Fear of blushing is a prominent complaint by many with social anxiety. We can hide many things with our anxiety, but blushing totally exposes us. Our body seems to betray the fundamental laws of loyalty and self-preservation. It’s embarrassing and all-around miserable.
The physiology of why some of us turn tomato-red at the drop of a hat, and others don’t, isn’t totally understood by researchers and doctors. But one aspect that seems to play a big role is how we respond to that dreaded physiological arousal called blushing.
When we feel that familiar flush and sudden onslaught of warmth fill our cheeks we instantly get self-conscious. Many times we’re filled with some hierarchy of self-hate. If we can escape a situation we will. If we can hide, even better.
All our thoughts get lassoed into one big self-focused bundle and only intensifies the more we think of how red our face is. It creates a vicious cycle. The more we think of how much we’re blushing, the more we blush. The more we blush the more we think of how much we’re blushing. And since it is soooo noticeable to everyone around us, we think about it even more… and want to crawl under the nearest rock.
Needless to say, that’s not the response that’s helpful.
2 Effective Ways to Combat Severe Blushing
In all my research, I’ve found two effective ways to help curb severe blushing. The first is an expensive and sorta crazy sounding surgery. Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy is a surgical procedure where the nerves that cause the facial blood vessels to dilate (widen) are cut. Um. No thanks.
The second is teaching those who experience severe blushing to explicitly focus their attention on to anything else but their blushing.
Seriously. This simple strategy is an extremely effective way to help people decrease their blushing and cope with their blushing at the same time.
Blushing and self-focused attention mutually reinforce each other. It’s cruel. I don’t know the evolutionary explanation as to why some of us “need” this extra ill-timed dilation of our facial and chest blood vessels. We blush and then we turn our attention on ourselves and the fact we’re blushing and so we blush harder and then we focus more of our attention onto the fact that we’re still blushing… Clearly we made it this far so maybe it isn’t all bad. Okay, that’s not how I really think. I personally hate blushing unnecessarily so I found something that works.
It comes down to redirecting your attention outward and away from your blushing. Seriously. Acknowledge that the blushing has commenced and then pivot to Plan A. Plan A is stop thinking about your blushing by turning your attention to whatever you’re doing and your environment. With practice you’ll be able to break through the vicious blushing circle!
Were you hoping there was some secret intervention to stop your blushing in the first place? I know I was years ago when I began my research into this in an effort to help me with my own blushing. But I have to tell you since I’ve been practicing turning my attention away from my ‘self’ and turning it outward onto what I’m doing, it has become the next best thing!
I can definitely vouch for this one. What has helped you?