When we talk about social anxiety, we commonly think of not being able to leave the house, fear of public speaking or staying away from crowded places.
But what about a fear of eating in public?
Anxiety over eating in front of other people is a form of social anxiety and can really make life frustrating and difficult, especially when you consider that social eating centers around a lot of life and work related events.
Do you say no to dinner dates?
Do you absolutely hate work functions?
Do you get anxious when you know that you have a family dinner?
Do you struggle to eat in front of people that you know well like friends and family?
If you can relate to any of these, then you may have social eating anxiety.
I have struggled with this at times, but it's not something that dominates my life.
However the times whereby I have experienced it, it has made me feel very awkward, and has caused me to do things such as eat as slowly as possible, be extremely mindful of table manners, make me chew as quietly as possible and cover my mouth while chewing, and even has caused me to leave a bit of food on my plate for fear of people thinking that I am gluttonous!
These are all normal feelings. I have heard of people who cannot swallow and some may actually throw up at the thought of having to eat in front of other people.
So what can we do to minimize these awkward symptoms?
1. Choose restaurants that are quiet. Go in off peak times. So don't opt to go for lunch during the peak rush hour. Rather choose to go for an early lunch or a late lunch instead.
2. When choosing a table, always choose the one at the back of the restaurant, in the quietest corner that you can find. If you feel nauseous, choose a table near the rest rooms
3. Try eating a meal in front of one other person who knows about your situation and you know will not judge you. This will build up confidence about eating in front of others.
4. When it comes to choosing a meal, go for something small, a light meal such as a starter or a salad or something very plain. This will enable you to take your time by chewing slowly, and because you'll have less food to have to eat, you won't feel pressured by being the last person who is eating.
5. Avoid foods like spaghetti, or very saucy and messy foods which are awkward to eat.
6. Eating slowly is your best friend in this situation. Not only will it help you to eat in a more controlled manner, but it will help those of you who struggle to swallow. Cut your food into small pieces and chew chew chew! It'll make swallowing a bit easier.
7. Mindfulness can really help here.Try and be mindful of what you are eating by really tasting the flavours of food and inhaling the smells. Take note of the colours on your plate. If you don't want the focus to be on your food, then focus on the colours and smells of your surroundings.
8. Take something natural and safe before you have to go out and eat. My go to natural remedy is rescue remedy, but you could also try something like st johns wort or any of the other natural products out there that works for you. Remember to consult your doctor first, especially if you're taking other medication.
I always carry a spork, stainless steel straw, hand sanitizer and tissues in my bag. For people, like me, who have quirky habits at restaurants with regard to germs and dirt in public places, I can always know that I have my own eating utensils and products to wipe down a table.
This is very similar to the spork I use.
I also love these on Amazon for people who live in the US.
These are just like the stainless steel straws that I use. Just like my set, I like them because it comes in a four pack and a handy little brush for easy cleaning.
The exact ones that I use can be found here, however these are only available in the UK.
Below is a video that I did on this exact topic.
I discuss these tips in a little more detail, and hopefully they will help you somewhat!
Always remember, when you have to social eat, that SLOW is key! :)
If you can remember that, then you'll be on your way to making progress.
Back when I was in the midst of a severe anxiety disorder, I honestly thought I couldn't get any worse than what I was.
Symptom after symptom plagued me, and everyday it felt as though life was throwing me into a crocodiles den with the most awful symptoms that just debilitated me more each day!
However, I got more than I bargained for when my anxiety decided to distress me even further by handing me another grueling symptom that would prove to be my biggest and most challenging symptom that I would have to deal with!
This was Tinnitus!
It came out of the blue, and made me suffer for months, and bearing in mind that when I was going through this, mental health was not spoken about like it is today, social media was not the hot property that it is today, and information on mental health was not as wide spread as it is now.
What made it ten times worse for me was that the subject of 'Anxiety Related Tinnitus' just didn't seem to be very common, and I was starting to think that I would be stuck like that forever!
