I’ve been thinking a lot about socialising recently. I don’t get out much lately (or at all really, apart from work). Being completely honest, I find it extremely difficult to make (or hold onto) friends. Anxiety has a certain way of whispering nasties into your ears, making you feel like your not worth the time, and you’d be doing people a favour by staying away. Or, when people are nice to you that they’re “pretending” and actually really hate you… how irrational! But you lock yourself up anyway.
But one day you decide to go out…You’re standing in a crowded room, with people you know, as well as strangers. You start to sweat and tense up. You then stress that your sweating, and sweat from the stress! Pair that with the feeling of a tight chest and throat, palpitations and nausea, makes for an unpleasant social gathering. I’m one of the lucky ones that comes out in a weird rash all over my neck, chest and face when I’m really anxious, so I can’t even hide it!
Although I don’t go out much there are a few things that help ME along the way when I do.
I get far too stressed about what to wear to any kind of social gathering. If I’m already feeling shaken up by the thought of meeting new people, I try to dress as comfortable as possible. Flat shoes, nothing too tight or too short (for me anyway, I always regret it otherwise, I would constantly stress that my outfit is “Too much”, or I’ll be irrational and think I look like a clown or something, the heels will just add to the bad experience). The idea is to just give yourself less to worry about, and be as stress free as possible.
Before you go, I know it’s hard, but just tell yourself you have the day off from anxiety. A day off from negativity. Tell yourself you look great. Tell yourself you deserve a break.
If for whatever reason a low life tries to make you feel bad about yourself, or you you get a little paranoid that people don’t like you. Just know, that what they may think is not fact (and that most of the time, no one is really thinking bad of you!). Someone elses opinion can only affect you if you let it. And I know how patronising that is, trust me! I’ve come home crying because someone said I looked fat or ugly on more than one occasion, in fact i’ve come home crying even when no one has said anything at all in the past! It does take time to gain that bit of confidence in yourself, to trust in the opinions of people who love you and see how good you are, and finally start believing that yourself.
At the gathering:
So you’re there now. What do you do? What if you have a panic attack? What if someone thinks you’re dressed funny?…. I personally cope by a strategy that works for me. If you can, have someone there for support. A friend, or family member. Or even someone who’s sat by themselves on thier own (It sounds silly, but in the beginning i’d often challenge myself to speak to a stranger, even if it’s just to give them a compliment).
Allow yourself a break every now and again, a nip to the toilets, some fresh air, a fresh glass of water/pop/alcohol. Just something to break you away from everything for a while, a few minutes to tell yourself that your actually doing really well.
Another thing I used to get stressed about would be participating in conversations…silly, right! By the time you’ve worked out what to say, that you think would be a valuable contribution, a new topic has already started. Just talking to people I found very difficult for such a long time. So, I’d start a topic of my own, it’s a lot easier to speak about something you’re passionate about. For me it could be anything from the latest marvel movie to my pet ferrets. But just try it, once you’ve taken that leap it won’t seem so scary.
I’ll stop this here, I could write forever but I’ll save it for another time. Do you have any kind of strategy/coping tactics for when you’re dealing with anxiety in a social situation?
I’m giving myself a challenge this week, to do something social or different. Maybe an exercise class or something. Are you up for a challenge? I highly recommend you challenge yourself to speak to a stranger if you currently struggle to speak to people, even if its just telling your neighbour their hair looks nice. If I manage to complete my own challenge, i’ll share the experience! feel free to do the same.
Socially Awkward x