I have social anxiety disorder. This makes it hard for me to be around people for very long and it’s made even worse when the crowd is overwhelmingly large.  

I am so prone to overthinking, overanalysing and working myself up into a knot before leaving the house that I often bail out on the event in order to protect myself.

Of course, one of the things I realised is that the best way to fight it, is to actually power through and go out.  

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At least that’s what my psychologist tells me. 

But, I promised myself that 2018 was the year I would try to do at least one or two brave things that would take me completely out of my comfort zone and one of those things includes taking the step and going to more events.

I recommend taking things in small doses. Most importantly, remember to breathe. Grounding exercises and checking in with external sensory points is important. Anxious thoughts can literally go on for eternity. However, the breath is tangible. Just because it feels like everyone is judging you, does not mean it is true. That's what checking in to the external stimuli reminds the brain.
- Heather Rashal, licensed mental health counselor

Because I know that there are so many people out there that can relate to this, I’ve decided to compile a list of survival tactics. 

I won’t pretend that these are an instant cure for social-related phobias and disorders but I can tell you that these are some of the things that have helped me on the really good days. 

1. Find out if someone you know will be at the event

I don’t know about you but my first instinct when it comes to something that I feel threatened by is to try and get a shield.

Assured that there will be someone that I know at a party or formal function, goes a long way to help me deal with the fear of being lost and alone in the crowd.

According to socialanxietyinstitute.org, social anxiety and a predilection for being anti-social is often characterised by feelings of extreme self-consciousness and the fear of being judged by others you’re interacting with.

In addition to this, feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment are often coupled with this and can leave you feeling awkward and tongue-tied.

I often find that once I’m with someone and we start making conversation with other people, I’m more able to function and interact with others without being completely crippled by the fears that live inside of my head.

Know that there is no magic bullet. Changing this habitual response to social situations will require rewiring your brain – and this takes some time and practice. And self-compassion.
Kerstin Waddell - Life Coach for Be Happy Life Coaching

2. Come prepared with a standard question

My psychologist tasked me with a challenge: the next time I attend an event, I should mentally prepare a few questions (depending on the type of event) to break the ice.

The trick, he told me, is to not come up with questions that don’t leave much room for elaboration. So, avoid the kind of questions where the recipient of your queries will only answer yes or no to and focus on questions that will get people to expand upon their answers.

Reign in your critical self. Give yourself permission to be HUMAN. No one is perfect. Explore the Power of Vulnerability (TED talk by Brene Brown) – start your journey towards self-acceptance through self-compassion
Kerstin Waddell - Life Coach for Be Happy Life Coaching

Another great strategy here is to consider the type of function or event you’re attending.

If it’s a work function, you’ll no doubt find some common ground with people who work in the same field that you do and could use that as a springboard to get the conversation started.

3. Give yourself permission to be awkward

I think the big thing to take into account here is to acknowledge the fact that you’re going to be nervous.

Lifehacker.com states that just showing up at any form of an event is a victory in itself, so anything you experience during the party won’t negate the fact that you’ve ventured out.

You are out of your comfort zone, so embrace that and remember that if you’re really feeling out of your depth, you can simply move on to the next conversation.

Also take comfort in the fact that many people who attend parties solo are often just as nervous.

4. Find a quiet spot where you can breathe

I come from a rather large family and as close as I am to them, I often get bouts of social fatigue around them as well.

A good way for me to combat these large gatherings is to always carry a book with me and find a quiet spot to read.

It helps to ground me and makes it easier for me to get back into the crowd when I’ve had a bit of a break.

Acclimate yourself to social situations in ways that are manageable, then expanding once you have the grip. If a large group of people is intimidating, try talking to just one person at a time and remember that it is perfectly reasonable to back off if the group feels overwhelming.
- Heather Rashal, Licenses Mental Health Counselor

Think of it as giving yourself a timeout to recharge your batteries before you put yourself out there again.

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It’s also a good idea to let one or two people at the event know that you’re taking a time out so that you don’t inadvertently offend anyone who may not be aware of any social phobias or anxiety you may be struggling with.

5.  Leave when it gets overwhelming

Sometimes events just don’t work out. Your anxiety gets the better of you whether you feel too overwhelmed by the atmosphere or people and have reached your social threshold.

Some might frown but if you feel like you need to leave, then go. 

You’re under no obligation to stay if the environment you’re in makes you uncomfortable, and there’s definitely no need to punish yourself if you couldn’t stay for the whole event since you tried and made the effort to show up in the first place.

To unpack the situation one needs to look at the fear, then look at where the fear comes from then look at how to shift this from affecting your life by bringing in conscious tools to help you through it.
Anya Kotzuba - Life coach astrologer

6. Recharge before your next event

I have friends with similar dispositions regarding events. When we’re ready to go out, we do but it’s a running joke that we need a good few weeks to recover our social batteries before emerging from our self-induced cocoons again.

Take the time to hibernate and recover before going out again, because that goes a long way to making any events bearable.

What are some of your go-to tips and tricks that help you navigate events when you’re feeling anxious? Let us know!

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