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JENNYLT1 SparkPoints: (25,243)
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6/15/12 12:37 A

WOW OP, Dr. Chansky answered your post! I seriously cannot say enough about how much her book for children helped my daughter overcome anxiety. She would not use a public hand dryer without screaming bloody murder, if I vacuumed you'd think the devil was after her, and she'd have a total mental break down if you asked her to touch one of those goofy squishy koosh balls. Now she uses those crazy loud Dyson hand dryers and actually LIKES it when it blows in her face, and at one point she had a collection of like 10 koosh ball critters that I somehow convinced her to let "sleep" in her bed with her. I still think you could use the strategies from the kid's book, but I'm excited to see that there's now one for adults. I'm sure it's as great as the kid's one!

DRCHANSKY SparkPoints: (0)
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6/14/12 9:00 P

Hi there, I just found this thread on google and wanted to say how good it is to see folks supporting each other in doing difficult things. Yes, it can be hard to go to the gym when you have social anxiety, or just in general, but to remember that any one can feel self conscious-- but we can also challenge those thoughts. People at the gym aren't there to judge us, they are doing their thing. Refocusing on your purpose: being healthy, getting in shape, burning off stress, will help you dismiss the negative thoughts you're having and I think listening to music really helps too!

One of the folks on this thread had kindly mentioned my book, Freeing Your Child from Anxiety and suggested that the strategies might be helpful for adults too. I wanted to let you know that I have a new book that just came out for adults: Freeing Yourself from Anxiety. It's full of strategies to overcome everyday worry and doubt.

I also wrote a piece on Huffington Post about performance anxiety that might be helpful. I try to make my writing light-hearted, even about heavy topics, because I think levity is crucial to good mental health.

Thanks for letting me join the conversation here. You are inspiring me to write a piece about gym anxiety-- I'll post it when it's done.

Best to all-- and here's to less worry all around!
Tamar Chansky

And PS: here's a link to my book if you're interested.

HARDROCKER1 SparkPoints: (0)
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6/14/12 8:58 A

I have been going to my YMCA for over 2 years now and I still occasionally have social anxiety. I would stand in the back of my classes because I couldn't bear the thought of people watching my backside while working out. I have found out though, that everyone watches either themselves in the mirror or the instructor.

This past year I have had a lot of personal stressors in my life, plus it doesn't help that I am bipolar and prone to severe stress that would be peanuts to others. My psychiatrist put me on some Xanax, which I take about 2 hours before hitting the gym and it works wonders. I feel a lot more at ease and don't really take much notice of others working out around me. It doesn't make me groggy, just curbs the social anxiety some and decreases my stress load. Exercising does help get out anger and frustration, but the Xanax takes some of the anxiety away.

You should probably consult with a doctor or therapist and see if med therapy is right for you, or even psychotherapy to overcome the social anxiety.

Blessings, Michelle

JENMC14 Posts: 2,786
6/14/12 8:31 A

It might actually do you some good to go to the gym with your friend. You will see that it's not just "muscle heads" and skinny "cardio bunnies". In the hip hop class I took, there were people (mostly women one or two men on occaision) of all ages, sizes, shapes and races. You will see all sorts of people. And, they will all (well mostly, there are the "gym chatters" who seem to be there more for the social aspect than to actually put work in) be working hard. No one cares what you're doing. If youre anxiety is really that bad, though, you may want to seek professional help. Take baby steps. Go to your gym, but go at a more peak time here and there to get used to working out around people, then build up to an actual gym.

ANGIEDEBORJA SparkPoints: (0)
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6/14/12 8:04 A

So sorry that you're having anxiety. Good advice from everyone I think. Headphones, try the mall, off times. I think it's healthy maybe to get yourself out there in brief increments to build up your confidence and comfort level. Are you a member of the gym or do you go with your friend as a guest?

THIRTEENREASONS SparkPoints: (40,857)
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6/14/12 2:34 A

I think you have gotten some great advice. You're definitely not alone in your anxiety about the gym. You mentioned that in the past you had been bullied and are worried about being judged. The truth is, you are in control of this situation, whereas in the past you weren't. You ARE capable of walking into the gym with your head held high and working out. Once you go a few times and become comfortable with the environment the people won't matter.

I had this horrible though in my head that everyone would be looking at me, especially because the equipment in the gym that I was there to use was the equipment the men usually had control over (e.g. the squat rack, when most of the women were on the treadmills).

Get some nice headphones and play some music that inspires you, and people won't be tempted to talk to you. Put on some workout clothes that you feel confident in. Find out what time of the day the gym is the least crowded, and pretend that you're the only one there. As you get comfortable with the environment you can slowly peek your head out of your shell... go to some group workout classes... Most people aren't there to socialize, and those who are will probably just drag you down anyways and keep you from getting your workout done.

Are you able to go to the mall without a lot of anxiety? Think of it that way, everyone is there to go to their own little department. They will notice you and you will notice them, but they probably aren't judging you anymore than you're judging them and won't paying enough attention to you to notice what you're wearing or how much those dumbbells that you're lifting weigh. They are there because they have an agenda. They want to get in and get out just as quickly as you do.

CORTNEY-LEE SparkPoints: (67,852)
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6/13/12 10:18 P

I am a big girl (well, not as big as I used to be, but I am still in the Morbidly Obese category) and I go to the gym all of the time.

