A few years ago, I was invited to a dinner party by a friend, and I did not know anyone except for the host. When I arrived, I stood in the corner of the room not sure what to do. I felt self-conscious, and had thoughts that I should not be here, and that no one wants to talk to me. I started to over-analyze my body posture and what to do with my hands. I felt sweat form on the back of my neck. To make matters worse I looked down and saw I had on two different shoes! In my humiliation, I just wanted to get out of there. Most of us, at one point or another, have experienced this type of anxiety when in social situations. I came up with the following Life Hacks based on the grounding and mindfulness techniques typically used to help ease anxiety.
1. Before leaving our car to enter a party, let’s find a coin or small object to keep in our pocket. Rubbing a coin or smooth stone is a soothing behavior easily accessed in social situations.
2. Mindfulness techniques encourage us to use our senses to keep us grounded to the here and now during anxious moments. Let’s apply a mindfulness technique that will not only help calm our nerves, but also boost our social skills by attending to what another person is saying. Let’s look at the speaker’s face. What changes do we see in their eyes, lips, and facial expressions as they speak? In your mind repeat back main points the speaker is relaying. Is there anything that catches our attention or that we have in common?
3. Inevitably we will need to use the rest room. While in a private setting, let’s take the opportunity to practice deep breathing exercises while silently repeating a calming phrase like “I’m OK”. Here’s a breathing exercise to try: Place hands on the stomach and chest. Focus on bringing in air through the nose as we fill up our “lower lungs”. The stomach should rise but the chest should remain still. Push the air out and repeat 5 times.
4. Rather than selecting an alcoholic or caffeinated beverage, let’s choose water with a lemon wedge, or decaffeinated hot tea. Even mild dehydration can impact our energy level and alcohol lowers the mood-regulating serotonin in the brain. Decaffeinated tea, especially green tea, has a soothing and comforting effect.
5. Another mindfulness technique is to attend to our environment in search for conversation starters. Look around the party environment. What do we see, hear or taste? Is there an article of clothing or jewelry that is eye-catching? Did the host make food that has a curious ingredient? Is there a song playing that can lead to a discussion about the artist? Sometimes just a simple observation can lead to a surprisingly enjoyable exchange.
As for me and my mismatched shoes? With a nearby partygoer I made an observation about my wardrobe misfire. She, in turn, told the story of going to work at a law office after realizing she forgot to put on her bra. My simple observation turned into an enjoyable and hilarious conversation.
All of us experience anxiety in social situations; but Social Anxiety, an extreme and debilitating form of anxiety, requires additional support and therapy. If you are struggling with anxiety, schedule a complimentary consultation at theconnectedowl.com and let’s start talking about how to make life better for you.
Photo by Jessica Da Rosa on Unsplash