Dear Hope: I Want to Be Comfortable Around People

Dear Hope,Anxiety
I am beginning to realise that I cannot handle being amongst a lot of people. When I say a lot of people, I mean shopping centres, weddings, restaurants etc. I was never like this before I used to love going out, now though I hate it when someone asks me to join them. I get so anxious, my heart starts beating really fast and I start to shake and other things begin to happen too. I am comfortable talking and being around people in small spaces but it’s just large spaces and lots of people that make me feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to become anti-social, i want to be comfortable around people. What do I do?
– SK

Dear SK,
The anxiety you’re feeling is not uncommon. Many people deal with this. The good news is you are aware of it and want to try to fix it.

Here are some things you can do before going and while you’re out.

Positive Self-Talk – Think about the positive things that will happen and concentrate on those things. The friends you will see. The activities you will be doing.
Use positive self-talk before you go out to give you that “I can do it” attitude.
You can also use this tool while you are out to keep reminding yourself you are doing ok and you will be fine.

Practice – Spend some time in front of your mirror. Sometimes the anxiety can come from not knowing what to say. Practice introducing yourself. It will give you a chance to get comfortable with what you are saying. Also think about what you might say if you need to excuse yourself. It might feel awkward to talk to yourself, but it will help. When you have to talk someone, you will already know what to say and it will come out more easily.

Breathe – This is so important! Take several deep breaths. Inhale through your nose for about 3 to 4 seconds. Hold it for about 2 seconds and then exhale through your mouth for another 3-4 seconds. Breathing in and out slowly will help relax your body. This is something you can do right in the middle of a group and no one will even notice. When your heart starts racing take a few deep breaths.

A friend – Bring a friend with you. When you can, bring someone who you trust and that knows your situation. They can help advert attention from you if you’re feeling overwhelmed or they can help you through a crowd. Sometimes, just knowing you are with someone you trust and enjoy being around can help put you at ease. A good friend can help in many ways.

Know yourself – Know if enough is enough. If you are breathing and talking positive and it’s not helping, take a moment away. Excuse yourself and go to the bathroom if you can. Have a few minutes alone to relax and start over. If you decide it is too much, it’s ok to go home. The point is, you want this to work and you are trying. These things take time and there is no rush.

Remember size doesn’t matter – One person or one hundred people, they are all just like you. We are all just people and we all have insecurities and anxieties. Ten people are just five small groups of two.

Take it one-step at a time. It will take time and practice to become more relaxed. If you can, keep increasing the size of the crowd as you get comfortable. Don’t stress yourself out and jump right into something you are not ready for.

Anxiety is different for everyone. For some it goes away easily for others it requires a bit more help. Always do what is right for you. Never be embarrassed or afraid to ask for help. You may want to consider talking to a counselor or a therapist.

Thank you for being brave and sending in your question.
Dear Hope

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