Years later, I was really surprised when I found out just how many people suffer from this symptom, and because I don't want you to go through what I went through, and have little resources or reassurance, I decided to make a three part video series on the subject.
Because the videos were so well received on Facebook, I uploaded them to YouTube as well and decided to write this blog on Tinnitus as well.
I will be covering three main parts:
1) The two main reasons why you could be suffering with Anxiety Related Tinnitus
2) Answering people's questions about Anxiety Related Tinnitus
3) My six tips for reducing Anxiety Related Tinnitus
All videos are included as well for each part.
But first let's talk about the obvious.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is characterized by a ringing, hissing or whooshing sound in the ears.
People who experience it often refer to cricket like sounds as well.
A person may hear these noises in one ear or both ears, and the sounds may come and go, and be worse on some days than on other days.
The noises do not come from the external environment but rather from the internal environment!
There are actually two types of Tinnitus:
Subjective: This is heard only by the person experiencing the Tinnitus. This is the most common type of Tinnitus.
Objective: This can be heard by someone else, and is very rare.
What causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus can be caused by things such as hearing loss, ear wax buildup, severe stress and anxiety, exposure to loud noises, medication side effects, Meniere's disease (condition of the inner ear) and injury to the inner or middle ear.
Our inner ear contain tiny little hairs that pick up vibrations and move in accordance to the pressure from these vibrations that they pick up. These are then directed to the brain for interpretation. If there is damage or injury to the little hairs, the sound that is emitted to the brain will cause distortion, which could result in Tinnitus.
Another thing to bear in mind is fluid and blood circulation to the inner ear. If this circulation is upset, it can also cause symptoms such as dizziness and hearing problems, and if the circulation is upset for long periods of time, it can lead to conditions such as Meniere's Disease and Tinnitus.
When understanding this, it is clear to see that blood circulation to the nerves is extremely important, so later on I will discuss two types of herbal remedies that could help with that, and may just be the actual cause of your Tinnitus to begin with.
What should I do if I suspect that I have Tinnitus?
In my experience with dealing with my own Tinnitus, I have found it to be a completely stressed induced issue, which is why for this blog, I am only referring to 'Anxiety and Stress Related Tinnitus.'
However, whether you suspect your Tinnitus is Anxiety related or not, I ALWAYS advise people to visit their doctor.
As stated above, Tinnitus can often be the cause of another underlying issue that can be treated such as wax build up and medication, so it is always recommended to see a medical professional who can rule out any other causes of your Tinnitus.
You may also be referred to an ENT (ears, nose and throat) specialist to rule out anything medically further.
Once you have been checked over, and the doctor has been able to rule out any other cause other than stress, then you can work at reducing the Tinnitus from a Stress and Anxiety related point of view.
Now let's get to what was discussed in the video series:
1) The two main reasons why you could be suffering with Anxiety Related Tinnitus
It is all to do with Flight or Fight!
Once you understand Flight or Fight, and how it works and how it can affect so many different aspects of and within your body, it makes it SO much easier to help manage symptoms associated with anxiety. (Please again, keep in mind, that I am discussing this from the viewpoint of Tinnitus which is caused by Anxiety and Stress!)
Although Flight or Fight is a mechanism that is of great use and importance to our survival, it can also be a right pain in the neck, as far as anxiety sufferers are concerned, because our Flight or Fight mechanism is permanently switched on!
This means that we are always in a state of angst, our cortisol levels are extremely high and our muscles are tensed up most of the time!
When our bodies go through the flight or fight reaction, a number of changes happen within our bodies, and hormones, particularly adrenaline are released and are responsible for an array of terrifying symptoms such as palpitations, sweating, dizziness etc.
These hormones put the body under major pressure, and it is said that this is the first reason as to why you may have ringing in your ears, because the pressure from the adrenaline and other hormones released during flight or fight is travelling up to the ears, and the pressure is what you are hearing.
The second reason is that when our bodies are under constant stress and in flight or fight, the hormones again cause our senses to heighten. So your will hear, taste, see, feel and smell things differently or at a much more intense level.
