Feel anxious in social settings? Here’s how to calm your nerves

FeaturedHealth & FitnessLifestyle

Written by:

 

Spring is here! We often associate this season with breaking out from the cocoon of winter and into social butterflies. This is easier for some than others. I am a proud introvert, and I usually have to prepare myself for the increase in social interactions.

 

You may not identify as introverted. Maybe you’ve been diagnosed with social anxiety, or you just feel socially awkward in general. Whatever the case may be, there are many of us that desire social interaction and closer relationships, but it doesn’t come naturally to us. In fact, many social interactions can feel threatening. For instance, a great friend of mine is getting married, and I’m invited to the wedding.

______________________

SPONSORED: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

1. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn't have to be hard. SmartAsset's free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes.

2. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you're ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals get started now.

______________________

 

 

 

 

My first thought was, “Heck yeah, I am super happy for you!” and my second thought was, “Now I have to be at a wedding where the only person I’m going to know is the bride.” This is an introvert’s nightmare. The introductions, having to remember all those names, the forced smiles, and laughter, the dreaded small talk. Suffice it to say, I and many others will read that as threatening.

What does it mean to feel threatened in social situations?

You might be wondering: What happens when we read an environment as threatening and what does that mean? Threatening doesn’t mean that it’s abusive, violent, or anything of that nature. When you struggle socially, simply saying, “Hi, I’m Terrence” to strangers can feel like doing a State of the Union address. The problem with reading these environments as threatening is it causes us to be socially disengaged. In order to bond with others, we have to socially signal that we are interested and open. When we feel uncomfortable, our body language can express the exact opposite.

 

When we feel socially threatened, we don’t engage in prosocial signaling. Instead, if you’re like me, you may what is socially referred to as “RBF,” which I will call resting, well, you know, face. In technical terms, your facial expressions become constricted. You may often have a downcast gaze, or you may have a tendency to stare. Your body language is also typically tight and robotic in nature. You may speak in a monotone or flat voice. Additionally, you may more easily misinterpret what others are saying or their social cues. All of this leads to people staying away from you because you are signaling that you don’t want to be bothered, when in fact your internal intention may be that you want others to talk to you and like you.

Activating your social safety system

In order to combat this, we want to activate our social safety system. We can do this through facial expressions, gestures, and body language. In the same way that we use these tools to communicate with others, we can use them to communicate with ourselves. For example, if you’re in a good mood and you force yourself to frown and walk around with an angry posture, you’ll notice that your mood will change over time. So, let’s use that to our advantage!

 

The skills I’m going to talk about here are all about getting yourself to relax so that you can let go of tension and be more likely to engage in prosocial behaviors. One skill that I mentioned a few weeks ago, in episode 381, is great for this. It’s called the TIP skill, and it’s super helpful for relaxing the body. If you’re feeling overwhelmed prior to an event, you can use temperature to calm you down. You can do this by submerging your face in cold water or placing cold packs on your face while holding your breath. This will help to reduce your high level of emotional arousal.

 

If you’re reading an environment as threatening, it’s going to turn on some survival instincts that make it harder to make friends. You’re not looking to fight or flee; you want to approach and befriend. The use of temperature short circuits your fight or flight and creates space for other relaxation techniques you can use like breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation.

 

If you get a buzz of agitation when you’re anxious, you can also go an alternative route and implement exercise as a way to use up that energy and lead to more pleasant emotions, making it easier to signal appropriately to others.

 

There are many other physical sensations that our brain experiences as comforting and can help turn on our social engagement system. You can use weight blankets to reduce your overall anxiety. You can use a hot water bottle on your abdomen. You can also cuddle with a pet or ask someone you trust for a hug. You can also either self-massage or get a professional massage. If you engage in self-massage, it may be helpful to do the areas where you keep tension and are related to social signaling. For instance, you may choose to massage your face, scalp, and neck so that there is less tension in these areas. This may also make it easier to smile and or be more animated. All of these behaviors will reduce unwanted emotions and make it easier for you in the social event.

