5 Ways to Improve Social Anxiety When Dining Out

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?


The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Anxiety

CBD oil, or cannabidiol, is an extract of a compound from the cannabis plant, commonly known as marijuana. Unlike the whole plant or other extracts from it, CBD oil isn’t going to get you goofy: it’s not psychoactive, so there’s the potential to reap the benefits of the compound without experiencing a “high” or any other psychotropic side effects. As such, it’s possible that this compound could prove useful in treating anxiety disorders, including social anxiety.

The Legalities of CBD Oil

The answer of whether CBD oil is legal or not depends on your location as well as the source of your oil. Oil derived from hemp – a strain of the plant that contains none of the psychoactive properties whatsoever – is completely legal at a federal level. CBD oil derived from marijuana strains, however, exists in an ever-changing legal grey area as states change their marijuana legislature.

The legalities of CBD oil depend largely on whether your state allows medicinal use of cannabis only, medicinal and recreational use, restricted or limited access to CBD oil below a certain THC percentage. As of 2018, there are still several states where all marijuana and marijuana-derived products are completely illegal — meaning any CBD oil from a marijuana strain is illegal for use regardless of the THC content and source.

In addition to state laws, you may also face local legislation restricting the use of CBD oil. Some locations may restrict the sale to those with a doctor’s note, while others restrict the access of CBD oil to licensed dispensaries only – regardless of THC content in the extract – simply because of the plant it’s derived from.

Does CBD Oil Treat Anxiety?

Some anxiety sufferers report relief from symptoms with the use of CBD oil, while others find their symptoms worsen or the oil has no noticeable effects whatsoever. Those that benefit from CBD oil report feeling calmer, more at ease and better able to relax and sleep. There hasn’t been a lot of research into the efficacy of CBD oil in treating anxiety, let alone in its ability to treat social anxiety, but early research into the topic shows promising results.

As with other treatments, no one substance works the same for every person. Individual biochemistry varies, and what works for one person may be a nightmare for another. Additionally, the source of the oil may play a part in whether it’s effective or not, whether it works for you or whether it’s counterproductive in treating anxiety. With so many variables at play, it’s worth speaking to a qualified doctor who is well versed in both CBD oil or marijuana derived treatments and mental health treatments about the options available to you.

Is CBD Oil Right for Me?

Only you and your health care provider can decide if CBD oil is worth trying to treat your anxiety – assuming you’re in a location where it’s legal to do so. Speak to your mental health care professional about the possibility of exploring CBD oil as a treatment for anxiety. Even if they’re not a medical marijuana doctor, they still need to know what’s in your system as you work with them on your treatment. Being forthright with your health care practitioners is essential. While no known drug interactions for CBD oil exist, it’s important to record your attempt at using it in the event of an adverse reaction with your mental health.

Have you tried CBD Oil for anxiety? Was it useful? What advice can you give someone else considering it?


Meditation is Not One Size Fits All

Contrary to what pop icons would have you believe, there’s no single right way to meditate. As long as you end up calm, restored, able to focus and at ease in your mind at the end of a session, you’ve successfully meditated. While mindfulness meditation – the act of training your mind to be present in the moment – is the current darling of supplemental health circles, it’s not the end-all, be-all of meditation practices that those battling social anxiety can benefit from.

The Problem with Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation has a host of benefits. Those who practice it and find it beneficial find themselves better able to focus on the present and able to lessen or silence the doubts and worry that come with anxiety. By being aware of your body and mind in relation to the current moment, you might find yourself calmer and able to focus and implement other coping mechanisms to deal with social anxiety flareup.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees a benefit from mindfulness. Its use can be problematic if your social anxiety brings a friend to the party like Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). Comorbid conditions that cause you to panic at being present in the moment because of hypervigilance – or even clinical paranoia – can make mindfulness meditation more harmful than helpful.

Visualization Is the Opposite of Mindfulness

Where mindfulness is the art of focusing your mind on your present circumstances, visualization – including guided meditation – is allowing your mind to wander elsewhere to instill a sense of calm. Mind-wandering, while the exact polar opposite of mindfulness, can be used to create a similar effect as mindfulness through different methods. By focusing on your wants, goals, dreams, desires or even creating a pleasant scenario – as is done in guided meditation – you’re dissociating from whatever circumstances are causing anxiety and refocusing on something that allows you to maintain your cool.

