“You have a party invitation waiting your response!” – Tips for dealing with get-togethers when you are socially challenged

Party

To most people, this is exciting news! “Another invitation! Yes! I am ready to get my party on!” You get excited that someone thought enough about you that they wanted you to be a part of their celebration – conversing with others over drinks, dinner, and gawking at all the Pinterest flair that was used to make it a most memorable night.

But to a person who suffers from social awkwardness, or even social anxiety, the feeling they get seeing that invitation sitting on their counter, or in their inbox, is more a feeling of unease, apprehension and even anguish.

It takes a lot of energy for those that feel socially inept or just awkward in social settings, but even more energy for those that deal with social anxiety, to get out and mingle at events, making conversation with strangers or acquaintances and trying to blend in hoping nobody notices their discomfort. Using that much energy is draining, and therefore, getting invited to party after party is more dreadful than exciting.

This is what an internal conversation may sound like in the mind of someone who gets anxious at parties: “Oh gosh. Everyone is talking to someone already. What should I do? Do I just go over and stand next to someone hoping they’ll invite me to talk too? No, that would be stupid. They’ll think I’m a weirdo and what the h*!! am I doing over here butting in on their conversation. No, it’s best to just stay over here and wait for people to finish talking and then go find someone I know and talk to them. [time passes] Okay, so everyone is still talking, and I don’t see anyone moving over to talk to me. Maybe I can catch someone when they go to the bathroom, and they’re alone and then I can start a conversation with them. Wait…is that creepy?”

Do thoughts like this run through your head constantly while you’re at parties? Do you feel constant worry that you are saying the wrong thing, or think that everyone is judging you for what you said or didn’t say?

And you know what the truth of it is…

If someone wants to judge, they are going to judge you no matter what. Sticking to a corner and hoping nobody notices you may be worse than actually stepping out and making a deal with yourself that you will talk to at least 2 new people that night, and at least 3 people you already know. Not talking to people doesn’t make you immune from people, it makes it to where they don’t know the true you and what you’re really about. You can’t control other people, you can only control you.

I can feel your anxiety level already rising – your cheeks starting to burn from the blood rushing to them, your palms and armpits getting sweaty, and all kinds of thoughts rushing into your head right now of “I can’t do this; I’m going to make a fool of myself,” beginning to happen.

How do I know? Because I, too, get super anxious before a party, get-together, or  event of more than 3-4 people.

But I’ve taught myself ways to manage my thoughts and actions, that have helped me to control more of my anxiety and have more fun hanging with friends and meeting new people.

Thinking this isn’t possible and there is no way you can change?

NOT TRUE!

There is a basic formula that you can follow (and practice, practice, practice) that can help you prepare for your next event:

Relax

Affirmations; Act “as if”

Conversation prep

You have to develop this formula to fit your personality and your individual style. There is not a specific, one magical way that can “cure” all social awkwardness, but plugging in your own unique method of using the formula can make this work in just about any situation.

Relax 

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You want to first relax those thoughts running through your mind that are creating anxiety and fear about going to a get together and mingling with others. Your mind controls your body; once you develop ways to control your thoughts, your physiological state will change as well.

What is it that relaxes you? Is it taking a bubble bath; or maybe doing some yoga stretches; even some type of exercise, like running, or stretching? Make time for it. Work it into your routine. If you know it takes you an hour to get ready, and you really need a good 30 minute run to relax your mind, then plan for that time beforehand (um, because if you do the run after you’ve already showered, you may be turning people off for a whole ‘nother reason than just being awkward – I’m just sayin’).

And if you need some ideas of different relaxation techniques, look at some of my other posts under “relaxation” for some fun and different ways of relaxing.

Affirmations and act “as if”

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Having “words of wisdom” or “good advise”, is great and all, but here I want you to find what inspires you and motivates you to be your best.

I keep a journal of great quotes that I’ve received either through birthday cards from my parents or my husband, nice things that people have said about me, really anything that reminds me that I am a great person and people like me.

