As told by someone who has suffered (quite intensely) in the past, and still suffers today. I could go on and on about anxiety, so I am going to keep this brief and to the point (just watch me go on about 78 tangents though..)
What does it feel like?
Whether or not you agreed to go to some kind of a social event, you thought it was a good idea at the time, you felt obliged to say yes, you wanted to challenge yourself, or whatever reason - you have found yourself in this situation… and you are kind of dreading it.
For me, it is always worse if it is an event where I won’t know too many people, meaning you really need to put yourself out (and lots of dreaded small talk).
As you get ready, nothing really seems to work. Every outfit you try on looks awful. Girls - your makeup just isn’t working. You tell yourself if you don’t look good on the outside, how can you possibly make a good impression?
This is our brain making up excuses for fears we feel, we try to rationalise the feeling that is always SO hard to rationalise - anxiety. You keep checking the time and your heart races as “Time To Leave” creeps up on you.
Your mind plays out what is going to happen when you get there, and you have a full mental image of the venue (even if you’ve never been or even seen a picture of it). You try to think of how you will talk to people, how to not come across awkward or nervous.
You call the uber or get in the car and by this time you are shaking or sweating or feel your heart racing, sometimes all of the above. Then there are the times where you just hop into bed, fully dressed, and say I just can’t do this. You commit to the idea that you are staying home and feel that blissful wave of relief run through you.
I’ve been there.
Important things to know
These are just my key learns from years of dealing with this. I was medicated for social anxiety once upon a time (just over a year ago now), but I am no longer taking any medications and use mental strategies to deal:
1. It doesn't really go away - you just become BETTER at dealing with it. I say this because people wait and wait until they are “healed” and that day doesn’t come. By learning to deal with, you expect it, you calm yourself, you know it will pass, and then it passes.
2. Know one thing: EVERYONE IS WEIRD. Yep, every single person is weird, and deep down every one wants to be liked (regardless of their “I couldn’t care less” attitude). The thing is, we are all a little awkward but we always think it is just us. Why? We have never been inside the mind of another person, so we always jsut assume others are reacting to us and not the other way around. Some people are just better at putting on a brave face, and guess what, you can do that too. Like anything, it takes practice.
3. Stress is normal. My biggest issue with the term “anxiety” is that it makes a problem out of a basic biological response which is to feel nervous. So as soon as we feel a heightened sense of nervousness, we feel we are having an episode. Learn to think of your nerves as excitement, having that mental shift takes time but it will help in the long run.
How to cope NOW
I don’t feel anxiety so much anymore as I have made a point of purposely placing myself in situations that scared the hell out of me, because when you come out of it you literally feel like a champion. It reinforces you for next time! That doesn’t mean I don’t get nervous at all - re-training the brain takes time. So I use these little strategies as a quick fix when I head out.
1. Pre-plan your outfit. This is a little step you can take ahead of time to ensure you have a great head start on game day. It is a lot harder to control how you feel on the inside, so you can give yourself a little confidence boost by making sure you pick an outfit that makes you feel like you can take on the world.
2. Buddy Up. If you are really nervous, take a friend (where you can). Having a familiar face can really help, even if they aren’t aware of what is going on - though it is better to communicate your feelings.
3. Keep notes of how you feel at the end of each night out, and read them if you feel nervous while getting ready. You can do this in your phone’s notes on the way home. Chances are they’ll say something like “I had a great time, I don’t know why I was so worried”.
4. Breathe! It is ok to feel nervous, putting yourself out there only makes you stronger, and if you are really struggling once you are there, know that you can always have faith in Uber. It is ok to leave at any time, but getting there is always the most difficult part, so chances are once you are there you’ll be ok.
Public Speaking terrifies me more than anything. I did always like the idea of being a presenter though, and an opportunity once arose for me to host a magazine launch and fashion show. Did I think I could do it? Absolutely not. I said yes, and I dreaded life for about a month leading up to it. On the night I could've fainted from fear. But guess what... I nailed it. The point of this story is to remind you that we all have so much more potential than we even know. We live this life once, and at the end of the day, so what if we screw up or fall? If you don't try, you will never know how great your life really can be - and that is the scariest thing of all.
I hope at least one of you out there finds this helpful. I know how hard Social Anxiety can be to manage, and I can’t stress enough how helpful it is to just get yourself out there. It really is the most effective way to break the cycle.
If you are really struggling, speak to your GP or psychologist. Medication can help in some circumstances and a professional will help prescribe the best course of action for you.
Love and Strength Always,