This happened to me.
I heard things that were not there, and I heard things that other people could barely hear.
Watch the video below for a more in depth explanation:
2) Answering people's questions about Anxiety Related Tinnitus
People want reassurance. They want comfort. They want to know that everything will be okay in the end, and that is what I want to give them, because I am living proof that you can get over this and you can be happy again.
I remember when I was going through my worst time with my anxiety disorder, and the Tinnitus was in full swing, all I wanted for everyone to say 'it's going to be okay' and I didn't care how many times I heard it, I just needed that reassurance from people who understood what I was going through.
In the video below, I gathered some questions that have been coming through to me since I released the first video in this series.
One of the most asked questions was "Did your Tinnitus ever go away?" and the answer is YES! It did! :)
Watch the video below to see more questions get answered.
Maybe you have a question that I will answer here:
3) My six tips for reducing Anxiety Related Tinnitus
I made use of every possible thing I could think of when I had Anxiety Related Tinnitus. Some of them may sound crazy, but I didn't care about that, all I cared about was getting relief.
Below are the exact things that I did to ease the Tinnitus:
Isochronic Tones and Binaural Beats:
I started to sleep with these on at night.
These audio 'tones' are not music as such, but rather frequencies that are played out to induce what is called 'brainwave entrainment'.
These audio frequencies which stimulate the brain, can help people with a number of problems, and Tinnitus is one of them.
Isochronic Tones are regular beats of a single tone, so think of a tone that is being turned on and off at an extremely rapid rate.
Binaural Beats are when a frequency is played out into one ear, and another frequency is played out into the other ear. The brain then makes up the difference between the two frequencies and that is what will be audible to the person.
For Binaural Beats to work properly, you need head phones.
I personally find it very uncomfortable to fall asleep with headphones in my ears, so I really like this product, which will give a very comfortable feeling as it's not a bulky thing that sitting in your ears. It's completely wireless and will connect to your blue tooth.
If you can afford to splash out a bit more, I really like lavender headband. It's also wireless and connects to blue tooth.
To this day, I still use some kind of tone or noise at night, and even though I don't have Tinnitus anymore, I find it so relaxing to fall asleep to one of these audios.
Another one which I love using is brown noise.
You get white noise, pink noise and brown noise - these are the most common, but you can also get blue and violet noise.
White Noise is when sounds of different frequencies are combined and sound plays evenly on all frequencies that are audible to the human ear.
White noise sounds like heavy rain or static.
If you prefer something
Pink Noise is also played out on all audible frequencies but the strength of the high frequencies have been lowered.
Pink Noise sounds like a rushing river or stream.
Brown Noise is like pink noise but the lower frequencies are more of a humming sound.
Brown Noise sounds like a deep gushing river.
Brown Noise is my favourite. This is my favourite one on YouTube.
These are also some of my favourite sounds to listen to.
I love to listen to the sound of rain or thunder while sleeping.
You can get many apps that you can download onto your phone and with the app that I have, you can choose which sounds you want to listen to, and you can also combine them.
I would highly suggest reading up on these more and taking a listen to every one on YouTube, and see which one you like best.
Not only are they great at blocking out the noise in your ears but they great at stimulating the brain for sleep.
My favourite one that I am using at the moment is Relax Melodies, which is an app that you can download directly to your smart phone.
Always keep your ears precoccupied
Another thing that helped me a lot was playing music in the background while I was at work or at home. Whatever I was doing, I would play some music, and obviously I would first and foremost recommend some soft relaxing music, as this will help to create a tranquil environment.
I suppose you could call this a mild form of sound therapy, which will help you focus more on enjoying the music that is playing, instead of the Tinnitus, helping to block it out.
You have to avoid stimulants because these activate the flight or fight response, causing hormones like adrenaline to be released into your body - which is precisely what we don't want!
It is this flight or fight reaction that can solely cause or greatly contribute to Tinnitus.
