If you’ve been a reader of my blog for a while, you’ll know how bad anxiety can be for a sufferer. It can take over someone’s life and ruin a typical day, even if you had stuff to do. Admitting how you’re honestly feeling to someone you care about is difficult but we all need a friend.
Knowing that you have someone who can help a friend when anxiety hits makes you feel very safe. You obviously need someone you can really trust but, once you do, there are 5 simple ways to help manage anxiety socially.
1. Wait before you speak
This may sound condescending but it’s a vital way to help.
Whenever I have my anxiety peaking, I find it difficult to have someone immediately jump towards me and start asking if I’m okay. Obviously if it’s a stranger you can’t really blame them since they don’t know you. However, if you know someone who has anxiety, wait before you speak.
Everyone is different.
Take things slow and wait until you find a moment to say something. Sometimes all a person needs is to know that you’re there when they’re overwhelmed out and about.
2. Find somewhere quiet
If you and your friend are out shopping, at a party or even out for a meal and something triggers their anxiety, you don’t need to immediately draw attention. If you’re with a group who might not know about anxiety, it can sometimes make it worse due to embarrassment or fear of what they might think.
It’s best to have a quick check of where you’re okay as a precaution.
That doesn’t mean anxiety will always get triggered. I’ve had occasions when mine has been absolutely fine in the noisiest of places which I feel a little crazy, but you know that’s me in a nutshell! However, if lots of things are happening at once like loud music, constant chatter or kids crying, anxiety takes no prisoners!
Find a quiet corner away from everyone or, if it’s not too cold, head outside with your friend for a bit. People may get a little claustraphobic and need some air.
3. Have a plan of action
Some people have an emergency kit for when their car breaks down or a first-aid kit for when someone is hurt. You can use something similiar to manage anxiety socially.
Whenever I’m out, I always carry a small kit of essential items that I know can help.
- my anxiety medication (beta blockers to calm me)
- my tangle (to distract myself)
- some Bachs Rescue Remedy (to chew and release drops)
- a small spray of Chanel No. 5 (my mum’s perfume always makes me feel relaxed)
- headphones (to listen to music whenever things are too loud)
It’s a good idea to have one of these for yourself and to let a couple of close friends know. That way they can know to head for your kit and pull out items that will help ground you. Don’t feel that you’re being over-dramatic. You wouldn’t say the same to someone with diabetes so why say it for your mental health.
4. Avoid busy times
Whenever I’ve been into London to visit Ali (from AliCaitrin), we always say that I should make up an anxiety guide to surviving London. This city is a crazy, crazy place and even worse when it’s peak times on public transport. If you come from somewhere quieter such as the countryside or even a small town, London can be a real shock to the system.
If you live in the city and a friend is visiting you or you’ve been to London before, try to plot out times where everything gets horrendous. Ali taught me a tip of going to the ends of a tube platform as it seems quieter down there. Most people seem to go immediately for the middle so you might have a chance to sit down and breathe. If that isn’t possible, look at the peak times for the stations you’ll be going through. These seem to be around 7-9am and 5-7pm.
If the Underground is just too much (especially for those who can’t handle being crowded), grab a taxi/uber. It might be more expensive but you’ll have your own space together and can take your time.
Sometimes breathing techniques can actually make someone feel worse so the next possible step to help manage anxiety is distraction.
If you’re on your own, use your kit to start your distraction and then come up with ideas in advance.
Not every distraction that has worked in the past will work every time. I’ve had a couple of occasions where reading or listening to music doesn’t work. It’s super annoying and triggering. Believe me, this happens to me most Sundays! Always have a backup for your backups.
If you’re with a friend, then go for a walk if the weather lets you, give your mind something else to focus on (5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste). That’s a great grounding technique if you’re panicking! Thomas Sanders even used it in his latest video!
What ways have you got created to help manage anxiety socially?