Monday, February 24, 2014

15 tips to enjoying a party when you have anxiety

Be yourself.  Don’t try to be someone else because it’s not possible.  You will never be someone else – you will always be you.  So, instead of trying to be someone else, be the best possible version of yourself.

Make sure your head and body are in the same place.  In other words, be in the moment.  If you find yourself worrying about something, someone, or some situation, and it is taking you out of the present moment, schedule a time later in the day, or the next day, when you can worry about it.  Then, when that time comes, you can think about all the things you wanted to analyze or worry about.  This technique keeps you from getting caught up in anxiety and frees you to concentrate on what’s going on around you.

Look people in the eye when talking to them.  I have found this helpful because it keeps my attention on the other person.  If I am not looking directly at them, I am more likely to get self-conscious, nervous about what I am saying, or worry about my appearance or what they think of me.  If I look people in the eye, I remember that they are a human being like me with their own faults, failures, and anxieties.  I guess it levels the playing ground, so to speak, and I no longer feel inferior or not good enough to be talking to them.

Move on from disappointments, broken expectations, etc.  If something doesn’t turn out how you want, instead of focusing on the negative, recognize all the positive things that turned out all right.

Embrace the awkwardness.  No one is perfect.  Conversations and interactions are going to be just as flawed as anything else in this world.  Learn to laugh at the instances that make you feel awkward.  And remember, the other person probably feels just as weird.  So, don’t put the blame on yourself and beat yourself up for not being the most perfect social butterfly.  It’s OK to not always say the right thing.

Smile.  Smiling goes a long way when you are feeling anxious.  For one, it relaxes your facial muscles, releasing the tension from your head.  Smiling also reminds you that it's never as bad as it seems.

Sit down if you feel yourself getting anxious.  If you struggle with anxiety, you know it can be exhausting.  Sitting down can help you calm down.  Find a chair if you feel your heart rate going up, your palms getting sweaty, or your head getting dizzy.  The security of a solid chair will help you remember that you are not as unstable as you think.

If you find yourself getting ultra anxious, remove yourself from the situation.  Sometimes it helps to excuse yourself for a bit, whether you go the bathroom or go outside to get some fresh air.  It helps to take a few private moments to recollect your thoughts and your confidence.

Repeat positive phrases to yourself.  It will help you to recalibrate your brain waves, remind you that you are in control and not the failure your brain is telling you that you are.  Tell yourself things like, “This will soon pass”, “I am not crazy, I just have anxiety”, “A lot of people struggle with this just like me”, “I am strong in my weakness”, “I am loved”, “Feelings are not facts”, etc.

Don’t put pressure on yourself to talk to people.  Get rid of all the rules you’ve made for yourself.  If you don’t feel like initiating a conversation, then don’t.  Anxiety is often the result of shoulds and oughts.  Social anxiety comes from pressures and expectations to be a certain way in a crowd of people.  You don’t have to do those things you feel you should do; who made those rules anyway?

Silence is OK.  Learn to appreciate the virtue of silence, even in a group of people.  Don’t put pressure on yourself to control the conversation or be the center of attention.  If you don’t know what to say, it’s alright, nobody else does either.  Embrace the awkwardness and just smile.

Remember to keep breathing.  It sounds like a no brainer, but I often have to remind myself to take in oxygen or to release the oxygen in my lungs because I’m holding my breath.  The dizziness that sometimes comes from panic and anxiety is often from the lack of oxygen to the brain.  If you remind yourself to keep breathing normally, you will be more capable of keeping yourself from a full blown panic attack.

Move at your own pace.  Don’t put pressure on yourself to keep up with everyone else: if that means slowing down your walking pace, taking your time while eating and drinking, or moving on from one thing to the next.  People who suffer from anxiety often have a difficult time with change, even moment to moment tasks.  It’s OK to take your time and be in control of your transitions.  There is nothing wrong with taking your time.  If people make fun of you for your coping skills, then that’s their problem.  It is more important to stick to your copings skills then to have your peace and calm rocked in order to please some who doesn’t understand you in the first place.

Let the event run itself.  Don’t get involved in the behind the scenes.  It is not your job to worry about whether things are running smoothly or as they are supposed to go.  Make the most in whatever situation you find yourself – meaning, be in the moment not in the “worry”.

One moment at a time.  Anxiety can be the result of not living in the present; either from worrying about things you cannot control or not having trust in your decision making capabilities.  You cannot control what happens in the next week, the next day, or even the next second.  Worrying about what will happen in the future does no good for the anxious brain.  Just so, worrying or analyzing the past will not help either.  Remember, you’ve made it this far, trust in your decisions.  Have faith that, when the time comes, you will make good decisions and be able to react to whatever unknown circumstances in which you may find yourself.

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