I’m the kinda person that sweats in situations that are totally non-exercise related. If you suffer from social anxiety, you probably know exactly what I mean haha. And it can be tempting to just avoid anxiety-inducing situations altogether, right? After all, it’s so much easier to stay in bed and text your friend with an excuse, rather than throw yourself into a sweaty state of panic. That’s what I thought at least, until one day I woke up and all of a sudden realised I was now in my 20’s… and the last few years of my teenage life had flown by without much to show for them, never to come back again. It’s upsetting for me to admit that over the years, I have potentially missed out on hundreds (yes, hundreds) of fun experiences and wonderful memories… all because I let anxiety get the better of me. But not anymore.
I would be lying if I told you I don’t still struggle because trust me; I do. I just reached a point where I decided I was sick of the hold it had over me and made a conscious decision to stop allowing it to control my life. I had to make a game plan for tackling this once and for all. And if I can promise you one thing, it does get easier. Each time I push myself to dive into a scary situation, it almost always ends up being totally fine.
So, without much ado, here’s how I (try my best to) stay cool, calm and collected, even in the most nerve-wracking of situations…
1.) Take extra time to get ready
For me, this is probably the most important tip. I find one of the biggest problems with social anxiety is that the anxious feelings often start way before you’re even in the social situation. If you’re anything like me, you most likely start panicking about a specific event, way before it’s due to happen. Sometimes I’m totally unaware of how much I have subconsciously wound myself up, until I get in the car to leave, and realise that my stomach is in knots and I feel like being sick! If you’re rushing around, trying to eat dinner, whilst pick an outfit and apply your lipstick all at the same time… stop. That’s enough to give even the most chill people an anxiety attack. Take notes now: Stress = Anxiety. Plan ahead for your day or event, allow for more time than you actually need to get ready. Take a bath, spend extra time on your hair and makeup. I’m a strong believer of “if you look good, you feel good”.
2.) Make a playlist
This kinda goes along with the whole “taking time to get ready” and actually making the whole process more enjoyable. While I’m getting dressed and doing my makeup, I’ll listen to some upbeat music that lifts my mood (mainly cringey 90’s pop). It actually makes the thought of going out more bearable and sometimes even makes me excited! (Just make sure you don’t get carried away trying to learn Beyoncé choreography and make yourself late *guilty*)
3.) Rescue Remedy
Most people have heard of Rescue Remedy or used it at some point in their life. A little bottle of this stuff can be an absolute lifesaver if you’re an anxious person. I always keep a mini one with me whenever I’m going out. At the moment I’ve been using a similar product from a local NZ brand called Kiwikitz – but I do believe they ship worldwide! I highly recommend their D-STRESS drops as they are even more potent and calming than rescue remedy. I truly don’t know what I would do without them! (All of these products mentioned are natural, but I do recommend discussing with your GP or healthcare professional prior to taking anything new.)
4.) Have gum, mints and perfume on hand
Okay, this might just be me, haha. I know this is a bit of a weird one. But personally, if I pop a mint in my mouth and spray a quick spritz of perfume as I head into a social situation, I instantly feel a little better. Knowing that I smell good gives me a little lift of confidence and is one less thing to stress about. I keep gum/mints and a mini perfume atomiser in my handbag at all times! I also find it’s a great icebreaker/convo starter as I am always asked what scent I’m wearing.
5.) Know that people are just people
They shouldn’t make you nervous. You know that person you are nervous to talk to? Well, chances are they might be nervous to talk to you too. They have their own insecurities, their own weaknesses and their own struggles. They are simply as human as you are. Try to remind yourself of this regularly.
6.) Fake it till you make it
Act confident, even if you don’t feel it. I know this sounds backwards, but trust me on this. The way you carry yourself is a big part of how people see you. Practice walking into a room with your head held high (no more looking at the floor – or your phone!) and making genuine eye contact with people. It may feel awkward (and uncomfortable) at first, but before long it becomes second nature and you’ll start doing it without even thinking.
7.) Pick a person
If you struggle with social anxiety, chances are you hate being the centre of attention. One of the things I used to dread most about being in a group of people, is having someone say or ask something which would turn all eyes on me… My remedy for this is to choose one person in the group and make a point of talking directly with them. Other people around you will see that you’re in a conversation and usually won’t disturb you. Now you can stop feeling so overwhelmed with the amount of people around you and just focus on that one discussion.
8.) Ask questions
Have some questions stored up in your mind, ready to ask, the next time you’re in a social situation; Not only will this make you appear more confident as you take control of the conversation, but it will take the attention off you. Start off with the basic things like “how is work/school?”, “what did you get up to on the weekend?” etc. Most people love to talk about themselves, so this will usually get the conversation off to a good start. The more questions you ask, the more you can just relax and let them do the talking.
9.) Make yourself vulnerable
For a lot of people (myself included), the fear of being judged contributes to social anxiety and shyness. The only way to overcome this fear is to make yourself vulnerable. Being vulnerable requires a willingness to let others see the real you.Occasionally when I get into a conversation with someone, I am brave enough to open up more, talk about myself and ask deeper questions. It’s scary, but if you can just give yourself a push, you’ll most likely find that it leads to easy, fluid conversation and really interesting topics. And I mean, let’s be real – who actually enjoys small talk? You may end up discovering that you have a whole bunch of things in common with this person and that just might be the start of an amazing friendship!
10.) Be KIND to yourself
If you only remember one thing from this post, please let it be this. Do not beat yourself up for having anxiety and whatever you do, never allow someone else to make you feel bad, or guilty for it either. It’s likely that you have met people who have been very misunderstanding but don’t let them get you down. It can be difficult for people to wrap their heads around something if they have never experienced it. But take comfort in knowing that you are not alone, many people struggle with anxiety. And above all, be kind and patient with yourself – you’re doing great.
I really hope these tips are helpful. I’d love to know if you try them out, so please send me a tweet @lovecaitx if you do! Also, if you want to talk to someone about anxiety (or anything that’s bothering you), the “Contact” box on my page is always open. I’m more than happy to have a chat!