While some people are able to visualize without the aid of a guided session, those unable to do so can tune into any number of free or paid videos, audio recordings and podcasts aimed at helping create a guided meditation for calm.

Other Methods of Meditation for Social Anxiety

Meditation doesn’t always look like sitting in one spot. Those coping with anxiety may find they function best when there’s something to focus their physical attention on – be it a fidget toy, a set of beads or even walking or performing another simple, repetitive task while meditating. By occupying the energy created by anxiety with a physical task, it can be easier for some to quiet their minds and find calm. Walking meditation, meditation beads or even everyday tasks that fit the bill can aid in meditation.

Still other forms of meditation – including but not limited to religious practices from around the world, self-inquiry meditations, self-affirmation meditations and the practice of observing your thoughts without judging them – can benefit social anxiety warriors who are seeking to use this complementary therapy to calm themselves in addition to other coping mechanisms.

Moving Beyond Mindfulness Meditation

If mindfulness meditation works for you, it can still be helpful to explore other types of meditation to add to your toolbox of social anxiety skills. It’s not always practical or possible to practice one type of meditation – and finding other methods that work for you can aid when you least expect it. If mindfulness meditation doesn’t work for you at all – or makes things worse, as can be the case with certain comorbid psychological conditions – then exploring the offerings of meditation styles from around the world can help you learn new skills.

What type of meditation do you find works best for you? What resources would you recommend others explore when learning about your favorite type of meditation?


Ways to Ward Off Seasonal Mood Changes

Ways to Ward Off Seasonal Mood Changes

While you might believe that you suffer alone when in the midst of a bout of seasonal blues, know this: Over 15 million people have Social Anxiety Disorder and over 25 million more have other anxiety problems on top of that. In total, anxiety affects over 40 million people in the United States. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that depression and anxiety could affect anybody’s enjoyment of the holiday season.

Preventing holiday mood swings keeps them from wrecking your halls and plowing through each holiday celebrant’s dream of dashing through the snow to a picture-perfect, Norman Rockwell Christmas with friends and family.

That cliché of the entire extended family gathered around the table, smiling in comfort and joy plays a major role in your feelings. The pressure you feel to smile and pretend to be elated while socializing with your overly-political uncle or that gossipy second cousin may be exactly what triggered your Grinchy mood in the first place. As a result, the pressure to appear joyous brings us to our first tip for keeping your moods singing instead of swinging:

1. Give Your Time to Positive People Only

No one owes toxic people a single millisecond of time. No matter what anyone says, you have no obligation to spend a minute longer than it takes to greet the other guests at the event. No explanation needed: simply hand over any gifts you brought with you and excuse yourself to attend another event. Toxic people delight themselves when they have succeeded in robbing your already overtaxed energy and they rarely change their behavior from one gathering to the next. Almost as if they have cemented their worst self to their forehead, toxic people live to witness that moment when other people blow a gasket, sully their respected status and flush their self-confidence down the commode.

Feel no guilt about walking away from them as soon it becomes necessary. If that freedom to depart in peace does not ease your anxiety and lighten your mood, feel no shame in following our next tip.

2. Cultivate Healthy Outcomes

Cultivate healthy outcomes for yourself. Get some rest and relaxation. Sleep if and when able to find a quiet, comfortable, private space. Eat appropriate amounts of food at each meal. Avoid overeating all the delightful holiday fare… but refrain from berating yourself about your intake.

For example, if you have no desire to indulge in any helpings of Aunt Sarah’s famous double-chocolate, absolution-needed-from-the-first-bite cheesecake slices that she has iced to resemble snow angels, ask her for the recipe instead. While she’s writing it down, exclaim over the intense flavor, rich filling and crunchy base. Claim that you can’t wait to bake a cheesecake or two yourself.

Let her wrap an entire cheesecake in red cellophane with green ribbon curls and swear on the family dog that you’ll eat it the moment you reach home. Aunt Sarah doesn’t ever need to discover that you stopped at the Lyman Home for Seniors on the way home to share the love and give away her culinary largesse.

