Like most things in life, blushing tends to be more than one issue. Some blushing can be part of menopause where it usually comes with a hot flush, there are some medications that can have blushing as a side effect and the skin condition rosacea can cause it, but most commonly it’s an aspect of what’s known as ‘Social Phobia’ or ‘Social Anxiety Disorder’. Personally I find these labels unhelpful so let me break it down to it’s building blocks for you.
When we have a bad experience which has a strong emotion around it, the brain can use that emotion as a point of reference.
Your brain’s thought process goes…
– That felt bad – perhaps it was dangerous?
– Just to be sure I’ll lock in the details of the situation.
– When something reminds me of that situation I’ll create a bad feeling to remind me of the possible danger.
This is what most cases of blushing go through.
‘I’m uncomfortable in this situation’ gets recognised as being like a past bad-feeling situation.
When you have a feeling of ‘I need to get out of here’, the same bad feeling as before comes back – and then you start to feel the heat rising, maybe heart pounding, you start to worry, which reinforces the feeling as if you’re re-living the other times that the bad feeling came up.
This is a basic system that can be found in most anxieties and embarrassment issues.
So, what to do about it?
There are two options:
Option 1. If it’s a big issue, I’d recommend finding appropriate therapy (make sure it is appropriate to your issue first). It is very possible to change that mental programme. It can change your life. It did mine.
Option 2. Coping mechanisms – what you can do to control it more.
1. The biggest change for the better that you can make, is to embrace the feeling. Yes, I know that sounds odd but bear with me…
The blushing grows as you feel more embarrassed. The longer you fight and thus stay with it, it the longer it continues. Develop a happy level of apathy. When it happens, when you start to feel it coming, laugh and say to yourself ‘Chuck it in the Fuck-It bucket!’ Or ‘Who cares!’ Embrace it, even chase it. It changes the mechanism and it loses power.
Perhaps even mention it – ‘Oh! here it comes again. I sometimes blush oddly…’ and carry on with whatever you were doing.
I know this will take a bit of training, but try it. Worst case scenario – people will see you have a sense of humour about it. That’s certainly not a loss!
2. Smile and breathe deep. Really deep. Everyone says ‘breathe deep’ but it seems no one explains how and why that works.
When we have a fear reaction (anxiety, worry, etc.) we naturally breath high and shallow. Your brain notices this and adds that info to the ‘still-in-danger’ side of the equation. But, if you take a really deep breath (and it has to push out the belly a bit to be that deep) then that makes the brain notice that this breath isn’t on the danger side which slows the reaction down.
Smiling does something similar, and it even increases the amount of dopamine in your system. That’s the neuro-chemical that creates happy feelings in the brain.
These make it easier to switch off the fear reaction. That will help a bit.
3. If you can bring your mind to something else that will help too. This is something you can train. Using some mindfulness meditation skills can be a big help here too.
4. Some people can get great results using visualisation skills to tackle it. Your brain understands imagery at a conscious and unconscious level more than anything else. 20,000,000,000 brain cells activate when you visualise. Your brain is trying to help you when it makes you blush – it’s alerting you to a possible danger as signalled by bad feeling. Believe it or not, it’s on your side. If you know how to tell it what would help you better, then it will listen.
This takes a bit of practice to get used to. But it’s worth it.
Here are a few principles:
Can you visualise something that would help?
If you feel heat rising can you visualise ice water flowing down to meet it and cool it?
If you’re worrying about meeting someone and blushing visualise yourself smiling and enjoying the meeting without blushing.
This is something you need to practice and build on, but think about it: It’s the opposite of how your mind creates so many problems. When you fixate on something, you imagine it in detail – how it’ll go wrong, how it’s going to fail, etc. You create a mental picture and run it over and over – programming your brain. It delivers more of the results you programme into it.
You can learn to control that process and give your mind the visual imagery that shows the success you want. Practice it, try it, keep going.
Politicians, business people, and elite athletes do this all the time. I use it a lot and it’s made my life much easier.
I’ll try and get a few training videos on this up in the latter half of June as I expect it will help a lot of people with many different sorts of issues.
Hope something in there is of help to you. As always, comments and questions are very welcome here.