For many people, going to social events is fun and exciting. But for those with social anxiety, it can be nerve-wracking. What is supposed to be a good time with friends can actually be a daunting and uncomfortable experience.
Having social anxiety can be crippling and sometimes it just seems easier to stay in so you don’t have to deal with it. The anxiety can be overwhelming both mentally and physically and throughout the night negative thoughts and fears can take over.
When you're in a social situation, every minute can seem like an hour, as you watch the clock out of the corner of your eye waiting for the soonest opportunity to leave.
A large space can feel cramped and uncomfortable, your heart races, your face feels red and you can't stop worrying. You start to wonder how you're being perceived by others and start worrying about what you'll say next or if you'll sound stupid or trip over your words.
Instead of staying in, there are ways to make social events a little less daunting. Here are a few tricks to overcome social anxiety and make socializing more manageable — whether it’s a party, a networking event, or just a night out.
1. Go in with Purpose
Sometimes you might have to go to an event alone, or maybe you'll only know a handful of people. Not knowing someone to talk to can be nerve-wracking, and no one wants to be standing alone sipping their drink. To help ease the anxiety, before any event, do a little research to see who will be there and pick out a few people you’d like to meet or talk to.
Walking into an event with purpose will make you feel more prepared and will put you at ease. Focus on the quality of the conversation over the quantity and have a plan to connect with a few people to make the experience feel a little less overwhelming.
2. Prepare Some Topics to Talk About
Small talk with people you don't know is challenging and sometimes the anxiety can get the best of you. Your mind might go blank because you're so nervous, leaving you feeling tongue-tied. You might even start physically stuttering and tripping over your words, making the situation feel worse.
It might seem silly, but prepare some questions to keep in your back pocket ahead of time. If you have a few questions or topics prepared, even if you don’t use them you feel more confident. Use these topics to fill in gaps in the conversation so you can avoid any uncomfortable awkward silences.
3. Wear Something You Feel Confident In
Feeling confident can be a powerful tool to use in an uncomfortable situation. An easy way to boost that confidence is by wearing something you feel good in. Even if you're not excited about going out, get dressed up and look the part. The way you appear often reflects how you feel and if you look good, you might even start feeling good.
Pick out one of your favorite outfits and choose something you can enjoy wearing for a few hours. If socializing is already uncomfortable, make sure you can at least feel relaxed your clothes. Wearing something you can feel confident in will make you feel more at ease.
4. Practice a Power-Pose
There have been studies on the effects of a power pose, and it can make a big difference in how you enter a room. Using a power pose before entering an uncomfortable social situation can help you exude confidence when you walk in the room.
Take a deep breath, stand up straight and put your hands on your hips with your chest out and chin up. Do this in front of the mirror before you leave to give yourself a little boost. Practicing a power-pose will naturally raise your confidence level. If you start to feel overwhelmed, take a moment to step aside and power-pose to retain your composure.
5. Have an Escape Plan
Sometimes the thought of being out for hours at a time is exhausting and you often don't want to stick around the whole night, but instead just make an appearance and leave.
When you go out, don't feel like you have to stay out the entire night, even just getting out for a little bit is all you need to do. Before you go out for the night, have a plan for yourself.
Make a decisive plan on how long you're comfortable staying, and what time you want to leave. You can even set an alarm for yourself so you know once it goes off, you're free to head out. Having an escape plan takes the pressure off wondering when is a good time to make your exit and stops you from watching the clock all night.
6. Leave It at the Door
After you leave a social setting it's easy to let your mind fester over everything that happened that night. You can spend hours analyzing every little detail of every conversation.
You start worrying about what you said, what you didn't say or how you said it. In the end, this only makes you feel worse about the situation, and less likely to go out the next time.
When you leave an event, ditch everything that happened at the door — move forward with your night and don’t look back. It doesn't do any good sitting and pondering what already happened, so why bother? This is something that's easier said than done, so try distracting yourself with a book or a project when you get home so you can't let your mind wander.
7. Reward Yourself
When you’ve made it through an event, reward yourself. Do something for yourself that makes you happy and give yourself a pat on the back. Stop for ice cream on the way home or pick up a movie to help you unwind.
Celebrate the fact that you put yourself out there and made it through perfectly intact – hopefully you enjoyed yourself a little too.