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By Redeem | Feb 9, 2021
Expert Tips For Making Friends When You Have Social Anxiety During a Pandemic
Expert Tips For Making Friends When You Have Social Anxiety During a Pandemic
By Redeem | Feb 9, 2021
During a time that has been so tremendously difficult for so many people, it’s easy to get lost in our own struggles, from anxiety to chronic pain, loss of loved ones to loss of jobs. Not to mention, multiple studies suggest heightened anxiety and depression since the start of the pandemic.
That’s why we reached out to the experts to get tips for making friends when you yourself have social anxiety. We spoke to 4 professionals who gave us 4 or 5 tips each for making friends when you have social anxiety, specifically during the pandemic.
Fiana Andrews, Ed.S., C. Psych and founder of www.justsayheygirl.com, is the self-proclaimed “shy advocate.” Fiana teaches the tools to feel the fear and do it anyway. These teachings are researched-based, evidence-based and from her own experiences. She gives the following tips for making friends when you have anxiety:
TIP 1 – Approach People with a Compliment
The easiest way to approach someone is to give a compliment. If you are afraid of rejection, giving a compliment is the best conversation starter because the likelihood of being turned down is very low. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t like a compliment. Even if the conversation doesn’t lead to a friendship, you can at least have a pleasant conversation.
TIP 2 – Ask Open-Ended Questions
Another way to start a conversation is to ask an open-ended question. An open-ended question allows the person to give you a thorough response other than a yes, no or one-word answer. To keep the conversation going, you can follow up with another question or share something about yourself that relates to what they said.
TIP 3 – Turn to Online Platforms
Since most of us have to adhere to stay-at-home orders, making friends is more complicated. Therefore, we have to think of unconventional ways of meeting new people. One of those ways is online. You can specifically join friendship apps, or you can take advantage of social media platforms to make friends. Participate in online discussion boards or threads. From there, if you notice someone who you wouldn’t mind becoming friends with, you can direct message them and continue the conversation started on the thread privately. Maybe you can let them know that you appreciated their opinion or perhaps ask them a question about what they said to keep the conversation going.
TIP 4 – Maintain Regular Contact
Connect with your new contact regularly because the more you connect, the more familiar you become, and the more familiar you become, the more likable you become. This is called the mere-exposure effect, which posits that repeated exposure to a person increases your likability.
Jessica January Behr, PsyD, Licensed Psychologist and founder of Behr Psychology in NYC, works with individuals who experience anxiety and social anxiety to help them build stronger connections and lasting confidence. She offers four tips of advice for making friends with social anxiety.
TIP 1 – Identify the Source of Your Social Anxiety
To identify the sources of your social anxiety, consider what worries you when meeting new people? Are there beliefs about yourself that are holding you back? Examine these beliefs and their origins. Understanding what makes you anxious in and of itself can be helpful in guiding you and reducing stress overall.
TIP 2 – Start With People You Already Know
Start where you are. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Start with your existing friends or coworkers and try to strengthen those relationships or meet new friends through your existing network. Having a friend in common can help to break the ice, offer more overlap in conversation areas, and can allow for more opportunities for integrative social experiences.
TIP 3 – Practice Makes Perfect
Practice. Just like how we may prepare a script and rehearse it in the mirror before an interview, help yourself gain confidence by thinking about what you have to offer in a conversation, how you’d like to express yourself, and to what audience. Think about what’s most important to get across about yourself to someone new. You can practice in the mirror or in your mind so that when the time comes to converse with a new prospective friend you have a couple of conversation topics on the deck that you know you feel confident in discussing.
TIP 4 – Harness the Power of Humor
We often forget the power of humor. If you find yourself getting awkward in social situations, you can use humor to poke a little fun at yourself and to show new friends that while you may be nervous you do have self-awareness and are fun. Cracking a little joke, or referencing your social discomfort in a lighthearted way can take some of the tension out of the experience and allow for a vulnerable moment through humor. Vulnerability builds closeness!
Related Blog Post: The Promising Future of CBD for Anxiety Disorders
Dr. Bryan Bruno is the Founder & Medical Director for Mid City TMS in New York. He is one of the first psychiatrists to provide TMS in New York and he has helped hundreds of patients get relief from depression by using this procedure. A long-time resident of New York, Dr. Bruno is also an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. Dr. Bruno has the following 4 tips on making friends when you have anxiety:
Tip 1: Don’t Turn Down Invitations to Go Out
Having anxiety can make it tempting to turn down every invitation to go out and turn to your comfort activity. Instead of doing this, consider going out to the activity for a certain amount of time. If you decide you don’t like it after the time limit you’ve set for yourself, leave. If you’re having fun, continue to enjoy yourself.
