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How to cope with embarrassment

by Colm O'Sullivan, on 23/04/21 15:29

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With 78% of those with poor gut health feeling embarrassment and shame connected to their condition, it’s time to do something. Health and Wellbeing coach Mike Lawrence explains how you can challenge those intense feelings of shame, recover from an embarrassing episode - and maybe even turn it to your advantage.

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Retrain the brain

When something embarrassing happens our brain can get stuck on a loop, torturing us by replaying the incident over and over. Not only is that feeling unpleasant but it can create fear and make us want to avoid doing anything that could cause that feeling of embarrassment and shame again. Our brains are primitive and it’s a way of trying to protect us but the fear can become far bigger than the incident itself.

One way to avoid being cornered by embarrassment, is to create new, positive stories in our mind – which, with practise, can have the same impact on the brain, as if they really happened. So when, for example, we’re about to go into a long meeting without access to a toilet, instead of sparking fear – based on that time we were caught out - we can go in with our mind relaxed.

· Meditation and mindfulness can help here if practised regularly. For example, instead of ruminating on the last time something embarrassing happened in a meeting, imagine yourself going into a meeting where you achieve your objectives. See yourself celebrating the outcome and achievements. You can do this in relation to specific meetings, or hypothetical. There are apps which can help with this practice, such as Headspace and Calm. They work by using guided and unguided meditation to relax, to be present and to reduce anxiety and stress.

· Hypnotherapy can help us go back over an embarrassing incident in a more helpful way. A trained hypnotherapist can help us play an embarrassing situation back through our subconscious, understand why we reacted the way we did previously and then imagine a different outcome. They can help us replace the negative outcome in our mind with new thought patterns and behaviours.

· Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is another effective way to challenge negative memories of an incident, to deconstruct our perception of what happened and find a more helpful path forward.

Be brave

When we feel embarrassment and shame we tend to want to run away and pretend it didn’t happen - but our minds won’t let us do that so we suffer in silence. When people can find it in themselves to be brave, let people in and talk about the experience – it lifts a weight of their shoulders. You could start by finding forums for people who might be suffering similar experiences, such as the IBS Network forum and pluck up the courage to share. We all want to show ourselves in our best light and give the illusion that everything is fine but, in my experience, when people find the courage to show a side of themselves they might be embarrassed by, they can find a new freedom and they absolutely thrive.

Visit our blog for more gut health tips and advice 

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