Social anxiety can affect you in any number of surprising ways. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on things, another social occasion pops up that you can’t figure out how to deal with. Going to a restaurant can be like running through a minefield of anxiety triggers: step in any direction and you might find a situation that sends you spiraling into a panic. In the best of times dining out can make you uncomfortable, but with some smart planning, you can get through a restaurant dinner without feeling embarrassed, guilty or anxious.
Do Your Research
The internet is your best friend when it comes to working out this problem. Almost every restaurant around posts their menu online, plus loads of review sites offer descriptions about the restaurant itself. Check out everything you can find about the restaurant you’ll be going to. You’ll know what to wear so you know you’ll fit in, how large the place is so you’ll know if it’s noisy or quiet and what’s on the menu that you like. Choose your meal ahead of time and you won’t have to deal with the stress of reading a menu and having everyone watch while you try to make a decision. You’ll sit down already knowing what you’re going to eat and you won’t even have to read the menu.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Once you know what you want to eat, you’ve still got to deal with ordering the food. Rehearse exactly what you’re going to say to the waiter. Pretend you’re a character in a TV show and play that part. It’s not you who’s ordering the food, it’s them. Say your lines until you’ve got them memorized.
Always have a backup plan that you’ve practiced, too. Sometimes restaurants run out of certain items. If they’re out of the avocado toast, will you choose garlic bread, instead? Practice until you’re comfortable with all of your choices.
Try a Buffet
If your main anxiety revolves around making food choices and ordering from a menu, try to influence the restaurant choice and go to a buffet. There’s no choosing involved! Just take a plate and grab a small spoonful of everything that looks good. If there’s a large crowd around the buffet, sit and sip your drink for a bit until there’s a bit more room to move. You won’t be the only one in the restaurant waiting to avoid the rush.
Pick a Helpful Dinner Companion
You know that wonderful friend who spends the entire meal just chatting away for an hour at a time? She never suffers from awkward silences, because she fills them in by herself. She’s also great at asking for more water, sending back overdone fish or getting the right sauce on her meal. This should be your go-to dinner companion. She probably considers you a great listener, making you the perfect dining pair.
Use Helpful Self Talk
Fight your social anxiety by using logic and reasoning with it. Keep telling yourself how good you’re doing, and how well the dinner is progressing. Tell yourself that people really aren’t looking at you, they’re just looking around normally. If you really need it, excuse yourself and go to the restroom for a little bit of air and self-talk away from prying eyes. Pretend you’re talking to someone else who has the same disorder. What would you tell them? That’s what you need to tell yourself.
How have you overcome social anxiety when going out to restaurants?