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.
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.
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.
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.
People who understand social anxiety are the bomb.com. They whisk you away into the kitchen and let you warm up to your surroundings, check in on you, do little things like get you water or new cards from the deck so you don't have to stand up and walk into the center of the room. Best of all they know its a "you" thing and they don't make you feel badly for it. . . . #thanksfortheinvite #pleasetrytounderstand #ididmybest #iwantstilltobeinvited #love #patientlywaiting #persistence #anxiety #social #socialanxiety #introvert #anxious #groups #crowds #invite #happiness #singleparent #fail #failforward #tryagain #struggle #friends #friendship #relationship #real #realtalk
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.
Think of it as giving yourself a timeout to recharge your batteries before you put yourself out there again.
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.
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!
WATCH: What social anxiety feels like
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