Sometimes when we let our mind take full control, and we just go through the motions, we can get wrapped up in the negative of everything going on and forget to focus on the good that goes on as well. It takes 3 positive comments to help you overcome a negative one; so keep up with all the good you hear and know about yourself. It can be useful to have a reminder.

Acting “as if” is a cognitive-behavioral therapy technique that teaches you to act “as if” you are comfortable being in a crowd, talking  to strangers and striking up conversations with old and new friends. Act “as if” people looking in your direction doesn’t bother you because you know there are way more people in the room than you that they are probably looking at.

Doing this allows your mind to settle, and your body to relax, because even pretending that you are comfortable and going around the room mingling, sends messages to your brain that everything is okay. There is nothing to fear in this situation and you are perfectly safe. Eventually people will begin to respond to your “confidence” and you will appear more approachable and someone they want to talk to, leading you to forget your worries that people think you’re weird or they don’t like you. It’s like magic!

Conversation prep

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And last but not least, prepare for the conversations you are going to have! Okay, so you can’t predict everything someone is going to say back, but you can at least prep for conversation starters.

Don’t have any clue where to even start? No worries, I’ve got you covered!

1) Politics

2) Religion

3) Exes

 

No. Those don’t sound like good ways to start a conversation with a stranger? Well, aren’t you smart! These are actually the topics you want to AVOID, at all costs, especially with strangers!

 

But, seriously, I do have some ideas of conversation starters that are usually very successful:

 

1) The latest Buzzfeed list you saw that you have enough information on to have follow up (i.e. that list of the 90’s toys you remember having as a kid). You could make it flow by first asking the person if they remember seeing the list, and then talking about the good and funny memories you have with one or two of the toys. *Side note: this is not a conversation that should last for an hour while you reminisce about your childhood; that would be awkward

2) Any headline in the news that doesn’t have you speaking about your opinion on any of the 3 topics to avoid.

3) Talk about your favorite team’s most recent loss or win. *Be careful sharing too much of your opinion about the players, coach or owner in case you tick someone off for talking about their favorite person on the team. Oopsie. But if they bring it up, and you agree, you could definitely roll with it.

4) The newest show or movie that is out that you loved or are really dying to see. Don’t be upset if they don’t agree and roll with it. Just follow up with asking them what was their latest favorite movie/show. People have different tastes in things, and it doesn’t mean one is more right or “cooler” than someone else’s.

5)If you are friends with some of the invitees going to the party, watch some of their social media feed and remember some of the things you can bring up in conversation like the latest trip they took, or something funny their kids did or their pet that they posted.

*Side note: No Facebook stalking. You’ll get caught and it’ll make the whole situation very awkward, which is what we want to avoid. But knowing someone’s likes and dislikes ahead of time can give you an advantage on prepping for conversation. I mean, let’s be honest, people post stuff on Facebook mainly because they want others to notice and comment on it anyway. So you’re just doing this in person.

 

The main thing I want you to remember is pick conversations that you can relate to. If you are funny or enjoy a good laugh, go with a humorous topic; if you are more of a scholar, then maybe go with more of a news headline. If you aren’t comfortable with the conversation YOU start, then you will feel more awkward presenting it to someone else, creating your anxiety level to rise and rise.

 

Finding a common interest with someone is key to the ebb and flow of conversations. You may not find that with the first person you talk to. Don’t let that get you down. Keep trying and you will find that person that shares a commonality with you.

 

Just BE YOU, but a more prepared you, and I know you are going to do great at your next party!!

 

The best way to use this formula, is to make it fit YOU and then make it part of your routine for getting ready – along with choosing your outfit, fixing your hair, etc.

**As a licensed counselor, I want to make sure and point out there is a huge difference between social discomfort and social anxiety, with the latter being a mental health disorder that you need to talk to a licensed mental health professional to help diagnose and get specific techniques for you. If the thought of even just walking in the door of a social event is so overwhelming and terrifying that you end up staying home every time, I encourage you to be brave and reach out to someone as soon as possible. If you need help locating someone, check Psychologytoday.com or your local mental health resource system.

Do you have any other ideas that help you get through parties and gatherings? I’d love to hear from you! Share here or send me an email at jchristopher.healthymind@gmail.com.

