An Anxious Person’s Guide To Socializing
Some people love being the center of attention or the life of the party. Others, not so much. An estimated 17 million American adults will, at some point, meet the criteria for social anxiety disorder or social phobia. Shyness and social anxiety are common for people of all ages, but social connections are an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
Jonathan Kanter, PhD, a psychologist at the Center for the Science of Social Connection at the University of Washington says, “We know that people who are lonely and socially isolated are more likely to die younger. We know that when you’re lonely or socially disconnected, your immune functioning is disrupted, your cardiovascular functioning is disrupted. Your mental health is affected.”
So what’s a socially anxious person to do? Isolating and avoiding social interaction completely may make your anxiety worse in addition to the physical symptoms mentioned above. Practice is one of the best weapons. You don’t have to fear and avoid social settings. You can ease into these situations.
Rather than declining an invitation to a social event, prepare for it in advance. You can practice conversation starters in the mirror or with a trusted friend.
If you have an idea of who else might be attending these events, consider their interests and hobbies. Did someone recently go on a fun vacation or start a new job? You can prepare a list of questions to help you break the ice and create space for a conversation.
Finally, remember to breathe. Relaxation breathing can be a great way to calm your nerves before or during an event. It’s free, self-soothing and it helps cut down cortisol (the stress hormone) production.
With practice, you can continuously improve upon your social skills, ultimately making you feel more confident. If you’re looking to speak to a licensed professional about your social anxiety, behavioral health specialists are available to you via telehealth services.
The Online Health Coach is also available to help you set and track health goals, like reducing stress and pursuing healthy activities.