Managing Social Anxiety During the Summer Months

Eileen Bailey | May 24th 2016 Apr 10th 2017

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For many people, summertime signals “fun in the sun.” They look forward to spending the day on a crowded beach, outdoor concerts, graduation parties, weddings and picnics. But for those with social anxiety disorder (SAD), crowded events and social interaction causes great distress.

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Looming thoughts are natural, but don't have to be the norm.

If you have social anxiety, what seems like a simple social interaction to others causes an intense fear that other people are judging you - in a negative way. You might think others believe you are stupid, a fool, or that you don’t dress right. Maybe you worry they don’t like you or find you boring. You might be filled with absolute terror just thinking about mingling at a party.

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Summer time is known for social events..

…but while others are looking forward to social gathering, you might desire to hide in your home where you don’t have to face or interact with anyone. Hiding, however, is not the right answer and will only increase your feelings of anxiety. There are ways to help you manage your anxiety during the summer months.

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Understand what triggers your anxiety..

SAD isn’t the same for everyone. Some people might find talking to others to be impossible, others might be fine talking but develop intense fears when they are the center of attention. At other times, people might be able to talk one-on-one but have trouble speaking when in a group. Understand how SAD affects you to better find ways to combat it.

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Set a goal before going into a social situation..

You might want to stay one hour or say hello to ten people. Decide ahead of time what your goal is and then work toward meeting it. Once you meet your goal you might decide the gathering isn’t too bad and stay, or you might meet your goal and leave.

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Look for others who are standing alone..

It is hard to enter into a group of people who are already talking. Look around for other people who are standing or sitting alone and attempt a conversation. Start with a question, such as, “How do you know the host?” or “Have you tried the food, what did you like?”

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Try to arrive a little early..

It is easier to meet someone as the party begins rather than arriving late and seeing everyone already in small groups.

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Have some ready-made conversations..

Prepare beforehand with ideas for simple conversations such as sports, current events, movies, local restaurants or music. Stay away from topics like politics or religion. You will feel more confident if you have aren’t worried about what to talk about.

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Limit your alcohol consumption..

While a drink or two might make you feel more at ease, drinking too much at a party often leads to disaster. If you do have a drink, offset it with some food and limit yourself to two drinks.

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Look around for a quiet spot..

When you first arrive, scope out the party to find a quiet area you can retreat to if you are feeling overwhelmed. A few minutes alone can help you calm down. Take this time to breathe deeply 10 times to lower your stress levels.

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Have a pre-planned time to leave..

Decide beforehand how long you are going to stay, for example, one or two hours. You will feel better knowing that this is a temporary situation. If you stay longer because you are enjoying yourself, that is great.

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Set a limit..

…to how many social gatherings you are attending. During certain times, such as graduation season, you might have several gatherings to attend in one weekend. Set limits for yourself and choose one or two instead of trying to manage all of them.

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Bring a friend you understands your anxiety..

Your friend can be on the lookout for warning signs that your anxiety level is elevating and can steer you to a quiet place, help you use calming strategies or give you someone to talk to that understands how difficult this is.

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Remember..

you are in control. You have the ability to stay home or go to the party. You have the ability to leave when it becomes overwhelming. There is no “rule” that says you must attend if you aren’t feeling up to it or that you must stay until the end. You decide what is best for you.

NEXT: 5 Tips for Dealing with Depression at Work