aloneI’m going to make an admission to you so you’ll understand my awkwardness if I ever run into you in person or you read something weird about me in the newspaper or online one day: I’m not comfortable in social situations. Oh, I’ll try to cover it up with lots of smiles and lame jokes and more smiles. But inside my head I have “Get me outta here get me outta get me outta here” running on an endless loop.

Then afterward, my brain will analyze every single nuance of the interaction, helpfully replaying every bit of awkwardness I thought I displayed, every joke that I was convinced fell flat and every possible social misstep I may have taken. It’s like your coach forcing you to watch a play-by-play of your worst athletic performance. And this excruciating automatic replaying can go on for hours and the memory of each little mistake can bother me for days.

I bring this up to you today because research shows that in our premenstrual week we tend to be more self-conscious, have lower self-esteem and ruminate a whole lot more due to plunging estrogen dragging down levels of brain chemicals that manage our mood and confidence. This can make even the most self-assured gal sometimes feel a bit shaky in social situations, causing her to wonder and fret about her performance after a party, networking event, date, meeting, job interview or other type of social interaction and tortuously replay each part of the conversation back in her head.

Well, if this happens to you then I have a tip you need to know: According to a new study in the journal Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, you can decrease the endless, awful playback of your performance in a social situation by simply doing a brief activity that fully absorbs your attention immediately after the social interaction. For instance, you might play a video game on your phone, listen to your favorite song while singing along or do online shopping. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something that totally distracts your thoughts. According to the researchers, diverting your attention right after the experience prevents the brain from fully processing the social interaction you just had, so the memory of it–and all its painfully anxious little details–are less likely to stick so you’re better able to let it go.

If you try this, let me know how it works for you!

[Photo: Pierre Guinoiseau]