How To: Manage Anxiety

How to successfully overcome your anxiety before an event

I experienced my first bout of social anxiety at 16 (lucky me that it waited so long to arrive, I know). I was going to a party for a friend from another school. I knew two entire people at the party. The whole car ride I tried to talk my mom out of taking me. Talk myself into going. Talk myself out of jerking the wheel so that we’d crash and die instead of go to this party. But bless my mom’s no-fucks-to-give heart. She just… she just made me go.

I had the absolute greatest time.

Ok, one point for my mom. But also that party DIRECTLY resulted in me having my first non-elementary-school kiss a couple weeks later with a very cute, tall, blond named Isaac. Thanks mom, thanks for the gift of kissing cute boys.

So my real advice about social anxiety is: Just Go Do The Thing.

But if that isn’t possible, talk to a therapist and do what is right for you. I absolutely don’t mean to take light of something that can truly be devastating and leaves people feeling crippled when socializing.

But now: to take things lightly. Some social anxiety advice for champions.

Step 1 – have something important to do? Make sure that it is planned out at least 3 hours to many years in advance.

Step 2 – as soon as the event is planned, make certain you go over every possible disaster and awful outcome you can. On a scale of “what if there’s traffic?” to “what if I somehow forget to get dressed and end up wearing nothing but a boa?!” You need to be prepared  at level: North Korea has mobilized and it’s headed RIGHT AT MY PUPPY!!!

Step 3 – slowly countdown in mounting terror to the event at hand. If you can cry or shake, even better. My personal favorite combo is eyes tearing up while occasionally gagging.

Step 4 – do not sleep at all the night before. Not. One. Wink. Stare wild eyed at the ceiling and fantasize about your doom.

Step 5 – upon arriving at the location of said event (a visit to the doctor, a job interview, a date, or, oh – just randomly grabbing this from thin air – maybe you are picking up books you have on hold at the library, so that means they were sent from another library and wrapped in a rubber band with a note with your name on it, which means you HAVE to talk to the librarian and say your name, versus just handing over your card and hiding behind a stack of books and you MUST do it because, again, just a hypothetical, if you spend too much time panicked in the parking lot and talk yourself out of it and it passes the hold time threshold, they charge you $3 and you just can’t justify another monetary charge for your social anxiety when you have already suffered so much!), wait, where was I? Oh, right, upon arriving at the location, take 3 deep breaths, 29830 fast breaths, and cry.

Step 6 – open the car door, but just a little. Start to close it again but then realize a complete stranger, whose opinion you will never know nor need to know, may have seen you crack the door and then close it and think that action (and therefore you) are odd or, like, littering, or, who knows what terrible thing they may think you are doing so now you have to keep the door slightly ajar.

Step 7 – lean way over the passenger seat to “look in your purse/glovebox/at the floor for something important” and let the door naturally close – it won’t latch, but at least it’s no longer letting in air contaminated with Stranger Danger.

Step 8 – Google how many people have died in the activity you are about to take part in, unless it is a thrill seeking event (i.e. skydiving, parasailing, shark baiting – and if it is, I don’t think you need this particular How To; just sayin’) and begin to feel a little better.

Step 8, part 2 – keep scrolling down and become alarmed at some of the event related headlines (side note, not from personally going through these steps at all, but just a little fyi- library books are very, very dirty and you should wipe those bad boys down with Lysol immediately upon receipt of them).

Step 9 – starting with “missile strike hitting only the things you love most in life” and working your way back to “I bet the emperor totally saw his clothes, it was probably some weird optical illusion, what if I am actually in my own buff” go over what awful events can happen.

Step 10 – alternate between gasping and crying.

Step 11 – write a How To article to avoid going in and having to human in the company of humans you are not deeply, personally connected to.

Step 12 – suddenly recall the time you made a joke when you had your oil changed and the mechanic didn’t seem to get it and might have been insulted (because we all know there’s no way the joke was not funny). Get really really upset about that.

Step 13 – wonder how much so much time has passed.

Step 14 – shakily remove yourself from your car-shaped Emotional Security Item and head to the entrance. Wonder if you’re walking right. Become so focused on this that you 1- momentarily forget the terrifying event and 2- start staggering a little while you try to remember what, exactly, it is that legs do.

Step 15 – go inside and take part in event.

Or, like I tired to say before/do myself on many occasions:

Step 1 – take a deep breath, stop being such an anxious dangus, and just get out of the car, walk right in, and do it.

I know it sound so easy, and that telling people to stop worrying has stopped absolutely zero people from worrying but I speak from experience, and at some point reading this you must have been like, “Um, Savannah, you need to just buy your books from Amazon, because visiting the library is not your forte” to which I say, “Libraries are magical brick made boxes possessing all the wonderful things your mind and soul could ever want and you should make a point of going to one so that they stay funded and are around forever (except with the Siren Anthology, those bad boys are better purchased)!” And here I am straying off topic …

What I’m trying to say is I know it’s hard, trust me, I know. But all my time on earth has taught me that walking through the door/making the call/doing whatever it is you’re afraid of is going to be the same level of scary no matter what. Worrying about it, prancing about it in the parking lot, and making yourself ill over it for the time leading up to it just takes time away from you- it has zero benefit.

I have never thought, “Whew, thank goodness I went over all the ways it could go wrong for the 8 days leading up to this and neglected doing anything fun in that time! It certainly made this go way easier!”

One time I became such a ball of nerves before a wedding that I MADE DAN AND MYSELF TAKE OFF OUR SHOES before going in and then bailed on the idea right before, making him walk back to the car to get them while I waited in a fit of nerves. This is a true story. It was almost the end of our night because, although he loves me dearly, he doesn’t have time for my anxiety related shoe shit-show.

Take a breath. Walk inside. It’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be.

*keep your shoes on*


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