Making the most out of your time – skip ahead to: Week/Weekend

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Okay, so I took a little more time off from writing than I had expected. To be honest I think I was still on beach time! We had such a wonderful vacation the other week that I had to jump the series to talk about all the relaxing things that we did that I could share with you. We made the most out of our vacation and time off, which is really what it’s all about. It’s not a “vacation”, if you spend the majority of the time on your phone, checking emails, making work calls, etc. News flash — everyone needs a vacation! Your brain has to have the time to reset itself from all the hustle and bustle of your everyday life, which is what this series is all about: finding the time to reset, to get back to your best.

You know it’s time for a real vacation when you get lost in time, meaning you don’t know where family time starts, where work time starts and stops, or where time for you starts. If your brain is feeling like a jumbled mess and you’re finding it harder and harder to control the impulse to just shout at the next person who walks in your office, or, eek!, your bedroom – then let me be the first to tell you…

YOU NEED A VACATION!

Not sure what to do, or where to go, to get in that much needed R&R? We took our rest and relaxation to the beach, but really it’s all about soaking in what’s around you – being a tourist for a moment in your own city/or another city and taking in the sights, smells (the good ones, at least), and opportunities to have fun that the place you choose has to offer.

Here’s a list of 6 enjoyable activities we did while on our week getaway that may give you some ideas for your next planned escape.

  1. Walk everywhere. What I loved most about our beach vacation was that we hardly ever used our car! Now, for some of you who maybe live in New York or a big city where you basically walk everywhere, every day, anyway, this may not sound so fun. But it’s a different feel when you are “strolling” along the streets to go to dinner, grab some ice cream, visit the local stores, versus rushing to get to the subway, running across the street so you aren’t hit by cabs, etc. Living in a rural area outside a big city (which I do love by the way) makes for some long days in cars. So having the opportunity to get outside and not have to fight with the littles to get in their seat and “hurry, hurry” so we aren’t late for this appointment or that, was so freeing!
  2. Get ice cream. And I mean REAL ice cream, not fro-yo, fake, soft serve ice cream (no offense to those that enjoy that), but real ice cream – the kind that melts in the cone and leaves your hands sticky and smelling like candy for the rest of the day, kind of ice cream. Oh, it was SO good!
  3. Visit the local stores. Now, if you’re like my husband, you may only see “crap that we will throw away once we get home or will just clutter my house” (got to love that man!). But for me, it took me back to my childhood to see my oldest son, who’s only 4, looking at all the beach animal figurines, and the beach toys, in just awe. He thought they were the coolest things, and of course wanted everyone he saw, and it just reminded me of a more innocent time in my life before adulthood happened with all of its responsibilities that come with it. It reminded me to enjoy the little things, and don’t get so bogged down with having to rush through life’s moments.
  4. Get a pedicure/manicure. I know; you can do this any day. But something about getting the pedi/mani while at the beach made it that much more enjoyable. I think it was because I didn’t feel like I was having to squeeze it in between a lunch hour, or running between getting off work and going to the grocery store.
  5. Play. We played in the sand, in the water, in the house. We just took the time to be with the kids and enjoy the fact that we didn’t have to run around to this practice or school or work. We built sandcastles, mud drip castles, buried each other in the sand, looked for seashells, and went night searching for crabs with flashlights. We just played with no sense of time or worry about being late for something.
  6. Make a checklist of activities you want to do beforehand, and do them. You might not be a planner, and if you aren’t, don’t make this a stressful list. But if you’re trying to make the most out of your time, especially with kids, lists can be helpful and make the trip more enjoyable. About two months before we were heading out, I had made a list with my 4 year old little and told him to think of all the things he would want to do while we were at the beach. This was mostly so that I knew how to keep him busy so I didn’t have to listen to the “I’m bored” whine while we were there. He made a list of 35 different things he wanted to do! They included the things I listed above, along with others of course, and we took the time to make sure we did each and every one of them. The delight on his face that we had made this special for him was all it took to remind me of the things that are important.