Tip 2: Push Past Negative, Intrusive Thoughts
Sometimes, there are negative intrusive thoughts associated with making new friends and participating in new activities but it’s best practice not to let those thoughts prevent you from going out. Giving in to your intrusive thoughts may make your anxiety worse over time.
Tip 3: Take care of yourself
While going out and making new friends is fun and exciting, don’t exhaust yourself by attending every event you’re invited to. You can balance going out and giving yourself time to stay home and practice self-care.
Tip 4: Pursue Passions & Hobbies
If you spend your time pursuing your passions and hobbies, you’ll find yourself with like-minded people who have similar interests. When you find people with similar interests, there is less pressure to find something in common.
Tip 5: Give it time
Making lifelong friends doesn’t happen overnight. You can meet some incredible people but give yourself and them time to warm up to each other and let the bond form naturally. Don’t force a relationship that may not be healthy for you in the long run.
Shawny Sena is a licensed marriage and family therapist at Shawny Sena LLC in Minneapolis MN. She specializes in working with anxious and sensitive LGBTQIA children and adults, especially folks who are highly sensitive and have a history of trauma.
TIP 1 – Call Out Your Social Anxiety
Go ahead and name it! So many folks have anxiety and specifically anxiety about meeting new people. A great way to build rapport is just to name your experience. Odds are your potential new friend feels a bit anxious too! Something like, “I’m so excited to be connecting, and a little nervous! Isn’t it funny how seemingly simple things can kick up anxiety?”
TIP 2 – Don’t Wait to Reach Out
Follow up immediately. It’s easy to make a great connection, promise to text, and then mutually fade away forever. The longer you wait, the more anxiety can take over. If you know you’d like to hang out again, go ahead and make a plan right then. Making a plan for a virtual hang next Tuesday or even just texting that meme you were talking about is a great way to keep the communication going.
TIP 3 – Positive Self Talk
Anxiety loves to tell stories about why we are the worst – go ahead and come up with a few little responses that you can say to yourself in the throes of anxiety. For example, “I am kind, loving, and a great friend” or, “Even if it doesn’t go well, I’m going to be ok.” It’s cheesy, but it works!
TIP 4 – Tune Into Your Body
When you feel anxiety rising up, go ahead and focus on your breath, feel your feet on the floor, and gently move your body. Even just looking around the room (moving your neck, not just your eyes) can help you calm down. When you bring your body into the present moment, it’s easier to interrupt the anxiety cycle. My favorite is gently pushing my feet into the floor one at a time. No one ever notices!
TIP 5 – Ask Questions
Everyone loves to talk about themselves – if you start to freeze, go ahead and ask a question. One of the easiest ways to build intimacy to make someone feel heard and understood. While they are answering, go ahead and take some deep breaths. Add some active listening like “Wow, that sounds so interesting. I can imagine that maintaining your aquarium was a relaxing distraction during lockdown!”
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Hopefully these great tips from the experts can help you or a friend push through social anxiety and start making some friends through this pandemic. The understanding of anxiety has grown exponentially in recent years. One essential concept that has gained ground is the need to recognize when anxiety has reached an unhealthy level and to treat that anxiety effectively. For almost 40 years, treatment has been centered around prescription medications and psychotherapy. But as CBD testing, consumption and research increases, it appears that high-quality CBD can also be an all-natural, completely organic asset in the field of mental health.
Before discussing the relationship between CBD and anxiety, it’s important to note that the FDA does not allow claims to be made that a CBD product will elicit a positive effect for a specific health condition or symptom (i.e. anxiety). Our statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and our product is not intended to diagnose, treat, mitigate, cure or prevent any disease. That being said, if you read the reviews, our customers speak for themselves and the power of CBD for temporary relief from certain ailments, such as anxiety.
The natural components found in CBD have been found to work together to interact with one of our bodies’ best kept secrets, the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). This system is basically in charge of keeping our body regulated and at homeostasis (normal). Because of this, high-quality CBD can have a vast therapeutic value across a range of neuropsychiatric disorders such as anxiety, even social anxiety.
In an article entitled “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders,” scientists from the New York University School of Medicine examine the collective research related to high quality CBD as an anxiety medication in a concise, scholarly review.
In summary, they found that preclinical evidence conclusively demonstrates the efficacy of CBD in reducing anxiety behaviors in disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Situational Anxiety Disorder, with a notable lack of anxiogenic (anxiety-inducing) effects . This is highly encouraging, as the scope of this scholarly review was not small; the articles cites 121 distinct studies centered around CBD efficacy, lending to the credibility of the consensus.
In 2018, an online survey was conducted where cannabidiol users were polled to determine who had used CBD, why they used it, and their therapeutic results. Out of the 2409 respondents, 61.5% said they used it to treat a medical problem such as anxiety. An astounding 95% of the people who used CBD for medical purposes found it to work at least “well” . Numbers like these certainly bolster the case for CBD products as treatment to conditions like anxiety.
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