I’ve struggled with an anxiety disorder for years and the familiar sensation of a butterfly trying to erupt from my stomach is like an old (annoying) friend. It was only recently though, that I realised I also have social anxiety. It’s different from my standard fears about irrational, illogical things. Normally I can conquer them or just wait for it to pass. But when it comes to social anxiety, I have this perpetual uncomfortable sensation that will appear when I am going to the coffee shop, attending a party or am standing in a crowd.
Realising that I have social anxiety has made it easier for me to rationalise why I feel this way. It has also made me aware that I’m not the only person who feels uncomfortable in social settings. With Australia Day coming up, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to look at 5 strategies on how we can cope with social anxiety at events. Take note of these before you go out next, and while it may not eliminate your anxiety, hopefully it will make you feel a little more in control of it.
- Plan your schedule in advance
There is nothing worse than someone asking me to make a decision in a public place. I stutter, I fumble and I freak out before some inaudible words pour out of my mouth. Before you head out, have you schedule mapped out to ease this anxiety. Know where you are headed, what time you are going and roughly who will be there. It often helps to text a friend in advance so you can plan to be there at the same time.
- Set a opening and closing time
Australia Day celebrations (or any party) may start at a certain time according to your Facebook invitation, but this isn’t mandatory attendance. Decide on the time you will arrive at the event and also when you plan to leave. Time constraints give you a goal and when utilised, can eliminate moments of awkwardness.
- Bring a friend with you
My career requires me to enter social environments and I often have to meet a bunch of new people or catch up with acquaintances. As much as possible, I always bring a good friend with me as a buffer. They calm my anxiety, can carry conversation and make me feel far less awkward if I am standing by myself.
A tip: Bring someone who is more comfortable at social events than you. They will appease how uncomfortable you are with their easy-going nature.
- Give yourself time to settle
I normally hit crunch time about an hour and a half into an event. I become aware that I am mentally exhausted, and I feel like I need space to settle. In these moments, I try to ‘get away’ from a situation and break up the event so I can stay for the long haul. One way I do this is by helping out with the dishes or clean up. It allows me to get up and move before I take some deep breaths and return to conversation.
- Be kind to yourself
I don’t go through an event without wishing I could scoop back the words I just spoke and reshuffle them. I’d like to sound cooler, be more relaxed and pretty much blend into the background. Social anxiety means that no matter how well I get through an event, I’m always disciplining myself on how I could have managed it better. Be kind to yourself when this happens! The fact you actually faced this anxiety and gone to an event is a huge accomplishment in itself, and 99 per cent of the time no one else even notices how awkward you feel.
Do you struggle with social anxiety? Would you like some help overcoming this fear? Here’s what you need to do: Contact us on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you or book online now.