Preparing for Social Situations When You Suffer From Social Anxiety

Preparing for Social Situations When You Suffer From Social Anxiety

Preparing for Social Situations When You Suffer From Social Anxiety

Welcome to part two in our series about how to deal with social situations when you suffer from social anxiety.  If you missed part one, you can find it here.

It’s almost impossible to avoid social situations forever.

Sooner or later you’re going to have to interact with someone else – if only to have them ring up your groceries or to handle paying a bill over the phone.

The problem, of course, comes when your social strategy for managing anxiety becomes staying home.

Perhaps Atul Gawande, an American surgeon, scholar, and author said it best:

“Human beings are social creatures. We are social not just in the trivial sense that we like company, and not just in the obvious sense that we each depend on others. We are social in a more elemental way: simply to exist as a normal human being requires interaction with other people.”

Of course, not everyone is the same. How much interaction you require might be different from someone else.

Some people thrive best in very active social atmospheres, while others find a constant stream of socialization exhausting.

Even severe introverts will claim a few close friendships and at least a certain amount of needed socialization to be well-adjusted and happy.

How then do you prepare for social situations that you know are going to make you feel uncomfortable?

Important:  Before we go too much further, though, please keep in mind that Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is actually a medical condition.   I’m here to help you with your Avon business and have no medical experience.  If your social anxiety feels out of control, or if you’re experiencing severe social anxiety regularly, please discuss the matter with your doctor.  There is help!

At a Party or Other Casual Social Gathering

Don’t talk yourself out of going before you’ve even left the house

When we’re already overwhelmed with the idea of going out, it’s easy to seize on excuses to stay home. The trick is learning to distinguish between excuses and legitimate reasons to stay home.

The problem with caving in to the desire to stay home is that the momentary elation you feel at getting your way never lasts.

Eventually, the realization sets in that you bailed once again. Here’s where self-recrimination begins. Also, anxiety about going out will get worse the less you leave the house. The only way past this is to force yourself to get out. Your best strategy? Go with a friend who will hold you accountable.

Pamper yourself a little beforehand

In order to reduce the anxiety, do something calming in the hours leading up to the social event.

Indulge in a massage or a bubble bath. Read a book. Put on some soothing music. If you start from a Zen state, you’ll help keep the fear at bay.

Know what to talk about

For most people, the hardest part of any social situation is the worry that they’ll have nothing intelligent to say.

After first recognizing not everyone is going to have the witty repartee that you see in the movies (after all, actors have writers to come up with that stuff for them), you need to realize that you can rehearse what to say, much as those actors would.

You start with a script of your own, a handful of phrases or questions you can start with.

Then take the time to practice saying them in front of a mirror so that you don’t get tongue-tied when you’re in front of someone new. Preparation is really half the battle here.

Plan your hostess gift in advance

Having something to bring always breaks the ice but rushing to pick up a gift on the way to the party is a sure recipe for disaster.

Start thinking about this gift when you get the invitation.

Ask if you can bring anything as it might be your solution is already staring you in the face. If not, a bottle of wine is usually appreciated, or something sweet to offer the guests after dinner. Stick to the classics and go with flowers. They are always a quick and easy favorite.

Figure out what time you want to show up

Showing up after everyone else has arrived is an almost surefire trigger to social anxiety. It’s very intimidating to walk into a roomful of people.

Instead, plan on showing up early (or at least on time) before the place becomes too crowded.

Missed the mark and you’re already late? Wait for a little and see if someone else shows up. It’s more comfortable walking in with someone rather than going it alone.

In the worst-case scenario, grit your teeth and push yourself to go in anyway.

Keep in mind that once a party gets going, very few people are watching the door anymore, and you’ll likely go unnoticed.

Make a goal to talk to people and stick to it

Don’t go into the situations thinking that great conversations are just going to happen to you.

Instead, make a plan to approach people and start a discussion. This is where those conversation starters will come in handy.

Again, to keep from becoming overwhelmed, give yourself a goal that’s easy to make such as talking to three or four different people. All that is left is to do it.

Watch the alcohol consumption

That drink or two you had to loosen you up is going to have a negative effect on you after a while.

The problem with using alcohol as a way to self-medicate is the declining effect that alcohol has after a while. While two drinks might have done the trick months ago, maybe it takes three now, or four for the same reaction.