I bet some of you have fantastic ideas that you could add to this list, and I’d love to hear from you! You can either comment below, or send your thoughts to me at jchristopher.healthymind@gmail.com.

Get out there and start planning your next R&R escape! Happy relaxing everyone!

Making the most of your time: Part 2 – 15 minutes

Put down those dirty dishes! Stop dusting/sweeping/mopping; just stop whatever mundane activity you have gotten yourself into that is not creating a relaxing, joyful, and exciting thrill for your life.

Are you done? Ready to read on? Okay! That’s what I’m talking about J

As you can read again in my “Part 1 of Making the most of your time- 5 minutes”, everyone has to find the time for joy, happiness, and relaxation in our crazy, busy lives. Stop right there! No excuses; remember! Yes, I know that as a mother/wife/working mom myself, the dishes have to get done at some point; the clothes need to be washed so my child isn’t wearing 4 day old pants, again (not that I would EVER do that); the floors have to get swept and mopped; yada, yada, yada. This is not a post to keep you from the things that make our lives run, but it is to remind you that without pleasure and enjoyment in our lives, we start to get bitter, angry, and just an uglier version of ourselves.

You don’t want that? Good! I don’t want that for you either. I want to help you find a distraction, or distractions, that gives your mind something else to focus on long enough to let relaxation settle in. And from there, it is more work to get your mind back on what upset you in the first place. Honestly, who needs, or wants, MORE work? Through these different posts, I’m hoping you can find something that you find time for your in life, even if it is just for 15 minutes, which will bring you back to your spunky, fun-loving, and awesome-self again! So read on to see if something will spark and ignite your reason for wanting to have more out of your life. Sometimes all it takes is a little R & R.

If you have 15 minutes alone –

Pick up a magazine

Not a tablet or your smartphone, but an actual magazine. You remember, the ones with the pages that you can touch and thumb through that doesn’t require a swipe of your finger. Yeah, that one. Read that article you saw on the front page that caught your attention and that you swore to yourself, “The next time I get a break, I’m going to start my planning my bedroom romantic escape that the article promised me I can do in under a budget of $100.” Hey, you can make that work, but right now, the point is to sit down and READ the article.

Detoxify

You know those posts that you read on Facebook from “friends” that drive you crazy, make you angry, or just make you think, “Really?!” – delete them from your feed. I’m not saying delete them from your total social media life, but if this is not a person that you have constant contact with, then take them off your news feed and see if you even really miss all their negative and aggravating posts that they put up on Facebook. And if you don’t, then maybe they weren’t the best for you life, anyway.

Hello, Yoga

Yoga does wonders for you mind, body, and soul. When muscles are tense and stressed, it causes added stress to the brain, leading to negative and more anxious thoughts in the mind. But the opposite effect is also true – relaxed muscles, lead to a calmer mind and more positive and constructive thoughts. Yoga can help you achieve a healthier mindset, whether you are a beginner or an expert, you can practice these moves here to achieve full relaxation and more energy in as little as 15 minutes. Try here if you need some guidance: http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/seated-yoga-poses-that-will-work-wonders-on-your-health/?ref=pin

Podcasts are amazing

Podcasts can inspire you, make you laugh, get you thinking about your life, etc. And there are so many different kinds of podcasts, or TED Talks, whichever you prefer. You can even create your own, just to express something that made you happy, angry, etc. in as little as 15 minutes (even if it’s not something that you share with the world). The point, here is, just letting your emotions stay bundled up inside you doesn’t help anyone, and it really doesn’t help yourself chill. If you aren’t sure where to start with communicating feelings and thoughts, listen to a Podcast that teaches you about assertive communication!

Take a nap

Yes, I give you permission to zone out and rest those beautiful eyes! But notice I have put this under the 15 minute relaxation blog post. Research suggests that a nap up to 20 minutes can invigorate us and re-energize us to finish out the rest of our day strong! But any longer, and of course the research starts showing other effects – more grogginess, irritation and all those pesky feelings we were trying to subdue by taking a nap! Um, yeah, we don’t want that.

