10 tips to handle social anxiety
Are you substantially less excited about returning to the busyness of socialising than perhaps you expected? Do you need some help to smooth the process? This is a perfectly normal reaction after a year of learning to distance from others. Read on for 10 tips to handle social anxiety.
Over the past few days and weeks, a number of people have told me they’re experiencing various levels of anxiety about having to organise to meet people again. One friend I spoke with put her head in her hands and cried at the possibility of having to arrange multiple social meetings and events. Another said she got into bed, turned off her phone and hid for a full day.
Are you even a little worried about how to cope with summer socialising now that we’re being offered a glimpse of freedom?
After a year of staying in, watching a lot more TV than usual, having the same conversations with the same people, do you feel the need to brush up on your conversation skills before meeting friends and family in person?
Can you simply, not be bothered with fussing and rushing around the place again?
Have you come to enjoy the quieter, calmer life?
Here are 10 tips to handle social anxiety:
1. Pace yourself.
Accept how you feel. It’s normal to feel a level of social anxiety after a year of being apart from others – go easy on yourself. Start slowly. Be honest with family and friends, let them know what’s going on for you. Meet a close friend or family member first. Close connections are beneficial for mental health, so if you can’t cope with too many get-togethers right now, going at a pace you can handle is crucial for your wellbeing.
2. Learn how to say ‘no’.
If you find it difficult to say ‘no’, learn how – now. Being able to say ‘no’ will be your saviour, especially if you have decided you’re going to continue with a quieter life. Try this proven method. Ask yourself, if I say ‘yes’ to this meeting or event, what am I saying ‘no’ to. For example, if you say ‘yes’ to two get-togethers in one day are you saying ‘no’ to your invigorating walk or your precious reading time? Which option nourishes you and your wellbeing? That’s the option you choose to say ‘yes’ to.
3. Try journaling.
Journaling, writing down your worries and how you feel about them brings you clarity on why exactly you’re feeling anxious. Use your notebook or journal to write – just begin to write about what exactly you’re worried about. Why are you concerned? Is it because you have no stories to tell? Is it because you have come to enjoy the habit of solitude and you’re unsure how to ‘be’ with people you haven’t seen for so long? Write about how these thoughts make you feel. Dig deep and write about what it is exactly bothers you about socialising again. What’s the worst that can happen? How likely is it that the worst will happen? Even if it does happen, how bad will this really be? What are your options to cope?
Writing down potential options and solutions, will organise your thoughts and calm your mind.
4. Prepare (a little).
Some people find it helpful to prepare in advance because it decreases their anxiety somewhat. Questions are good – when you ask questions, others will be delighted to open-up to you – always a great recipe for successful socialising. Don’t go over the top with planning however, as you may end up stressing yourself even more. Go with the flow as much as you can.
5. Practice gratitude.
Gratitude journaling takes your mind off what’s bothering you, brings you to a more positive place where you feel less anxious about many aspects of life. When your mind is more positive, use this as a springboard for taking action.
6. Positive Affirmations.
Positive affirmations help with general anxiety, including social anxiety. Write down something positive about yourself or your life every day. For example, reframe your worries into a phrase like, I enjoy meeting interesting people, listening to their stories – I learn from this and I relax with a nice bath or a cuppa when I get home. Writing down positive affirmations every day creates and reinforces a positive mindset, which adds to your enjoyment of life’s experiences.
7. Find a different perspective.
Worried about meeting someone with whom you don’t have a great relationship, either alone or in a group? Give some thought to how you’ll be; what you’ll say – and what you won’t say or do. Take into account that the other person may be feeling tense about the situation too. This will give you a different perspective . Have an exit plan – and be prepared to action your exit plan if, and when you need to.
Think back to a time when you enjoyed a social event. Remember what it was like, reclaim those happy feelings. Who were you with? What were you doing? Now take those feelings with you out into the world again and enjoy reconnecting with others.
9. Choose activities you enjoy.
If you’re worried about socialising indoors, organise to meet people outside for walks, swims, picnics. Write a list of things you like to do, then take steps to include others in your activities.
10. Consider others.
Consider how others are feeling. Think about how you can help others to feel at ease when you meet. Reassuring others will automatically take you out of your own head and calm your thoughts.
A journal can be your therapist and your friend. Reading various articles can give you ideas on how to cope. If your anxiety becomes overwhelming however, and you need further professional help, now is a great time to reach out coaches, counsellors and therapists are trained, ready and willing to help.
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