I would highly recommend cutting out all the coffee, tea, cola, chocolate and anything else that has caffeine or stimulating affects.
I would also drastically cut down the sugar and refined carbohydrates, and eat foods that contain natural sugars like fruit.
You don't want anything that can release more adrenaline into your already anxious body!
It's not worth it guys, and especially stay away from these kinds of foods at night time!
Pillows at night are your new best friend
As strange as this sounds, this greatly helped me, and this was one of my 'survival hacks' to help me sleep, along with my brown noise or isochronic tones.
Lie on your side, with the side of your head on one pillow, so that your ear almost closes, then place another pillow between your legs, this is just an added extra to help with relaxation and to help you out if you not used to sleeping on your side.
By positioning my head like that, the Tinnitus was reduced in that ear, and the ear that was at the top benefited from the tones that were playing.
I use an orthopedic pillow for added neck support, and I find it binds better to my ear when lying on my side.
This is the exact pillow that I use and have been using for quite a while now.
I can highly recommend it!
Silence can be golden - yes it can!
Now completely opposite of what I said in tip #2, but this happened to me by total accident and I talk about this in much more detail in both video 1 and 2, but long story short, what I am telling you to do, is to confront your fear of the noise you are hearing!
I am of the opinion that we cannot treat or heal anything unless we have fully and truly accepted and acknowledged that problem in the first place.
This happened to me by total accident, but it really helped me gain perspective, and by sitting in a room of silence, just me and the Tinnitus, made me stronger in the sense that I no longer wanted to fear it and be bothered by it, but I wanted to overcome it!
Watch the video at the bottom more on this.
Even more tips to help you...
I want to just stress again, that when I was suffering with Anxiety Related Tinnitus, I was a severe anxiety sufferer who was barely functioning at that point in time.
Also, as I said before, there was no social media like there is today, no YouTube like today so awareness and knowledge on mental illness was not as spoken about as it is now.
Had I perhaps had these resources, I would have been able to handle not only my Tinnitus, but my whole anxiety disorder and my depression a lot better.
And I can guarantee that if I was still suffering, I would be trying out some, if not all of these resources.
Therefore, I am going to list some additional suggestions for you that come highly recommended by current Tinnitus sufferers.
Explore them, try them - you never know!
I am a believer in 'what works for one may not work for another' and I don't go along with studies or reviews. I go along with what worked for me.
Therefore, I encourage you to explore all options. Don't worry about what other people have said and how something hasn't worked for them!
You will only know if you try it!
Watch the video below for more and then read on to find out about some additional tips:
Ginkgo Biloba - This Herbal remedy repeatedly comes up when suggesting natural remedies for Tinnitus. It apparently helps Tinnitus by improving blood circulation overall but also to the nerves surrounding the ear. Ginkgo Biloba does take some time before people notice any difference. Remember that improper circulation of fluid and blood to your ears can affect them, and contribute to hearing problems.
To purchase this on Amazon, click here.
Lipo Flavonoids - I thought this was worth mentioning as I found two people who left comments in an article about natural remedies for Tinnitus, and they raved about Lipo Flavanoids as being an effective treatment for the ringing in their ears.
You can read the link here but you need to scroll down to the bottom to where the comments are to read the two people who left these comments.
You can buy Lipo Flavonoids off Amazon, and here is one such product.
The Finger Drumming Technique - A technique developed by Dr Jan Strydom which can help relieve the ringing in the ears by stimulating the 8th cranial nerve - which affects our hearing and can contribute to ringing in the ears if there is a problem.
Watch this awesome video that I found about it here.
Acupuncture and/or Acupressure - Attempts to remove blockages in the body by placing pressure on various pressure points. With Acupuncture, it is done with needles.
This must be done by a trained professional.
Sound Therapy - A person will listen to other sounds to distract them from the Tinnitus and help them to see the Tinnitus as an unimportant sound that can be ignored.
This is often done through headphones.
This is also often combined with Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) - This is a habituation therapy which helps people to manage their Tinnitus by changing how the brain reacts to the Tinnitus.
