Staying present in social situations can be hard when you have social anxiety. It can feel as though no matter how hard you try to stay focused, there is simply too much noise and information for you to comfortably handle. This is okay and totally normal, and there are methods you can try to bring yourself back to the present.
Anxiety can make social situations daunting. They can make you feel tired and overwhelmed, and for a lot of people, can trigger an anxiety attack. This may be because they’re noisy, they’re high-energy environments, or perhaps because you feel judged or intimidated by those around you.
Feeling anxious in these situations makes it easy for you to lose touch with the present.
This ends up causing you to become detached from what’s happening around you.
If you feel yourself beginning to lose touch or drift away from the situation, try practising a grounding technique forcing you to acknowledge what is going on around you.
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Look around you and find five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This can help to bring your awareness back to the present moment by encouraging you to focus on exactly what is going on around you.
Another technique you can use to stay in the present is “active listening. This means while you have a conversation with someone, really focus on what is being said. Make an effort to ask questions about what the other person is saying and contribute to the conversation as much as you can. This allows you to keep your mind focused and alert, instead of retreating back in to yourself and losing touch.
Staying away from technology can also help to keep you present.
A lot of people–myself included–turn to our phones when we are feeling anxious in order to distract ourselves from what we’re feeling. This may help to calm you down, but it can hinder your ability to assess the situation clearly. This will prevent you from identifying the cause of your anxiety.
When at a social gathering, try to stay away from distractions taking you away from what’s happening around you. Instead, focus on the people in your company, or the person you’re with if larger crowds make you uncomfortable. Make a point to focus on the conversations going on. If you need to take some time out to give yourself a breather, that’s okay—-just try not to use it as a way to avoid the situation.
It can help to talk to your family and close friends about your anxiety and the effects social situations can have on your disorder.
Explain to them if you seem distant or uncomfortable, you’re not trying to be rude—-it’s simply the way your anxiety behaves. Let them know what they can do to help if they feel you’re losing focus. For example, they can sit with you and start a one-on-one conversation, or remove you from the situation and help you to calm down.
The more you practise staying present in social situations, the easier you will find it. Look at each social situation as a way to push yourself further and grow your confidence. You’ll soon learn which grounding techniques work best for you and what your triggers may be.
It’s important to remember this is a learning process and it will get less exhausting and less daunting over time.
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