Finally, if holiday mood swings exhaust you, strangle you in the ribbons of depression or block you from gathering with people whose company you normally enjoy, try these additional recommendations from the Mayo Clinic:

3. Light Therapy

Seasonal mood changes result, in part, from the shorter daylight hours in the fall and winter. Cold weather drives everyone indoors, and even when outside, winter clothing prevents what little sunlight you might encounter from reaching your body. Replace some of that missing sunlight with light therapy. Replace a few bulbs in your home with grow lights and spend at least fifteen minutes at a time basking in their glow.

4. Talk About It, Talk About It, Talk About It

If that advice sounds like the chorus of a disco-era song, you called it correctly. Talk to yourself, trusted friends and your family doctor rather than suffering in silence or blowing up in a family or community event. Identify the source of any negative feelings and heightened self-criticism, along with the belief that others have judged you and found you lacking. Talk through those feelings with a professional to help you create strategies to deflect and disrupt those negative thoughts before they paralyze you.

Last of all, if these tips haven’t helped you reduce your holiday mood swings, consult your family physician. You may need to restore your body’s chemical balance through medication. Your doctor can advise you on available therapies or provide you with a referral to a psychiatrist.

Although many people still try to stigmatize those who use medication, providing yourself with something your body does not produce in correct amounts should be up to you, your doctor and no one else.

What tips have you found helpful in your efforts to remain balanced through the holidays?


Parenting with Social Anxiety

The idea of being in a crowded room with people you don’t particularly know is quite possibly the next closest thing to hell when you’re fighting social anxiety. Unfortunately, that scenario is all too common when you’re a parent.

From pediatricians’ offices to play dates, school functions to concerts and sporting events, being a parent with social anxiety can involve putting yourself through a lot of discomfort. The key to successful parenting while living with social anxiety is to find ways to cope and reframe your symptoms as strengths, rather than weaknesses.

Be Honest with Your Kids

Kids are a lot more perceptive than most adults give them credit for. Chances are your kids already know you have social anxiety, even if they don’t have the label to put to it. By letting your kids know what’s going on when you panic or have to deal with your symptoms – in an age appropriate manner – they’re less likely to worry something is seriously wrong and can develop a strong sense of empathy that others in their peer group may be lacking.

As an example, most children understand the concept of time-outs starting at pre-school age. If you find yourself on the verge of a panic attack with your child in tow, you can explain that you need to put yourself in time-out so that you can calm down. Older children can help you perform breathing exercises – like counting while you take deep breaths – or even help you scope out a quiet spot to relax and regroup.

Not only will being honest with your kids teach them it’s okay to take charge of their own mental health and ask for help when needed, but the coping skills they learn by watching you will serve them well in their own life or in aiding their friends and peers.

Look for Strengths, Not Weaknesses

It’s easy to think of your social anxiety as a weakness rather than an asset, but when it comes to parenting, you need to use those traits as skills to help you as a parent. You’ll be able to provide your child – and others around them that you may be in charge of temporarily – with experiences that are unique and underrated.

Perhaps you’re required to volunteer in your child’s classroom. Rather than mingling with parents and other students, see if your time could be spent organizing the teacher’s supplies or backlog of work — things that need to be done that require little interaction with others and are often neglected.

If you’re in charge of chaperoning a class trip, take your child’s group to the less crowded areas to avoid wait times and let them see things the others will probably miss out on. Don’t feel like supervising your child at a crowded park? Take them on a nature hike instead and get in some quality time with just the two of you.

Don’t Hold Back in Therapy

Parenting with social anxiety presents its own special set of challenges. If you’re working with a therapist or counselor, be brutally honest about your struggles as a parent. They’re there to help you figure out how to cope and work through it.

More than any other time in your life, you cannot be afraid to ask for help if you find yourself struggling – if not for yourself, then for your child. Most parents have problems, but you’ve got a dedicated professional who can help you navigate the normal ins and outs of parenthood, as well as the challenges posed by parenting with SA. Use that resource and any others they may be able to hook you up with.

What’s your best piece of advice for other parents living with social anxiety?