Social anxiety disorder affects millions of adults. It’s described as “intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated or rejected in a social or performance situation.” While it’s tempting to avoid social situations altogether, that’s not entirely realistic. If you’re out and about and feel anxiety creeping in, try any one of these five tricks for calming down in a hurry.
1. Breathe. Sometimes, the suggestion “just breathe” seems almost comical. We breathe all the time, right? But certain types of breathing can work wonders for anxious feelings. Here’s an example: Try umbrella breathing. Imagine your entire body is a collapsed umbrella, where your feet are the handle and your head is the tip of the umbrella. As you breathe in, allow the air to expand to the sides, like you’re opening the umbrella. As you breathe out, collapse the umbrella again. This will slow down your breathing and help your lungs reach their full capacity. Whether you’re at a networking event or a birthday party, excuse yourself for a “bathroom break” and calm your breath—you’ll feel so much better rejoining the group afterward.
2. Seek Out Extroverts. It might be more intuitive to gravitate toward people like you, but it’s a safer bet to stick with extroverts who are comfortable being in the spotlight and carrying the conversation. So sit back, relax and laugh as Jenna shares her Tinder date horror stories.
3. Ask Questions. When socializing, having everyone’s focus on you can worsen feelings of anxiety. Instead, shift the spotlight onto others by prepping some open-ended questions. Before going to any type of gathering, think of some conversation starters to whip out if you start feeling uncomfortable. Just be sure to think of your own answers to the questions you ask, so that you don’t get frazzled in the heat of the moment.
4. Plan your Exit. Obviously, if you’re socializing and having a good time, you should stay, but giving yourself a limit of, say, two hours might help you relax (it’s a light at the end of the tunnel-type thing). Alternatively, you could make it into a challenge by setting a goal of talking to four new people before you ghost the party.
5. Take Breaks. OK, so this doesn’t work in some situations, like super-intimate dinner parties or one-on-one meetups. But if you’re with a bunch of people, it’s totally fine to sneak away for a few minutes to regroup and gather your thoughts. Just be reasonable about how long you’re gone for.
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