The other day, I was preparing to go to a friend's for game night, when sudden anxiety washed over me. Normally I was accompanied by my boyfriend before seeing this friend group, but this time I wouldn't be. At least, not until later. I'd be by myself for an hour or so.
I began pacing the room, going back and forth in my head. "Should I wait until my boyfriend arrives, or do I go now and face my fear?" I kept repeating to myself.
In order to calm down, I stopped thinking and did some yoga. It worked, mostly, my body feeling relaxed and comforted. But still, I was anxious at the thought of going over to this game night.
It felt ridiculous, to be so suddenly nervous because I knew these people, they were my friends. The thing is, I was used to having someone there, someone I could cling to, make small comments to, laugh with. This person, of course, was my boyfriend. I wasn't forced to face a large group alone because he was there. If I felt personally attacked, ignored, or tired, I could just turn to him.
I wanted to face this social anxiety. I wanted to get rid of it and move on. I changed my story from "I'm nervous that no one will talk to me!" to "If I'm not having fun, I can kindly excuse myself and leave." It brought me a sense of relief, but still, I wasn't quite prepared to go over.
With Thanksgiving and other holidays approaching, I figured this would be a great time to write this post and discuss social anxiety. Social anxiety can emerge from physical or emotional abuse, bullying, being left out or ignored, and other complications with strangers or peers. The first thing to do, really, is understanding why you may be feeling anxious or afraid. Usually, your body knows how to get yourself back into shape.
But of course, there are other ways to get into a positive mindset. Before rushing downstairs to greet family and friends for the holidays, or before going to any social event, alone or not, I recommend pausing and trying one, if not all of the tips listed below.
1. Do a quick meditation on a positive affirmation
Sit still, close your eyes, and breathe in and out deeply, pausing for about three to five seconds in between each breath. This will help to lower your heart rate and release that social anxiety. Do this for about two to five minutes, or more if you'd prefer. Another great breathing technique is alternate nostril breathing.
I also recommend meditating on a positive affirmation, such as:
I am loved.
I love and accept myself.
I am at peace, and trust that I'm being guided.
The Universe has my back, and I am okay.
Repeat these affirmations while at the event.
For more affirmations, read: 20 affirmations to say every day
2. Imagine a protective halo forming around you
Stand still and imagine a glowing, white halo form around you. This halo will defend against negativity, judgment, and any harm that may come your way. At the end of the day, you can take off the halo and hang it up to dry, leaving you feeling fresh, clean, and free of any lingering, toxic feelings. By imaging this halo, you can enter any social group knowing you are protected. Whenever you feel awkward, ignored, or someone says something accidentally hurtful, just imagine this halo around you once again--you cannot feel bad while its there!
3. Just let the anxious thoughts go, and allow yourself to have fun
At some point, you just have to let the anxious thoughts go, and enjoy yourself. Sometimes, when we're so caught up on the idea of being happy, fixing ourselves, forcing ourselves to behave a certain way, we will create even more stress than before. Watch the thoughts come and go, and simply wave them away when they extend their welcome. You are okay. It's okay to be yourself, and it's okay to make some bad jokes here and there. It's okay to relax and have fun.
And remember: if you're in a social setting that you simply cannot be at anymore, like when you're tired and drained (look back at your halo if possible, first), then it is okay to leave. True friends will understand, and true friends won't purposely make you uncomfortable.
Eventually, I did work up the courage to head to my friend's, and I had so much fun because I allowed myself to have fun. When I felt un-included, I simply pulled out a book and started reading (yes, I'm that person), and I'd jump back in when we began playing card games or indulging in deep conversations. The moment my boyfriend arrived, I felt better, safer, but I didn't need him--I was okay on my own because I had practiced techniques and still had that halo beaming around me.
I can't wait to use these tips going forward. As an adult, its important to know what to do in "scary" social situations. And with holidays approaching, sometimes we need that little positive halo around us.
I hope these tips resonated with you and have helped you in some way. How else do you prepare yourself for a social event? Tell me about it in the comments!
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