As someone with severe social anxiety, public events or even game nights with close friends can become my nightmare.
My go-to answer has always been "no" - even if it is just watching a movie with someone. However, I have noticed my community shrinking to just about me and my dogs, which, don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE. But sometimes you need humans. So, recently, I've been trying to say "yes" more. I've been trying to invest in other people and in my community in a way that is safe and healthy for me.
Personally, I feel like I have taken great strides in my quest to feel more comfortable and handle my anxiety.
Here's how I do it:
Now, this may seem wrong. But hear me out. By being in your natural habitat – aka your home – you can remain comfortable! Plus, you control everything – the food, the temperature, the music, the schedule, etc. And the real kicker? You can hide in the comfort of another room. I’m lucky because my husband will totally take over and let me hide in the bedroom for an hour. True story: I hosted our best friends for a Thanksgiving weekend where they stayed with us. I love them dearly but by day three, I needed a break (I’m actually surprised I lasted that long!) so I just left the room and watched a few episodes of Supernatural and then rejoined the group ready to rock.
Take a seat.
If you’re out at someone else’s house, or out at the local spot, find a seat. For me, the standing and wandering is what makes me super uncomfortable. So I find a seat and let the people come to me. And sometimes they don’t! That can feel awkward the first few times it happens – like you’re back in middle school and nobody wants to sit at your table – but after a bit I actually learned to enjoy it. It’s a bit of a break and lets you take a breath to re-center yourself. Plus, I like to treat it as like my base - picture elementary school tag, I get worn out and overwhelmed, and it feels like everyone is running at me, so I hit my base and it gives me a break to catch my breath and prepare for that crazy game of tag.
I hate party games, I hate being on the spot, I hate losing. So when someone suggests Pictionary or Taboo? F#CK NO. My play is to volunteer to mediate or keep score or guess on both teams. The people that really know me will understand, and those that don’t will give me a hard time and insist 20 times that “It’s really fun!” But I just have to stand my ground and say no.
Find out the expectations.
It’s perfectly acceptable to ask what food will be there, who will be there, and what the mood will be. Mentally create the picture in your mind and prepare your heart and breath accordingly.
Bring Your Own Food/Drink
I am one of those people that is known as a "picky" eater. But usually, I don't eat in public because I get incredibly nervous about the people around me and it upsets my stomach. So I just don't eat at events unless I have control over the food. If I offer to bring a dish, then I can know there is at least one thing that I can eat without getting worried.