How to worry less in social situations (particularly when you’re an introvert)

Because let’s face it, introverts do spend about 90% of their time worrying about stuff. It stems from the fact that being around people drains us and with lack of energy comes that nagging self doubt that tends to plague us wherever we go. Did I just say the wrong thing? Is that person looking at me funny? Does everyone in the room hate me? Did I pick the wrong colour socks to wear this morning? It goes on and on and on. BUT, there are several really easy steps you can take to help yourself calm down and remember how flipping fabulous you really are.

So here are five of the first things that I go to when I can feel the panic beginning to set in.

Breathing

Taking deep breaths seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but when you are starting to panic it is the first thing that goes out of the window. It will help to fill the body with oxygen and clear the mind of the racing thoughts that go along with being anxious.

Smokers do get most of their relief in anxiety filled situations from the nicotine in their cigarettes, but they also calm down because of the style of breathing that is involved with inhaling and exhaling the smoke. It is absolutely ideal for calming the nerves. Now I’m not telling you to run out and buy a packet of cigarettes, but try and picture the way a smoker holds in their breath when you are next feeling the nerves. A good rule of thumb is to breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 and exhale for 8. Repeat this for a couple of minutes and you will normally see a difference.

It’s sometimes good to do this before you even go to an event that’s likely to stress you out. It’s like meditating in order to prevent the panic attack before it even happens. If not, it’s quite OK to just quietly excuse yourself and wander off to a quiet corner of the room, or to the bathroom to do this technique.

Removing yourself from the situation

That leads me nicely onto this point, and that is that it is perfectly OK to leave. If you are about to pass out with anxiety, nobody in their right mind would expect you to stay put. And you can either leave for a few minutes to practice that breath work, or you can disappear completely!

The ideal would be to train yourself to get to a point where you can talk yourself down and not let anxiety get you to the point where you have to leave any event, but in the meantime, leaving an event is not a crime.

Remembering that you are not bad

My problems always started with something small and by the time I reached the thought that I was evil and everything bad in my life was as a result of that, it was game over. It took a lot of therapy to understand where those feelings came from and now that I am more aware, it is far easier to stop those thoughts in their tracks. However, even if you don’t know where they come from, the chances are that they are a load of bull crap.

Repeat the mantra ‘I am a good person’ if you have to. Because you are. Even if you’ve done bad things in the past (I mean, come on, who hasn’t?) you can always turn over a new leaf and start afresh any day of your life. You deserve an amazing life and it’s awful to think that you might hold yourself back because of a lie that only you believe.

People just aren’t thinking about you all that much

One of the things that I have to regularly remind myself of when I’m anxious is the fact that everybody else has all their own crap to deal with, and actually, I don’t rate too high on their list of important things to worry about. We are each the centre of our own universe and it’s easy to think that people care but sadly (or gladly as the case may be) they don’t. In a way this is bad, because it means that we all have massive egos and a lot of people are willing to step all over you to get to where they want to go. But on the other hand, it’s very freeing to know that that stupid thing you did one Monday back in 2009 is all but forgotten about by 99.9% of people. Hooray for that!!

So really this one is all about looking at it from a different perspective. Worry can magnify everything intensely and distort the truth, so try telling yourself that a lot of it is just lies that you are telling yourself and you should start to notice that people really aren’t looking at you at all.

Stop trying to be perfect

Nobody is perfect and nobody really expects it. Not really. We may pretend that we’re perfect and that that’s what we want but none of it is real. The Instagram and Facebook accounts with thousands of perfectly filtered pictures are hiding the blazing rows with husbands and the kids that are disrespectful and throw regular tantrums. The old school friend who you recently found out has a CEO position in the city goes home to an empty flat and cries herself to sleep. Everything is an illusion to a certain extent. The trick is to focus on the good bits that you have in your life and stop trying to aim for what the next person has.

Trying to be perfect also puts a huge amount of pressure on you in your day to day life. Even if you just want to do everything in your crappy, low paid job absolutely perfectly, you are still heaping a load of unnecessary pressure onto yourself. And guess what? You’ll probably make yourself even more worried and make even more mistakes than you would if you just relaxed and accepted that sometimes you’re going to do things wrong.

If you make the teas for all the people in an office and you worry excessively about getting somebody’s order wrong, the chances are you will get an order wrong. The nerves will get the better of you and you’ll put two sugars in Gary’s coffee instead of one. But, if you relax and have a laugh with Gary he’ll remember you as the funny one who makes his tea rather than the one who got it wrong.

I hope that some of these can be of use to you. I find myself using them all of the time and although I’ve also had therapy for a couple of years, they really do help. I’d love to hear in the comments if you have any others that could be useful too.

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