My anxiety has felt… closer, lately. It used to be this distant threat that I could close the door on or swallow deep down. Now, it’s a heaviness that sits in my throat and weighs on my mind. Sometimes, it hits me like a baseball gone rogue. Most of the time, however, I can predict its arrival, which means I can also prepare for its arrival—an important lesson I’ve forced myself to learn.
Since my anxiety has become more prevalent, I’ve determined that big social events are the most common and consistent cause. A week or so before a birthday party, wedding, concert, or any large gathering for that matter, it starts to set in. And as the event gets closer and closer, so does the anxiety. Oftentimes, I surrender to it and decide to stay home—refusing to suffer from the discomfort, the fear, and the panic. But today, I realized something: I’m suffering either way.
Missing out on these events and time with the people that I love isn’t something I enjoy. Quite frankly, it sucks. And I don’t want to do it anymore. So, I’ve decided to deal with my anxiety head on, as opposed to doing everything I can to avoid it. If you suffer from social anxiety, like myself, then the following tips from Licensed Psychologist Jennifer Rhodes will help you to check your anxiety at the door and enjoy yourself at social events:
1) Plan your social calendar ahead of time. Rhodes’ first tip is to plan out your events ahead of time, so that you know what to expect for the coming week and have that time to prepare. “I have my clients do this on Sunday afternoons. Then I have them lock out the one hour prior to the scheduled event,” she says.
2) Get some energy work done. Her next tip is to spend time the day before your event attending to your emotional needs. This can be as simple as going to a yoga class or dedicating a few minutes to journaling. “Twenty-four hours before the event, get some energy done,” she says. “Reiki is wonderful but there are lots of different types of subtle energy healing. It can be helpful to find a massage therapist who is also trained in energy healing.”
3) Nourish your body and mind. Rhodes also advises you to “eat healthy during the day of the event and drink enough filtered water.” This is also a good general rule of thumb to live by (especially if you have anxiety) as eating well is not only good for your physical but mental health!
4) Arrive early. Now that it’s time for the event, Rhodes says you should get there a little early to check the place out. “The quickest way to calm anxiety is to arrive early and acclimate to the environment before it becomes too busy,” she explains.
5) Be confidently and comfortably you. It will also help to dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable as well as confident. “Wear clothes that you love and represent who you are,” she says. I’ve found this to be an extremely effective tip in my every day. It’s important to find the right balance between presentable and relaxed.
6) Do a pre-event ritual. Rhodes says taking the time to do a simple pre-event ritual can also go a long way. “This could mean meditation, lighting candles, putting on a specific cologne or perfume. Taking the time to make yourself feel good will turn your energy on.”
7) Assess the room and your feelings about the room. Now’s the time to assess the vibes you’re getting from the event’s location. “Upon arrival, take a moment and assess the energy in the room,” says Rhodes. “Is it friendly? Does it feel stale? Do you feel more anxious? Whatever the feeling is, know that it is not YOU. Adjust how long you are willing to stay based on your intuition.”
8) Socialize immediately. Then, make it your goal to talk to at least three people in the first 10 minutes, Rhodes advises. “This rule helps you curb last minute anxiety,” she explains. It will also help you feel more acclimated and comfortable at the event.
9) Turn your attention outward. Also, acknowledge all that is happening outside of yourself and your anxiety. “Remember… it’s not about you,” Rhodes says. “Go out and learn what makes the people in the room happy.” Shift the focus from your anxiety to what’s going on around you and the occasion for this event.
10) Quit while you’re ahead. Rhodes’ last tip is to leave before you are exhausted. “Leave on the slightly earlier side and go home and take a bath or shower. A bath can help neutralize any toxic interactions you may have been around and will help you sleep better.” Furthermore, congratulate yourself for facing your anxiety—for refusing its takeover.