 

Here is a nifty tip that I learned about during the pandemic that made a lot of sense. It’s called the chewing skill. Our brains associate chewing and eating with digestion and rest. Swallowing food can naturally calm the body. If you engage in emotional eating, this might help you understand why this is something humans do to cope!

 

Chewing also uses the same muscles in our face that are often linked with social safety and can reduce stress. How can you use this to your benefit? Well, you can have a nice meal prior to a social event. However, many skills have a cumulative effect, so it could be beneficial to make sure you are eating well on a daily basis, leading to better stress management overall. Others will also chew gum prior to an event. I have tried this out and found that it worked particularly well when I paired it with some other mindfulness skills. I noticed that my jaw wanted to be tight, but because I was chewing the gum and engaging in calming thoughts, it led to reduced tension.

 

Finally, you can essentially do a version of what I learned from Tyra Banks and America’s Next Top Model. She often talked about looking in a mirror and “smizing”—a.k.a. smiling with your eyes. In my version, you’re practicing expansive facial expressions and gestures so you can socially signal to others. It might seem silly at first, but you want to practice tensing and relaxing your facial muscles. Next, you will want to make exaggerated facial expressions to further loosen everything up. In your body, you will want to practice stretching and making big gestures. It can be helpful to do this in front of the mirror so you can experience how it feels in your face and body and how it will read to others. I didn’t realize how angry I could appear to others until I started engaging in these sorts of activities.

 

As always, try these skills without judgment and see how they can be helpful to you!

 

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

This article originally appeared on QuickndDirtyTips.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

More from MediaFeed

39 facts about marijuana we’re betting you didn’t know

 

Cannabis is a booming business in states where legalization has been in effect for years and the trend seems on pace to continue.

In fact, more
and more U.S. states have legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational uses. In fact, most
states
have some form of legalization.

So
with so much talk of marijuana out there, it’s time to separate the
facts from the fiction. Here are 39 of the most surprising and unusual
facts about marijuana that you may not know:

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

According
to a study,
“9 percent of those who try marijuana develop dependence.”
Compared to other substances like cocaine and heroin, marijuana
dependency is low. However, marijuana is also much more widely used
than other substances.

 

Niyaz_Tavkaev / istockphoto

 

Even
with all the confusion around laws and its history of illegality,
researchers
say that 42% of Americans have tried marijuana.

 

Heath Korvola/Getty Images

 

Multiple
studies have found that marijuana is safer than alcohol.

SPONSORED: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

1. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes.

2. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

 

invizbk/istockphoto

 

We
tend to think of Colorado and Washington when we think about legal
weed, but both Alaska and Oregon legalized recreational marijuana use and possession just a few years later.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Scientists
at California Pacific Medical Center studied a compound derived from
marijuana and discovered that it may
prevent metastasis in some aggressive cancers
. The scientists
were studying CBD, the substance in marijuana that is non-psychoactive.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Despite
pushes for legalization, there are still a
lot of arrests
made in the U.S. for marijuana possession. In
2015, 650,000 people were arrested because of violations related to
marijuana. That’s 40% of drug arrests in the country and one arrest
every 50 seconds! And these arrests are still disproportionately
focused on black and Latino communities.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Illegal
marijuana tends to be stronger
than legal marijuana
. This is partly because legal marijuana is
more carefully measured for consistency and potency.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

While
there are conflicting reports on the effect of marijuana on
teenagers, in adults negative cognitive effects like changes in
memory, perception and thoughts tend to be temporary. There is
currently no evidence that marijuana
use
, even among heavy users, will permanently damage an adult’s
memory or cognition.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Despite
North Korea’s strict stance on other drugs, marijuana is not
even considered a drug
in the country.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

In
the 1700s, both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew
hemp
and in the 1800s marijuana was sold in some drugstores for
relief of migraines and menstrual cramps.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Marijuana
started
to get banned
in the U.S. in the early 1900s. The 1930s saw the
country’s first drug czar, Harry Anslinger, who started to make
claims that marijuana turned youth into homicidal maniacs.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

In
2013, Uruguay
became the first country in the world to allow its citizens to grow,
sell and consume marijuana legally.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