It will teach a person how to almost 'tune out' the sounds by making the Tinnitus seem like a natural part of everyday life, and that there is no need to focus on it.
TRT is done in two parts: Sound Therapy and then Couselling
TRT is done by a trained professional.
I also recommend the book 'Rewiring Tinnitus' by Glenn Schweitzer.
It's a great read and offers a lot of hope and comfort.
I don't want to give away Glenn's recommendations, but with a bit of an open mind, I am quite sure this book can help you and your Tinnitus.
Read these helpful links on TRT:
Sound Therapy to relieve Tinnitus
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy Info
The bottom line is that there is hope, and I am living proof that you can get over Anxiety Related Tinnitus.
The most important thing that you can do as well is to RELAX - easier said than done, but it is so important to reduce the flight or fight reaction that your anxious body and mind is always under, because that greatly affects Tinnitus - as discussed earlier.
I really hope this has helped some what, given you a little ray of hope and encouraged you to go and research because there are so many more tips and suggestions that have helped people over the years.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor! This article is to provide information only, and any advice followed is to be done at your own risk.
Any links provided are there to help you to try and help your tinnitus.
Some of them I have personally used myself, and some are just there to give you some ideas as to what is out there.
None of these suggestions are guaranteed to help tinnitus.
I do earn a small commission on some of the products that are linked in this article.
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PLEASE NOTE: THE FOLLOWING BLOG WAS WRITTEN BY ME (MEL BONTHUYS) FOR 'THIS IS MY BRAVE' AND APPEARED ON THEIR SITE ON 8 DECEMBER 2017
Mental illness is a compulsive liar!
It never shuts up, and seems to thrive on making a person feel as hopeless and worthless as they possibly can, and quite frankly, you don't need the added 'voice' of mental illness screaming atrocities at you when you are already struggling so much with constant mental pain and added physical symptoms.
Of course it doesn't help that there is an awful stigma associated with mental illness, and when a person is in the frame of mind that they are in with mental illness, it can be extremely hard to break free from the constant lies that you are hearing - and believing not only inside your head but in and around in society as well.
As someone who has suffered with severe anxiety and panic disorder, I am going to outline some common ways that mental illness, in particular, anxiety, lies to you.
1) You are crazy and insane and they going to lock you away in a mental institution!
The voice of my anxiety screamed this at me every single day, to the point whereby I had started to conjure up images of myself in a mental hospital, in seclusion, secured in a strait jacket!
The sad thing is for a while, I really did believe this little lie, and if you are believing it as well, please don't. With all the campaigns and awareness that is being created for mental illness, it is been proven that many people struggle with mental illness, and it by no means, means that you are insane!
One in four people struggle with mental illness at some point in their life, and this figure makes us see just how common it really is.
Try to think about it logically - you are not a criminal and it isn't a crime to suffer with mental illness!
2) You are going to feel like this for the rest of your life!
Without a doubt one of the most difficult of lies to brush off. Believe me, I completely understand how believable this lie is!
But please, if me saying this to you is the only thing you have right now, please take it from me - someone who had anxiety disorder so severe that I cannot even put it into words. Please believe me when I say you to that you can and you will get better.
There are such a wide variety of treatments available, and there is one out there waiting for you! Trust me - you do not have to live like this!
3) You are worthless and will never amount to anything in life!
Ouch! This lie made me cry at times, because I truly believed it!
However, I can stick my tongue out at my anxiety disorder and say 'You lied to me' because I have achieved so much! I am the happiest I've ever been in my life. I work for myself, I get to help others with their anxiety, I wrote and published my book, I'm happily married and I love life - if that doesn't equal success and worth then I don't know what does!
One of the first rules of recovery is to believe that you deserve to feel good again - and you do!
You deserve all the happiness and prosperity that life wants to give you!
Each person is on this earth for a reason, and you must believe that!
4) Everyone you love will cut you out their life!