Obviously, counting on alcohol to calm your nerves can lead to some pretty severe problems down the line.

Eat beforehand

If you’re nervous about the menu or think your stomach might be too upset to eat at the party, then eat at home.

Eating something before the party has the added benefit of calming your stomach if you’re suffering from a bad case of nerves.

At the very least, you are making sure you don’t go hungry because you’re too anxious to eat while you’re there.

Take part in things

Standing around and watching others have a good time is bound to make your social fears worse.

Instead, get involved. Is the group playing a game? Jump in! Having to concentrate on set rules and an end goal will keep your mind too busy to get caught up in the panic attack cycle.

If music is playing, try dancing, even if you’re just swaying to the tunes. Physical activity is great for boosting moods and helping you feel more confident.

Ask questions

When a conversation is flagging, you have two options. One is to slink away and find someone else to engage. The other is to find a way to keep the conversation going.

Asking questions tends to jump-start the dialogue, as it forces the other person into a response. Become an expert in asking open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no.

Wait out panic attacks

Remember that most panic attacks only last 10 – 15 minutes.

If you can, find a quiet place to retreat until the panic attack is over. Remind yourself that it will end and that whatever bad thing you think is happening, really isn’t.

Focus on your breathing or recite, even in your head, whatever mantra calms and soothes. It will get better.

Know when to leave

Deciding in advance just how long you’re going to stay helps keep anxiety at bay by making you aware that the social function is finite.

That said, don’t become a clock watcher. If it turns out you’re having a great time, there’s no reason leave early.

Building Your Business

Start small

When trying to build new habits, putting your focus on tiny changes is generally more successful. Don’t underestimate the importance of being to build your business.

Find small ways to upgrade your interaction with people. For example, you might make the goal to offer at least one comment to the checker when you’re buying your groceries.

Engage in conversation

The last thing you want is to get a reputation for not being helpful, or worse, for being cold and unfriendly.

Sadly, social anxiety can cause others to believe you are stuck-up or hostile.

Start looking for places to chat with people. Make small talk with the people you meet. Say hello when you come into a situation with other people. These little things count.

Write down key points before making phone calls

By writing down what you want to say before you make the call, you’re less likely to get flustered and forget things.

Keep that notepad handy, as you might want to jot down the questions that arise in the course of the conversation.

Practice more complex social challenges at home

For example, you have a hard time in talking to strangers then make a point to approach someone you don’t know in simple ways, like asking a clerk in a store a question or calling a business to ask about operating hours.

The more often you do tasks like these, the easier it gets, so keep practicing. It will pay off at work later!

When you hit a conflict with someone, make an appointment to talk about the issue rather than feeling like you need to confront them immediately

This enables you to think about what you want to say, or even practice your talking points.

Show up early

When dealing with business meetings, it’s usually easier to be there first rather than having to walk into a room that’s already full, or a restaurant where the person you’re there to meet is already sitting.

Also, by arriving before the person you’re there to meet, you can take a moment to center yourself with a few deep, cleansing breaths so you’re calm, cool, and collected at the start of the meeting.

Pay attention to current events

If you feel tongue-tied during random breakroom encounters, an awareness of what’s going on in the world gives you something to talk about when you need a little small talk.

Enlist support

Let your Avon friends know you have social anxiety. They can help you find accommodations that make things easier for you to cope. Go into that meeting with some ideas already as to how they can help out, such as maybe getting a little more advance notice of meetings so you can prepare yourself better, or maybe put you in smaller groups for projects.

Love your job

If you’re passionate about what you do, you’ll find it easier to overcome social fears. Most people can talk easily about what they’re passionate about.

Take care of yourself

Social anxiety is magnified when you don’t feel good about yourself, much less if you’re feeling ill all the time. Keep an eye on the basics: Eat right, get adequate rest, and exercise regularly.

As you keep practicing these tips, you’ll find that most social anxiety comes from lack of preparation.

By making a plan and putting it into action, you’ll take a lot of the tension out of a social situation before you even begin.

Still, that’s no guarantee that things will be perfect. You might still find the tension building while you’re amid the interaction.

In our next article, you’ll discover how you can handle that too! 🙂

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EXPECT Success!

By Lynn Huber

Lynn Huber

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