I’ve been in hundreds of situations where I’ve had to deal with anxiety. Having lived with schizophrenia for nearly 10 years now, I know what it’s like to be wary of going into social situations.
Whether it’s fears that people will think things about you or whether you feel like you will stumble over your words, the fear can be debilitating. It can prevent you from making friends, from work opportunities, and from even finding contentment.
I know what it’s like. There have been times I was too afraid to leave my house because the idea that people would be judging me was crippling. The point is, anxiety can be an extremely hard thing to deal with. In my time living with it though, I’ve learned several ways of combatting it. Sometimes these methods help but I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve avoided situations altogether and if that’s what you have to do to stay comfortable there’s nothing wrong with that.
First and foremost it’s important to frame the situation in bigger terms. Think about how insignificant stumbling over your words at a party is in comparison to causing a traffic accident or dealing with a chronic illness. The point is, things could always be worse. Think about the worst thing that’s happened to you and the fact that you got over that and you’re still alive. Surely if you can deal with a life-changing ordeal like a break-up or a death in the family, stumbling over your words or worrying that people are making fun of you is no big deal at all.
Another huge way of combatting social anxiety is centering yourself with deep breaths. Escape to the bathroom or step outside for a moment if you can and spend a few minutes breathing. Breathe in for five seconds, hold, and then breathe out for five seconds. Do this until you feel calm, which will be almost instantaneous. I can’t stress how beneficial deep breathing has been for me in moments of panic. I can always count on breathing to calm me down; it works extremely well.
Lastly, find a friend. It always helps if you have someone to talk to. Being vulnerable about the way you’re feeling is a great way of purging the fears associated with anxiety. If you can tell someone how you feel in the moment, I can guarantee that they’ll understand. While they may not always say the right thing, just having someone who has your back can be extremely beneficial and can help you cope with the panic associated with being social.
Suffice it to say, I’ve been there more times than I can count and the fact of the matter is that social anxiety can be difficult to deal with, but if you can remember to put things in perspective, breathe, and find a friend to talk to, the party may even turn into something fun. It’s hard, I know, but it’s something you need to be able to handle.