To be honest, I'm using this article as an escape from my roommates. I was anxious because I needed to finish my Odyssey article and I had been around people all day so I was feeling reactive to small social confrontations. While I was trying to tell my boyfriend not to drink all of the smoothie that we bought without overreacting, it turned into a conversation about how my "nice" voice is condescending. And my other roommate was participating, so I quietly went to my room with my computer so I wouldn't have to deal with what felt like being ganged up on.
No, smoothies aren't usually a big deal. But to me, the smoothie had to do with money because usually this brand of smoothie is expensive and my boyfriend once poured a very large glass of the smoothie and has a habit of eating a lot in general. I'm lacking funds for luxuries currently, so my attempt to express my own anxiety turned into an anxiety-inducing social confrontation. Sound familiar? In these moments, I have a couple of techniques to help calm down so I don't hurt myself emotionally or so I don't hurt others with my words.
1. Get out of there.
You literally have no obligations to stay in a situation that is making you uncomfortable. For me, it's usually panic attacks that prompt me to leave because I can't function around other people when coping with my own panic. Find a reason to leave. You have to water your plants or have another appointment. Hell, escape to the bathroom for a couple minutes where it's quiet. You have permission to remove yourself from an environment that gives you anxiety (no matter what your anxiety tells you).
2. Focus on your senses.
When overtaken by my anxiety or an overwhelming emotion, I use the "5 Things" method to re-center myself. This involves finding 5 things that I can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. This forces me to focus on that moment and block out anything else that may use mental effort. I can't meditate without letting wandering thoughts creep in. Instead of thinking about nothing, I think about inconsequential things to bring down my stress level.
3. List positive things in your life.
Whether it's the support you have from friends or family or it's the warm cup of tea that you are sipping on, there is something good that you can think about which is entirely separate from the thing that's stressing you out. For instance, I'm happy to have purple dye in my hair, a dream catcher above my bed and friends (including my roommates) who take the time to listen to how I'm feeling. These things can still evidently cause anxiety, but they can also bring you happiness.
4. List negative things in your life.
It's also good to know why you feel like crap. Like mentioned earlier, I wasn't actually upset about the smoothie we all share. I was just using it as a socially acceptable reason to express my anxiety about money. There have been times when school, abusive relationships, stressful jobs and traumatic experiences went unnoticed in my main consciousness other than a dull glumness that was prevalent in my mood. And my constant habit to say that I'm fine/good when asked how I'm doing it harder to detect bad feelings. A previous therapist of mine suggested writing down what I am feeling and the most significant thought that went along with that feeling. For example, I would say that I felt anxious and the thought I was having was, "I tried to tell someone I care about that I needed something from them and I felt like that need was invalidated." It's not clean, but it's approaching the subject.
5. Open up about it (when you're comfortable) and discuss your anxiety.
I was partially cheered up by my roommates asking to come into my room and making sure that I had what I needed to feel better. My boyfriend has a habit of trying to make things better for other people (very sweet but also not always what I need) and I had to ask him to leave because my social anxiety would have prevented me from calming down. He gave that to me because he knew writing calms me down. My roommate wanted to apologize in case she hurt my feelings and make sure that I was okay. It was nice.
While this doesn't solve the anxiety, it does help you confront the current elephant in the room. I find that when I don't tell people that I'm having negative feelings, I start thinking negative things about them, finding small annoyances and acting negatively towards them. It's not their fault that I was feeling that way and often enough , it's not my fault for feeling that way. But it is my responsibility to treat the people I love with care and respect overall. My roommates are patient with me which I appreciate; I could be living with less woke individuals.
Our anxiety doesn't mean that we are social enigmas condemned to never love or be loved. But it also isn't an excuse to act shitty towards undeserving people. We slip up, but we strive to overcome social anxiety. Instead, we can talk about our anxiety and take away the power it has over us. Even if that means talking to other people.