Play a game of Solitaire

With actual playing cards! If you can’t remember how to play without the computer, watch a quick YouTube video. Playing cards helps you to lose focus of what has you angry, annoyed, upset, whatever that is not relaxed feeling, and allows your mind to wander to just focusing on playing a game.

With your partner –

Reminisce

Studies have shown that reminiscing can bring all kinds of lovely feelings pouring in about the good ol’ times! And who doesn’t love to think back on all the fun we had when we were younger and could actually stay up past 8:30 PM! Take the time to remember all the things that brought you two together. And if that doesn’t get you feeling good, look below…

Afternoon delight

So you have 15 minutes and the kids are napping, or away with grandparents/sleepover/etc., and you are looking for some alone time…yeah, I think you can figure this one out 😉

With your kids –

Exercise

Now this is not going to be your body sculpting, hard core workout that you would get in a gym. This is more let’s-pretend-we’re-a-snake type of fun and entertaining workout for you and the kids! I do this with my oldest little (he’s 4) and he asks me to do it when I forget to ask him! I let him choose 4 exercises that we do, and then I try to get him to do 1 or 2 of mine (like pushups or crunches, something easy) to demonstrate some real exercises for him. It gets them interested in exercising and gets them thinking creatively for what exercise they want to do next. And we all know how great exercise is for the brain!

Play a board game

There are some easier games that really only take about 15 minutes to play – Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, etc. And if your kids are too old for these games, show them a fun card game, like Go Fish, or even Rummy. I love games, so I will always use any excuse to sit down with my kids when they ask me to play a game. They think it’s for them, but really, it’s for me!

Take the dog for a walk

Again, it’s all about getting away and soaking up some Vitamin D. If you get so involved in the walk and talking to your kids that it’s been over 15 minutes – who cares! And KEEP GOING!

Make a blanket fort

If you have never made a blanket fort and have no idea of what I’m talking about, you have not lived! I always loved throwing any blanket I could find over the back of the couch and the back of chairs to build a fort where I could run in and just read a book, or play with my dolls, whatever I wanted to do. And I always thought that it was the coolest thing. Now, my kids do, too! Even the 2 year old! And having fun and sharing something with them that I used to do as a kid, relaxes me every time.

Side note – I am on vacay this week, so I will be trying to stay away from electronics as much as I can. You will likely not get another post until I return, and maybe them I’ll have some other fun relaxation tips to share from the trip!

Have a safe and relaxing week, everyone!

5 minutes to relax (printout)

5 minutes to relax

I wanted to share a quick free print out for you to have so you can hang on your wall, pin, share in your media file, etc. to remind you to never think you don’t have time for relaxation. You need to find what works for you. Remember to share with us what you have found that you can do in 5 minutes that helps to alleviate the stress of our sometimes crazy, busy lives.

And stay tuned for this week’s post: Making the most of your time: Part 2 – 15 minutes. Happy reading!

 

Jenie

Making the most of the time you have: Part 1 – 5 minutes

We all know relaxation is important. It improves our productivity. It helps us to be more rational when faced with decisions. It helps us to not lash out at our loved ones. It helps us to have more peace of mind. I could go on and on. I know you’ve heard this once or twice, so I won’t sit here and list all the reasons you should also find time for you, even on the craziest of days. If you do want to read more, there are plenty of great articles that explain the reasons rest is so good for you (and some may even surprise you – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/14/stress-awareness-day-relaxation-benefits_n_1424820.html)

However, today’s post is about stopping the excuses as to why you don’t take the time to relax. I’ve heard them, and I’ve said them – “I just have too much to do,” “If I stop and take the time out to relax then I’ll never finish (you fill in the blank),”… But research has shown that even 5 minutes of relaxation can decrease stress and tension and help you to be a better YOU!

What can you do in 5 minutes that will actually benefit your mind and body and help you relax? There are so many things- yoga stretches, guided meditation (there’s a tone on YouTube for FREE!), journaling, etc. And you may be thinking, okay, but all of that is “boring”, “I just can’t get into it.”

Remember when I said NO EXCUSES! Here are some ways you can get into the 5 minute relaxation and enjoy your time doing it!