The
ACLU
has tracked multiple cases where people were sentenced to
life in prison without parole for marijuana possession. In one case,
the person possessed 32 grams of marijuana (that’s just over an ounce). In another, they acted as
a go-between for the sale of just $10 of marijuana.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

In
2010
, legalization produced such a boom in Colorado that medical
marijuana dispensaries outnumbered Starbucks stores by a ratio of 3
to 1.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

In
2015, legal marijuana was the fastest-growing
industy
in the U.S., with a market of $2.7 billion.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

James
Munch served as the U.S. Official Expert on “Marihuana” from 1939 to
1962. During that time he testified under oath that marijuana had
turned
him into a bat
.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

The
earliest
recorded use
of cannabis is from China in 6,000, B.C., when
cannabis seeds were used for food.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

The
oldest stash of marijuana ever found also came
from China
. Researchers discovered 789 grams of dried cannabis
“cultivated for psychoactive purposes” in a 2,700-year-old
tomb in China.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

In
India, Bhang shops
sell cannabis-infused drinks like bhang lassi and bhang thandai,
particularly during the celebration of Holi.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

In
1971 or 1972, the first
online transaction
happened, well before Amazon or eBay. What was
it? Marijuana sold between students at Stanford and MIT.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Bob
Marley was
buried
on May 21, 1981, along with his red Gibson Les Paul
guitar, a Bible open to Psalm 23 and a stalk of marijuana.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Overdosing
on marijuana
is technically possible, but extraordinarily
unlikely. In theory, a person would have to consume almost 1,500
pounds of marijuana in just 15 minutes to overdose, making it a
practical impossibility.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

In
2015, legal marijuana outsold
Girl Scout cookies
.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Sales
of marijuana are on
the rise
. Sales in 2020 grew 46% according to one report.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

By
2022, yearly
marijuana sales
in the U.S. could hit $22 billion. This is partly
due to more and more states opening medical and sometimes
recreational marijuana markets.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

After
California changed its marijuana laws in 1976, prankster Danny
Finegood hung curtains over the Hollywood sign to change it to
Hollyweed.” It happened again on New Year’s Day, 2017, when another prankster scaled Mount Lee to change the sign.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

In
1982, a man with a rare and painful type of bone tumor condition,
Irvin Rosenfeld, sued the federal government for access to marijuana
medicine
– and won, paving the way for others with qualifying
conditions. Today, he gets his marijuana from the federal government,
picking up 300 joints every 30 days.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

A study of pipe fragments from William Shakespeare’s garden revealed traces of cannabis.

 

claudiodivizia / istockphoto

 

On
his 20th birthday, Bill Murray joked about having bombs in
his suitcase while in an airport. When agents searched his luggage,
they instead found $20,000
worth of marijuana
.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

In
2017, farmers in Italy started cultivating
cannabis
in order to decontaminate polluted soil. The plants
helped pull heavy metals out of the ground.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

As of
2020, 34 U.S. states have legalized marijuana in some form.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

A
study
of 6,000 teenagers in the U.K. found that high-achieving
teens were more likely than their peers to drink alcohol and use
cannabis.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

There
was a real Mary
Jane
. Mary Jane Rathburn, or Brownie Mary, baked and distributed
marijuana brownies for AIDS patients.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

The
Easter Island statues may have moved. How? With ropes
made of hemp
, the fibers of the marijuana plant.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Estrogen
levels may make some people more
sensitive to THC
, the active ingredient in cannabis. Female rats
were at least 30% more sensitive to the properties of THC, including
pain relief.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Marijuana
may have some therapeutic
benefits
for sick pets. But proceed with caution. Dogs and cats
can also die from marijuana toxicosis.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

People
can be allergic
to pot
. Experts found that people are sometimes, though rarely,
allergic to the pollen or smoke of the marijuana plant.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Marijuana
can cause “cannabinoid
hyperemesis syndrome
,” a condition characterized by “cyclic
episodes of nausea and vomiting.”

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

During
World War II, the Office of Strategic Services investigated marijuana
as a means of inducing detainees to spill
their secrets
.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

 

LagunaticPhoto / istockphoto

 

Featured Image Credit: Geber86.

AlertMe