommend when HSPs and creatives feel isolated, to take breaks, call friends, go to lunch, or play poker. Everyone needs a human connection. Try to keep a sense of balance in their lives.

There are easily thousands of different types of meditation, so I’d just like to approach this subject in a general way. The goals of some of the “mindfulness” meditations involve, sitting quietly for a few minutes to maybe 20 minutes a day, with eyes closed, paying attention to breathing and “letting go” of thoughts.

I think the most valuable approach to meditation for HSPs and creatives is to open their mind to whatever floats through their consciousness. Don’t try to think of anything at all. Thoughts will arise.

Learn to acknowledge the negative thoughts, but then let go of them.  Don’t dwell or obsess.  Practice.  You’ll get better.

I try to remind creative and sensitive people to be kind and compassionate to themselves. They shouldn’t beat themselves up because they missed a meeting, got a rejection, or didn’t place in a competition. They must manage expectations, slow their pace, avoid overwhelming scenarios,  go easy on themselves, and challenge critical self-talk.

If sensitive and creative people start feeling isolated, or down, I recommend scheduling events they know they’ll enjoy. Go to concerts, go out to movies with friends, go to the gym, swim in the ocean, go surfing, read other scripts, read books, watch TV, have sex.

Put some of these fun activities on their calendar where they’ll see them. Always have something to look forward to.

Keep writing, stay inspired, and take care of yourself.  If you run into anxiety, frustrations, irritability, or blocks, consider seeing a therapist. 

Call David Silverman, LMFT. Stanford University educated Psychotherapist for a free phone consult, at 310-850-4707.