(or hot chocolate if you're like me and don't drink coffee)
Anxiety, what is it and how do you treat it?
According to Mind.org 8 in 100 individuals a week get diagnosed with anxiety or depression disorders. There is many different types of anxieties, all broken down into categories. But what is it? in short anxiety is a chemical response in the brain due to triggers or unnerving situations in day to day life.
There is no quick fix to anxiety, yes there are medications to reduce the trigger response effects for extreme cases of anxiety, alongside incredible resources such as therapy, mediation and many more. I specifically want to discuss ways of reducing social anxiety, emphasis on reduce as anxiety comes with its ups and downs depending on the day, every bit of progress is still progress.
Social anxiety and my experience
This form of anxiety is also medically known as Social Phobia. This is where individuals such as myself, feel unnerved and have an intense fear of social activities, these ranging from big events to everyday tasks such as checking out at the supermarket. These feelings are valid and you are not alone. There is millions of others around the world who feel the same way, we can use this to our advantage to support and encourage others.
Now what do I mean by fighting anxiety one coffee at a time? One thing I have spent years working on is being comfortable in my own company outside of my own bubble like being able to challenge myself to go sit in a cafe alone with a hot beverage. I am not going to end the statement with saying 'without feeling anxious' because that feeling is inevitable, but what I am trying to say is, we need to work with our anxiety instead of blocking it out.
During the week of writing this, I took myself out to a cafe whilst running errands, having other tasks during the day also helps reduce the effect of the anxiety as you have a reason to leave the situation and move onto another. Now I didn't just walk into a random cafe and order a drink and go sit down, maybe it will be as simple as that one day. As my fellow anxious minds will know, research is our best friend. So here is the steps I followed to achieving dining alone in a cafe.
Researched the name and address of where I wanted to go, mine was a place I had wanted to visit for awhile.
Look up opening times.
Read the menus if any are available online.
Look at social media pages for images of seating and general layout.
Follow these steps as many times as you need to help reduce your anxiety but always get excited for the experience you are about to embark on. Remember this experience is for you and you only!
I felt very anxious on my way to the cafe but was also excited, I walked in and asked if they had a table for one and the kind server took my order then directed me to my table. When cleaning other tables the server asked me how my food and drink was and asked me how my day was going. Everyone else around us was having their own conversations at their tables, but me being alone gave the server the chance to have a conversation while working which calmed me and felt welcomed and looked after.
Trust the process
Overcoming anxiety is a process that cannot be rushed. It takes months and years to notice progress and the key is to reflect on moments and experiences that made you anxious and be able to tell yourself, "that made me anxious, but I did it anyway". That is the overall goal, to be able to accomplish tasks while working with your anxiety and not letting it stop you.
Being in control
Anxiety takes over in social situations, makes us overthink every possibility causing us to spiral and lose sight of the task at hand. We need to rewire our brain during these situations to find solutions to these worst case scenarios in our head to help us feel more prepared. Using the cafe as an example, we may think, what if it's closed and the times were wrong online? have a backup location or choose somewhere close to home so you can return home if need be. We can learn what our individual responses are to anxiety and find ways to combat it, it is all about learning your habits and finding solutions that help you stay in control of your own body and mind.
We all get told to talk about the way we feel and most of us may think this won't help. It will, voicing your emotions helps you to understand the way you are feeling by putting it into words. Either talk to a professional, someone you trust or even yourself. Vocalising helps to breakdown where each feeling is coming from and why and can identify what can help the anxious situation. There are many resources and professionals to reach out to, Itsgoodtwotalk has a list of resources on their website.