Five Ways to Make Socializing Easier When You Struggle with Anxiety
Anxiety disorders can be incredibly isolating. It’s tempting to shut yourself up in your house to try and keep your anxiety at bay — and sometimes this is a very necessary form of self-care — but, always being on your own can create more problems than it solves.
Isolation increases your risk of depression and it also can end up making your anxiety worse. Socialization, on the other hand, has been shown to minimize feelings of depression and anxiety and also relieve stress.
Even when you know the benefits of socialization, it can still be difficult to put yourself out there and spend time with others. However, it’s important for to prioritize your well-being and try.
Remember, if you never voluntarily put yourself in social situations, it’ll be much harder for you to learn to manage your anxiety effectively when socialization is your only option — at work, school, a family gathering, etc.
If you find yourself wanting to socialize more but being held back by your anxiety, keep reading. Listed below are five tips that will help anxious individuals have an easier time going out and spending time with others.
1. Combine Socialization with a Fun Activity
Certain social situations are more uncomfortable than others.
If you’re just starting to try and branch out and engage more with others, a good way to ease into it is to pair socialization with some kind of activity. This way, you’re still reaping the benefits of spending time with others, but you don’t necessarily have to talk the whole time.
The following are all good activities that let you have the best of both worlds:
- Playing sports
- Visiting a farmers market
- Walking or hiking
- Playing board or card games
- Attending a sporting event
- Watching a movie
With these types of activities, you don’t have to worry about keeping up a conversation the whole time — or, in the case of watching a movie, keeping up the conversation at all.
These activities are also especially helpful if you’re spending time with someone you don’t know very well. You’ll be able to avoid some awkward silences and, the next time you get together, you’ll be able to talk about what you saw or did the last time. It’s a win-win!
2. Give Yourself Time to Warm Up
If you’re venturing out to go to a party or another social gathering, be sure to give yourself some time to warm up. Don’t get frustrated with yourself if you show up and aren’t immediately feeling an urge to start chatting with the other attendees.
When you first get to the event, take some time to gather your thoughts and let any anxious feelings arise and pass. Pick a spot on the perimeter and size up the crowd or look for someone you know to start talking to first.
Don’t worry about people thinking you’re weird for not diving in head first. The majority of guests won’t notice what you’re doing because they’ll be engrossed in their conversations or activities. Take all the time you need to feel more comfortable in this new situation.
3. Join Social Groups that Don’t Require Socializing
If you want to socialize without really socializing, consider joining groups that provide a feeling of connectedness without actually requiring you to talk much, if at all.
Good non-social social activities include:
- Tai Chi
- Chi Gong
- Group aerobics
If you’re not one for sports or overtly physical activities, there are still ways for you to socialize without socializing
Signing up for art or cooking classes is another good option. While you may have to spend some time chatting with your classmates, that’s not the main point of the class. You’ll be able to spend the bulk of your time focusing on that day’s assigned project.
4. Set Goals and Give Yourself an Out
Sometimes, it can be helpful to turn social activities into a kind of challenge for yourself. If you have a hard time with socialization and end up leaving parties as quickly as possible, try setting a specific goal to meet before you can go home.
For example, before you go to a party, tell yourself that you need for at least thirty minutes. Or, challenge yourself to talk to at least three new people — or even one new person if three is too overwhelming!
Once you’ve met your goal, you’ll be able to go home and feel accomplished. What might happen, though, is that you’ll meet your goal but feel more comfortable and want to stay longer.
Often, the hardest part of any new endeavor is simply getting started — giving yourself a new goal can give you the jumpstart you need to push through an uncomfortable or challenging situation.
5. Adopt a Dog
There are a number of mental health benefits that come with owning a dog, including reduced anxiety.
First, having a dog allows you to experience the benefits of social bonding without necessarily hanging out with other people. Research shows that spending time with a dog releases oxytocin, a neurotransmitter associated with love and bonding. Some scientists believe that oxytocin can actually be used to treat anxiety and depression.
While you can experience an oxytocin boost from spending time with your dog, having a pet isn’t an excuse to never go out. In fact, you’ll find that the opposite is true.
Adopting a dog will require you to go outside at least once a day to give them exercise. Spending time outdoors can help boost your mood and relieve anxiety.
Also, when you’ve got your dog in tow, you’ve got an easy conversation starter. A trip to the dog park is a great opportunity for both you and your dog to socialize in a safe, friendly environment.
When you struggle with an anxiety disorder, socialization is often difficult. But, spending time with others is essential for coping with anxiety and feeling your best.
Don’t let your disorder hold you back — keep these tips in mind to make socialization seem less daunting, and you’ll soon start to reap the benefits of regular interaction.