How I’m Coping with Social Anxiety

How I’m Coping with Social Anxiety

A few years ago my anxiety was so bad that the thought of leaving the house had me in tears, and whenever I did go out it was always a countdown until I could go back home. I had to change, especially when I started a new relationship – which meant meeting a bunch of friends and family. It’s not been easy, but through trial and error I’ve found a few techniques that work for me:

Avoid caffeine and alcohol

You’ve probably already been told to cut out caffeine, but for a good reason, because it really does make difference. Caffeine makes me more alert so unfortunately is more likely to trigger a panic attack. The day before and the day of the event, switch to decaf and see if you notice a difference.

Alcohol is a depressant. It can also make some people nauseous, which is the last thing you want when you’re already feeling anxious. Only drink alcohol at the event if you are completely comfortable doing so. There is absolutely no shame in staying sober.

Get there early

If you’re meeting at a neutral location (i.e. a cafe), get there early. My counsellor explained that this is the idea of ‘owning’ the area. So if you’re there first it’s them walking in on you – not the other way around. You feel more in control of the situation because you’ve given yourself time to get there and make yourself comfortable.

Pre panic

It sounds completely counter productive but bear with me, because this turned out to be the most powerful technique in tackling my social anxiety. If I was meeting friends at 5pm, around 12pm I would start to feel the familiar dread and worry. My anxiety would ask me all the worst case scenario questions and I would give the answers. Then, at 4:30pm when I was on my way to the event, the panic would start settling in again but I was able to say “Nope – we’ve already done this!” Amazingly, I felt more in control because I had allowed myself to panic well before the event and get it out of the way – I knew it was coming, so I started letting it happen instead of draining all my energy trying to fight it.

Reward yourself afterwards

Sometimes an incentive is all we need. As I’d stayed away from caffeine for almost two days, I told myself that if I went to meet friends without any anxiety, I could get a coffee from McDonald’s on the way home.

I got a cheeseburger too, I’d earned it.

Know your limits

There’s no greater feeling than being above your anxiety, but be careful not to overdo it. Self care is extremely important and it’s more difficult to be in control if you’re not your best self. Don’t feel guilty if you have to cancel plans, there’s always next time. Real friends will understand.

 

Social anxiety is by no means ‘one size fits all’, but the above tips have helped me personally and improved my social life massively. I went from the girl who felt the world spin at the thought of leaving the house to the superhero who attended a wedding for 12 hours with 100 strangers like it was nothing. It may feel like it now, but social anxiety is not a life sentence; you’ll get there when you’re ready.

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12 Comments

  1. December 27, 2017 / 9:03 pm

    It’s exactly how I do this myself!!! To own the anxiety and the space. And the most important to not overdo it. You can get exhausted just by doing little

  2. December 31, 2017 / 6:37 am

    I tried one of your techniques. ‘getting there early’ actually worked. Woohoo! Thanks. I did a little something extra. I tried to make friends there so that when my girlfriend came in I wouldn’t look like the weirdo who doesn’t talk to people.

    • December 31, 2017 / 7:44 am

      Woohoo! I’m so glad to hear this worked for you and I’m so proud of you for trying it! ☺️ Owning the space really does make a difference, I hope now you have a fix for future social events, I wish you the best in 2018! ☺️

  3. January 25, 2018 / 9:05 am

    I could never quit my caffeine habit but cutting down on my intake has definitely helped me to react in a calmer way to external stimuli. I never thought of owning an area prior to a social engagement. I should give that one a try for sure. Great post, these techniques are practical and accessible!

    • January 26, 2018 / 6:51 am

      I know what you mean – I limit myself to 1-2 cups a day but on the day of a social event I’ll drink decaf, just so I’m not taking any chances. I’d never realised I was ‘owning an area’ until I talked to my counsellor about it, it’s a really great trick! Thank you for reading, and I really hope the tips help you in the future! ☺️

  4. March 22, 2018 / 7:49 pm

    Caffeine does increase anxiety. Some years back I started to drink too much coffee, to the point it was difficult for me to sleep until 3 AM on some nights. I got so used to the adrenaline high of constantly being on alert even though I knew it was terrible for my anxiety. Nowadays I limit myself to one cup of coffee in a day, but for the mornings I am in a rush, I don’t drink any at all. Otherwise I treat myself to non caffeinates chamomile tea.

    The getting there early can work for me if I have a good few hours before an event, but other times if I only have like a half hour before I have to be out for the commute, that’s when I’m more likely to falter.

  5. Kim
    December 1, 2018 / 10:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing your tips. I have severe social phobia and a mild form of agoraphobia – I feel anxious about not being able to escape a situation or place. It makes queuing or going into new places alone very difficult. I once had a near anxiety attack in Primark! Pre panicking (or worrying) and avoiding caffeine or alcohol seem to work for me.

    • Zoe
      Author
      December 13, 2018 / 10:08 am

      I completely understand how you feel, being in a situation where you can’t ‘escape’ is very daunting. I’m glad those tips worked for you!

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