If you have a fear of social situations, become anxious when social interaction is expected and fear being judged, criticised or embarrassed then you may be suffering from social anxiety. While many of us feel anxious about large events or speaking in front of groups, for many just the prospect of going to events and large gatherings makes them anxious. If you are someone who suffers from social anxiety, there are a few ways that you can help to ease this.
- Take a friend
It’s always daunting meeting new people and going to dinners and events where you don’t know anyone. There’s often the fear of having no one to talk to, not knowing what to say, or being worried you’ll say the wrong thing. Wherever possible take a friend with you. Not only will they help to keep you relaxed, you’ll always have someone to chat to. It can be a lot easier to mingle with two of you rather than just on your own.
- Have an out
If you’re worried you’re not going to be able to survive the whole event, have an excuse pre-prepared. “I can come but I may need to leave early”, is all you have to say. Don’t make up an elaborate lie (which will probably just make your more anxious), just keep it simple. A statement like this gives you an option to politely leave if you need to, and also allows you to stay till the end if you’re having a good time.
- Arrive Early
If you arrive late to an event, especially one where you don’t know anyone, it’s likely that everyone will have already formed groups and be chatting. Having to approach a group is daunting for most people, but especially for those with social anxiety. If you are one of the first to arrive you will often find that people will approach you and start a conversation and then the group will form around you.
- Learn some breathing techniques
Anxiety escalates quickly so learning how to focus on and manage your breathing can help tremendously. If you are seeing a therapist for your anxiety they should be able to help you with some techniques. If not, try taking a friend to a yoga class and focus on some of their tips and methods.
- Limit alcohol
While your fist instinct may be to grab a glass of champagne to help you feel more relaxed, it’s best to face these types of situations with a clear head. Stick to soft drinks or tea and coffee if you can, or if drinking is expected stick to only one.
Social anxiety is a real and very daunting condition. These tips should help you feel better about social situations and make them a little less scary, but if you find that you are struggling and need help then the Beyond Blue website has some great resources and advice. You should also talk to your GP who can refer you to the right people for support.