5 Ways to Navigate Social Gatherings When You Have Anxiety

Mar 08, 2023
5 Ways to Navigate Social Gatherings When You Have Anxiety
When you have anxiety, you may avoid everything from large conferences to small get-togethers. But by cutting yourself off from gatherings, you miss out on the opportunities and relationships you need to thrive. Here’s how to manage your anxiety.

Fear of public speaking affects up to 85% of people at some point in their lives, but your fears go far beyond the dread you feel when asked to address an audience. You don’t even like to go to parties, attend large classes, or be part of work conferences. 

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 12% of women and men in the United States experience social anxiety disorder at one time or another. Women were more likely (8%) to experience social anxiety in the past year than men (6.1%).

Socializing is important for mental health and also for a long, healthy life. In fact, women and men with strong social networks are 45% more likely to live longer than those without. 

Social anxiety disorder doesn’t have to rule or limit your life. Joseph Kwentus, MDKaren Richardson, PhD, and our team at Precise Research Centers diagnose and treat social anxiety disorder so you can live life as fully as possible.

Do you get anxious at social gatherings? Following are five tips for managing anxiety at your next event.

1. Plan ahead of time

When you know you have an event coming up, make a plan that allows you more control over the situation. If you know what the meeting or party is about, you can brainstorm a few interesting points you’d like to make or questions you’d like to ask somebody.

Even doing something as simple as deciding what you’re going to wear and how to get to the event can ease your anxiety. The more control you give yourself ahead of time, the less pressure you feel to make last-minute decisions.

2. Bring support

It’s easier to navigate unknown waters with a trusted companion. Whenever possible, arrange for a friend or close colleague to go to the event with you. Either drive together or meet up before entering so you feel supported from the moment you arrive.

Let your friend know that you’re anxious, so they can help you glide over any uncomfortable bumps. Or, if both of you are shy and anxious, at least you can keep each other company while out in a new situation.

The most important thing is to say “yes” to opportunities to socialize and meet new people. Eventually strangers may become familiar faces that are easier to approach.

3. Be curious and ask questions

Another way to manage your anxiety is to focus your attention on other people, rather than on your feelings. Find a friendly face and ask their name. Find out as much as possible about them by asking open-ended questions. 

Open-ended questions are those that require a full answer instead of a simple “yes” or “no.” Instead of asking, “Did you like the speaker?” Try asking, “What did you like most about the speaker?” That way, the other person carries most of the conversation. Asking their opinion also makes them feel friendly toward you.

4. Start small and have an exit strategy

You don’t have to stay for an entire party or meeting, unless it’s part of your job. Decide ahead of time how long you’ll stay in the gathering, even if it’s just 20 minutes. You can change your mind and stay longer if you’re enjoying yourself.

If you traveled with a friend, you might arrange ahead of time to use a particular phrase or password when you’re ready to leave, but don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. 

Or, if you know your support buddy is more social than you are, you might choose to drive alone to the event so you can leave when you’re ready. 

5. Take care of yourself

Getting enough sleep and exercise makes your body feel better so you feel better, too. Make sure you eat well, practice deep breathing and meditation, and speak kindly to yourself. 

Also, give yourself a break when you have social anxiety: Learning new habits takes time, and you may find yourself sliding back into your shell every once in a while.

An important part of self-care is learning how to reframe your thoughts so they serve you instead of undermine you. At Precise Research Centers, we recommend talk therapy as part of your treatment so you can feel more comfortable in social situations and be kinder to yourself, too.

We may also recommend medications to help manage symptoms such as palpitations and blushing. You may also want to enroll in one of our clinical trials for new medications that help manage anxiety symptoms.

To get relief from your social anxiety, call us at 601-685-3457 or book an appointment online. You can also send a message to our team here on the website. If you’d like to be considered for a clinical trial, please let us know.