Strategies for Coping with Mild Social Anxiety
It’s common to get some nervous jitters in social settings. Whether it’s attending your first day of classes, starting a new job, going to your high school reunion, or attending a wedding where you don’t know anyone, there are plenty of common situations you may find yourself in where you’ll feel a little awkward or uncomfortable.
My favorite way to think about anxiety is this: anxiety is a feeling and it is internal. Therefore, our best tool to combat it must also be internal. So what does that mean? Positive self talk! Positive self talk does not always mean telling yourself something overly optimistic and unbelievable. Positive self talk consists of reminding yourself of what is normal, human, possible, and realistic.
First and foremost, try to normalize your feelings to yourself. Remember, most people in your shoes would also feel a bit anxious in this situation, and some other people in the room may be experiencing these same feelings simultaneously! Anxiety is not rare. People hide it quite well. There is often a chance that whoever you are making small talk with is also overthinking their questions and worrying about running out of things to say. So literally say to yourself, “Some people here may be experiencing what I am feeling on some level. This is normal. It will take us all time to become more comfortable. There is a chance this is not just me. I can get through this. I will take it one conversation at a time.”
Second, plan. It can help to plan conversation topics ahead of time and use open ended questions. How do you know the bride and groom? Have you been to a lot of weddings recently? How do they compare? Are you from the area? What was it like growing up here? What made you decide to pick this major? What do you love most about your line of work? How did you spend your summer? What are your top five favorite shows on Netflix right now?
Third, practice self care. Give yourself some credit and some breaks if you need to! Step away to the restroom, step outside, grab a glass of water, call a loved one. If you need a break allow yourself to take it. You can always excuse yourself in a situation to take care of yourself. Treating yourself to something special afterwards is also a great motivator to confront your social anxiety and practice self care.