If you have 5 minutes alone –

Dance (like a toddler)

Why like a toddler? Because their dances are carefree. They aren’t thinking about what others thinking about their dance, or if they have the moves right, or do I have my face right? They are just freely letting themselves move the music, however inspired. Letting yourself dance to a song, in the privacy of your own space, can help you shed off all that negativity that you may be thinking about yourself or others and just letting your body move and groove to the music.

Look through old videos and photos

Especially the goofy and funny ones can make you laugh and reduce your stress levels. Either look through a photo album, or save certain pictures in an album on your phone that you can flip through easily when you need that 5 minute de-stress time. Don’t think you have any good ones that will make you laugh, well, check these out – http://www.sethcasteel.com/#!/home

And I dare you not to laugh… 😉

Singing at the top of your lungs

That’s right. Sing as loud as you can with no worry for pitch, tone, or range (I think I just hear Simon Cowell through up in his mouth). Just take a fun song and singing like you are performing your own concert. My favorite is “Baby Got Back”; and yes, I know ALL the words! Hey, not into singing aloud, or maybe you want to do this in your office without scaring everyone away, then do your own version of Lip Sync Karaoke. But beware…you may be so good and get caught up in it that your concert gets extended past the 5 minutes!

Enjoy a cup of coffee (or tea) and a piece of chocolate

It’s all about savoring the time. Taking the time to really taste the chocolate and enjoy the warmth of the coffee flowing through your body can reboost your energy level and allow your body to start working towards a more calm state of mind. But notice I said a piece. Eating chocolate, especially dark chocolate, in the right amount studies have shown can lower your stress hormone levels and even give you a boost of energy.

With our partner –

Hugging someone

Okay maybe not hugging for a full 5 minutes (awkward), but studies have shown that a good 20 second hug can increase levels of oxytocin (the “cuddle hormone”) and can help us reconnect with our loved ones and also reduce levels of those pesky stress hormones in our brains (aka – cortisol). Want to learn more about this awesome hormone and what else it does for us, check out this article: http://psychcentral.com/lib/about-oxytocin/

Say “I love you and appreciate you”

Just those words alone, in less than 5 minutes, can turn your day and your partner’s day around. Hearing the words, coming out of a place of real love and affection, without having to be prompted, will show your significant other that you were thinking about them. And doesn’t it feel good to have someone thinking about you?

Slow dance together

Whether you are married, engaged, or just dating, you know you have “a song” with your significant other. You don’t? Then take the time to think about “your song” could be. Play the song, and just dance together. Let your mind take you to the reason that you love this person, and why you are together.

With our kids –

Letting your child play with your hair

OMG! If you haven’t felt the amazing stress relieving effects of having someone play with your hair, then you are missing out. It is awesome! Unless the brush somehow gets tangled up in your hair, then it’s not so awesome. So maybe no brush.

Put on a dance PARTAY

http://www.popsugar.com/entertainment/Best-Fresh-Prince-Bel-Air-Dancing-GIFs-35805891

Here’s the dancing again! Music can be very healing while fun at the same time. Movement also helps kids get some energy out, meaning less screaming and stress for them, and more calm time for mommys and daddys. And the kids will love it!

Coloring a picture with your kids

Kids love to color, and now studies have shown that coloring can be relaxing for adults too! I know you’ve seen the adult coloring books that are out everywhere! However, if you don’t feel like putting on your Picasso hat and making a frame-worthy coloring sheet in 5 minutes, just enjoy sitting with your child, the calm that comes over you and him/her, and spending that time together.

Get outside and try to make images from the clouds

Wait, what? Okay, may sound a little weird, I know, but again, the point is to take your mind off what is stressing you to allow your brain to reset. And what better way to reset than to be in nature and be silly. Give it a try and have some fun with it!

S

Thanks for taking these 5 minutes to relax and enjoy this list! I’m so glad you stopped by. What can you add to the list that is fun way to take 5 minutes to relax? I’d love to hear from you, and I know everyone else would, too!

Remember to follow this post so you don’t miss Part 2 of Making the most of your time –with 15 minutes.