While I cannot guarantee that everyone in your life will understand, I can tell you that you most definitely will not be alone because if someone loves and cares for you, they will want to help you and support you through this. Yes, there are those people who choose to be very ignorant on the subject of mental health, and perhaps will run for the nearest exit door, but know it's probably for the better, as people who are recovering from mental illness need strong support structures.
My boyfriend at the time is now my husband, and didn't let my anxiety disorder get in the way! The right people will love you for who you are, and they won't let you go through this alone, and the people that do cut you out are extremely ignorant and misinformed and they don't deserve to have your friendship. Always remember that mental illness does not define you as a person.
If you are one of those people who doesn't have anyone to turn to, please phone one of the many helplines or join up a support group. You are never alone in your struggle - ever!!!!
5) Your fears are real and will come true!
Speaking purely from an anxiety sufferers point of view here, I can say that anxiety disorders are centered around either irrationality or not knowing what you are anxious or fearful about.
This is tough because your fears, whether they are unknown or highly irrational are very real to you, and no one really understands what it feels like to fear something so unrealistic that it's laughable! It's even worse if you are one of those anxiety sufferers who doesn't even know what they are even fearful about.
For me, the way I dealt with my irrational fears was in two ways: firstly, I didn't expose myself directly to anything that would trigger the fear off, such as watching movies that portrayed my fear. Secondly, a good way to challenge fears in general is to tell yourself the worst possible scenario that could happen but make it as completely ridiculous as you can.
Say for example you have a fear of a dog biting you.
You could say something like this: I am scared that if a dog bites me, I will not get efficient treatment and then I will get gangrene and my bitten leg will fall off, and then everyone I know will reject me!
It's silly stuff but it works! There is something about telling yourself the worst possible thing that could happen that jolts the mind into realizing just how unrealistic it is - although yes, a dog biting you is indeed rational, but the scenario that follows is not!
It's described as a 'hug in a box' and lets face it, who wouldn't want to receive a box of goodies to cheer themselves up on days where depression, anxiety and stress are really giving you a hard time?
This is what the Buddy Box subscription is.
It's a box full of items, treats and goodies designed to help someone struggling with mental illness to feel a little bit more comfortable and to let them know that someone is thinking of them. The boxes come from an organization known as The Blurt Foundation, who are known for their work with mainly depression, but as an anxiety sufferer, I can safely say, I think these boxes would be a source of comfort to anyone struggling with any kind of mental illness.
To learn more about the buddy box system, please click here.
The Blurt Foundation very kindly sent me a complementary box in exchange for a review, and honestly, I was not disappointed, especially when I saw that the box I had received, had their very recent book 'The Self Care Project' inside.
I have included a video below, which shows me unboxing the Buddy Box, and I show you all the items inside. If you don't want to watch the video, then read on to see some photographs and a bit of commentary on the items:
1. Socks and Foot Balm
2. Space Mask
I thoroughly enjoyed this!
When you open up the packet, the masks starts to heat up - so don't open it unless you are going to use it. However, it also contains jasmine flowers, so you get a lovely jasmine scent while you sleep.
3. Self Care Merchandise
It's all about self care at The Blurt Foundation, and this is a small badge and a card with a Self Care quote on it to remind yourself to also put yourself and your recovery first.
4. The Self Care Project Book
I was so excited to see this included in my box.
Written by Jayne Hardy, the founder and CEO of The Blurt Foundation, this book is all about practicing self care and the importance of making time for yourself!
5. The Blurt Zine mini magazine
Please be aware that if you wish to sign up for the Buddy Box Subscription, the items in the box will change on a month to month basis.
Some other goodies which have been included in previous boxes include:
- Body Lotions
- Colouring Books
In conclusion...would I recommend the Buddy Box? Absolutely! I think it's a wonderful thing that people can subscribe to when they need a little extra love and care in their lives, especially when suffering with mental illness!
To see more about what The Blurt Foundation does and to order a Buddy Box, please click here.
Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this blog post or to make the video. I was sent a complementary Buddy Box in exchange for an honest review.
To view the video, just click below: