Learning to change my focus
The weather hasn’t been great today, it has been overcast and windy, with the occasional shower of rain. But, I needed to get out of the house, I needed some alone time, so I grabbed my Camera and went for a walk. I thought it was as good a time as any to find out what this Camera could do.
I have to admit, I really enjoyed it. Not only did it get me out of the house and into the fresh (blustery) air, it changed my focus away from myself and the symptoms of Anxiety. Once I stopped focusing on myself and how I was feeling and concentrated on the task at hand, my mood started to lift and I was able to relax. The ear ache I had been experiencing all week went away, I believe that tension was actually cause rather than the infection I initially thought was behind it.
I managed to get a few photos I was pleased with, the wind made it difficult at times though. I was trying to take a photo of a Gold Finch which was purched in a tree, but the wind was making the branch move significantly, my cameras focus couldn’t keep up with the movement.
While keeping my attention on the Gold Finch and trying to take a decent photo, I didn’t notice what was going on a round me. I didn’t hear the car approaching until it was right next to me, when my friend shouted out the window causing me to jump out my skin.
If I have learned anything from the Social Anxiety Course this week, it is this. My focus of attention is often internal.
I remember when I was at school, when I would spend my day in a highly anxious state due to being immersed in a situation that was a huge trigger for my Anxiety.
Sitting in a class full of people was difficult, it was busy and it was loud. My heart was constantly racing, I felt sick with nerves and tried my hardest to go unnoticed. The symptoms of Anxiety are often horrible and urge to escape so intense, which makes it hard to focus on anything else when you are experiencing them.
During those lessons my focus was internal, focusing on:
- My Heart Rate
- The butterflies in my stomach.
- My breathing
- My thoughts
- How I was feeling
- Trying not to say the wrong thing
- My hands shaking
Because my focus was Internal I missed out on what was going on around me. I couldn’t concentrate on the work or what the teacher was saying.
I left school with low grades and for years I believed I was thick, so I didn’t try to go to college. I don’t think I would have coped with it due to my Anxiety and because I didnt think I was intelligent enough.
It wasn’t until recently when I needed to improve my qualifications that I realised I wasn’t thick at all. I just had a lot of missing information due to my experience of school. Once I was in a calmer and more supportive environment, I was able to fill the missing information in and I was able to gain the qualifications I needed.
The other area that internal focus has impacted on is my connection with other people. Due to the fact that being around people and making conversation is a huge trigger for my Anxiety, when I am trying to talk to someone and connect with them my focus is all on me and not on what they are saying. By being so focused on the thoughts, symptoms of anxiety and trying not to mess up, I miss out on the enjoyment that you get from connecting with someone. Possibly even missing out on getting to know them and building a new friendship.
Changing from Internal to External Focus.
I don’t think I really appreciated the whole Internal/external focus thing until doing this course, at least I didn’t understand that was what i was doing. I guess it takes someone to explain it before it makes sense and you realise that’s what you have been doing all along.
This week I have been trying to shift my focus to be more external when having conversations or in situations that trigger my Anxiety. It hasn’t been easy, it’s difficult to change something that you have always done, but as the week progressed it became a little easier. I have to be constantly aware of what I am doing, because internal focus is automatic, I have to keep reminding myself to change my focus.
What I have learned from doing this is when I take my attention away from the symptoms, they start to decrease. When I stop worrying about how awkward I feel, I start to relax and it becomes a little easier. When I stop worrying about making a mistake and sounding stupid, I stop getting tongue tied and make less mistakes. Having a conversation becomes a more enjoyable experience than it has ever done before.
I know things aren’t going to change over night. It is going to take a lot of practice and awareness for these changes to take root. But, it’s a start. I just wish I had realised all this sooner.