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5 Little Tricks That Help Me Get Past Everyday Social Anxieties

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Faking out my ever-present anxiety is a talent I’ve honed since graduating college and entering the “real adult” workforce. I’ve dealt with social anxiety for much of my life and it’s been my biggest obstacle. As a kid I was painfully shy, in high school the stress of unfamiliar social situations outside my tight-knit group of friends was absolutely horrifying, and in college I felt frozen every time I wanted to contribute to a class discussion but couldn’t make myself speak.

These days, I like to compare my social anxiety to my not being a morning person. Getting up in the morning isn’t fun and I’m not particularly great at it, but I do it and I’ve yet to drop dead from it. Here are a few Jedi mind tricks I’ve identified over the last couple years that help me get past my little everyday anxieties:

1. Overcompensate

This may seem a little cliché, but be your own biggest fan. Whoever came up with the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it,” was absolutely right. After a few years of posting selfies when I feel cute and amping up the self-love on a regular basis, I find myself a lot less worried about how people think of the way I look or present myself. This has also earned me the reputation of being the “dramatic” one at work, but in an affectionate way.

2. Keep Up With Little Rituals

I try not to get too attached with routines because I don’t want to feel anxious about breaking them or being spontaneous (or as spontaneous as someone with pretty severe social anxiety can be), but keeping little rituals really grounds me and gives me the comfort of structure without limiting myself. For example, I like to spend my mornings before work leisurely getting ready while putting on my makeup and watching YouTube videos and end my day curled up in bed reading a book. Starting and ending my day the same way gives me that little extra bit of comfort I get from a routine.

3. Be a Realist

As I’ve gotten more ambitious in my career and made some difficult transitions in my adult life, I’ve had to give myself some pretty harsh pep talks (out of of love, of course). Sometimes I find that when I want something so badly I almost try to talk myself out of being anxious by rationalizing the situation. It doesn’t always work because anxiety is annoying that way, but I can sometimes force myself by stepping outside my comfort zone. For example, I moved out of my parents’ house this year and made some pretty big strides at work. Both were absolutely terrifying for me, but in the end I was much happier for it. Sometimes you have to think about the end result even if it’s difficult.

4. Stay Social (Even If You Start Small)

This may seem counterproductive to those who are very socially anxious, but I find that being social in small ways makes me want to be social in bigger ways (as in actually leave my apartment and do things). My group of best friends has a pretty active group chat and Snapchat group (such a millennial…), so we’re constantly joking around with each other even when we aren’t together. This feels sort of like a social pre-game to me and makes me realize how much I love my friends and love hanging out with them.

5. Have an Exit Strategy Ready (Even If You Don’t Need It)

Something many people with anxiety deal with is feeling trapped in a situation. As anxious creatures, we often like a way out. I’m the person who obsessively analyzes Google Maps before heading to a new location, carefully plans out exactly what time to get there and attempts to predict any roadblocks (literally and in terms of my anxiety) that will occur. I usually like to drive myself places if I can avoid public transportation or hitch a ride to social events with a friend I know would be down to be my exit buddy if necessary. Sometimes knowing that I can just leave if I’m too uncomfortable in a social setting gives me the confidence to stay and actually enjoy it.

If you also struggle with social anxiety, I’m sure you might know that sometimes it’s not that easy to get past it. However, it’s not impossible to train your brain to work around it. Even if these steps feel too much for you, it’s important to remember to be your own biggest fan and remember: even if social anxiety is an awful, terrible thing to deal with, it doesn’t define you.

Maybe you went to work today and got through it, or went to a social event even for a little bit before dipping out. That’s awesome and you’re doing great. Take it one step at a time and remember that every person experiences anxiety in a different way — it’s about tackling yours in a way that works for you.

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Getty image via seb_ra

Originally published: December 12, 2017
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