I was afraid at first because I was so big, and there were all of these skinny girls with great abs who look like movie stars even when they sweat. I could never compare to that!

I am not going to lie, people have said rude things about me and I have heard them. Last kid that called me "the fat girl" I threatened to eat as a snack...

The key for me was realizing that I didn't care what any of those people thought about me. I mean, honestly, who are they anyway? The answer is nobody. They are a bunch of nobodies and what they think doesn't matter. The only person's opinion that matters is your own.

Don't let you fear of what a bunch of nobodies think of you stand in your way of getting healthy. Walk in that gym, with your head held high, and act like that is exactly where you belong. Be a little snobbish if it helps.

I wish you the best of luck on your journey.

ELEKEBOU SparkPoints: (0)
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6/13/12 9:22 P

I know how you feel. I have anxiety issues, and my first time at the gym (even though it was just the school's gym) was terrible. Everyone seemed to know how to use all these crazy weird machines, and I felt like all those fit people were laughing at this silly fat girl. I just went to an elliptical rather than even look at the weights.

Your friend is being unreasonable. To her, going to a gym is no big deal, but to you it IS. Do what makes you comfortable, but if you feel that this is negatively affecting your life, try talking to a counselor of some sort. You may never feel fully comfortable around strangers and in new situations, but the counselor might be able to come up with strategies to work through them.

JENNYLT1 SparkPoints: (25,243)
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6/13/12 5:13 P

I'm so sorry for what you've been through. You're not being "silly," you need help to work through this and there's nothing wrong with that. Believe me, I've been where you are.

I'd like to second seeing a counselor or therapist like a PP mentioned. Also, my DD dealt with abnormal amounts of anxiety and I read a really great book called "Freeing Your Child from Anxiety" by Tamar Chansky. I know it's for helping your child, but some of the techniques I used with her I think you would find helpful for yourself. In the meantime, I think you should continue going to the gym with your friend. It will help desensitize you to it while still providing you with a bit of a safety net should you need it.

CHIHAYA SparkPoints: (0)
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6/13/12 4:49 P

Also, if you are having problem workout with men, gym class like aerobic dance or stretching class are open to both sex but usually only females join most of the time. It doesn't help if you don't like people nearby, but just in case.

CHIHAYA SparkPoints: (0)
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6/13/12 4:39 P

I feel your pain. Gym scared me lot because... it seemed to be filled with energetic, bright people. It may sound strange, but those kind people really scare me, and I wanted to avoid it as much as possible.

So, at first, I started walking nearby park. I walked everyday, increased pace and distance little by little. Cardio exercise is what really matters to lose weight and healthier lifestyle. It's true gym workout is more efficient, but we really don't need anything else but our body to get started.

Also, I could build little confidence by that. You'll see many people in park. Some look very active and bright! (They hurt!) but most people are just like us, or even worse. I somehow know what kind of person you are, and you might get peeved at people... like not so serious exercisers, talking on phone, chatting with friends and blocking road, kids running with skateboard etc etc. Nothing against them, but some are really annoying.

Then I visited local YMCA, and found people there are little more focused on exercise. In short, people in gym are little more focused, not really caring others but their workout. So, I found it's little easier to disconnect myself from the world and focus my exercise.

Well, umm, it became not so great introduction, but it will help, and you'll like it.

MEGAPEEJ Posts: 732
6/13/12 3:36 P

Have you talked to a counselor/therapist about getting past your fear? It's normal to feel a little nervous about a new place or person, but what you're talking about sounds like it's paralyzing and having a very negative impact on your day to day life. Panic attacks and having to talk yourself through another person's presence (I'm assuming he wasn't being threatening or even engaged you in any way, since you didn't mention an interaction) - it's not a normal reaction. That's not something that we can help you overcome.

DISNEYDAMSEL1 SparkPoints: (52,981)
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6/13/12 3:10 P

I'm a really self-conscious person and borderline social phobic. In high school there were rumors going around school that I was mute because I was silent. I was bullied by my older brother daily, it was so bad my parents sent me away each summer to be with my grandparents to get away from him, while I am working on separating his cruel taunting from my image, it's much easier said than done. I lost 24 pounds with minimal exercise, just by tracking my food and changing my diet. I started working out 1 day a week, now it's up to two days usually once at home and once at the gym at my apartment complex. My friend wants me to go to the gym with her, but I just don't think I'm ready for that. The other day a man came in while I was finishing up my time on the treadmill (I'd already done my strength training, stretching, and elliptical time) he came in and I had 13 min left and I had to talk myself thru three of them and left with 10 min to go. I'm trying to face my fear of the gym by going and not bolting the minute someone comes in. so far progress is slow, but it's progress. My friend thinks its silly and I should just go and "face it" and I tried, but i had a panic attack in the parking lot. I feel that what I'm doing is working for me as I get healthier, but I know it'd be easier for me to go to the gym if i didn't get so worked up about it.

I know this way I'm getting the exercise in, and next month I want to add 2 days in at the gym and 1 day at home (I also like the variety this provides) so i feel although my gym is limiting and sometimes I go at strange times because it only holds so many people at once, it is working for me, but am I being silly? Is anyone else afraid of going to the gym because of people?

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