Anxiety sadly doesn’t take a day off, meaning that when we are out in a public place – anxiety can sneak up on us like a bad Halloween scare.
I can’t count the times that I’ve been out, minding my own business, enjoying the day and my anxiety starts. For no real reason. I start to get my usual symptoms of:
- hot flushes
- dry mouth
Before I know it, I’m back home in my room, usually crying, and the day is cut short.
I decided to experiment and try new strategies for when I am feeling anxious, and you’ll be excited to hear that they worked. Some better than others, but worked nonetheless.
So, how do you reduce anxiety in a public place?
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Go for a mini walk
If you’re feeling anxious in a public place, or know that something triggering is about to happen, slightly remove yourself from the situation. I don’t mean jumping in the car and driving home, but try going for a mini walk.
The best excuse that I always use is going to the toilet. No one questions it, you can take as long as you need and you’re also in a cubicle where you can take a breather and ground yourself.
I do this in restaurants especially as it allows me to centre myself and think positively.
I know… you’re probably going to either roll your eyes or skip past the breathing exercises, but wait!!
I promise it’s worth reading about.
In previous posts, I’ve listed multiple breathing exercises, but I want to talk about why I find them so effective. (I’m basically telling you why they work for me so if you feel something similar, you can give it a try)
The breathing exercise itself isn’t what helps me, it’s that I am distracting myself from… myself.
Let’s take a break to let me explain. I feel like my brain is split into two different Alicias’. You have rational, strong-willed Alicia who likes to assess the situation and then we have anxious Alicia, who has the mental age of eight, who jumps to conclusions, worries about things that have a 0.009% chance of happening.
Now when anxious Alicia comes out, I use breathing techniques (rational Alicia) to distract anxious Alicia, as of course, she’s a small child.
You still with me?
Breathing techniques, regardless of the ones you use, are there to distract your mind from focusing on anxiety and focusing on the breathing exercise. Because let’s be honest, no one is that good at multi-tasking.
Create a happy place
I learned this in therapy, and my god it works.
Have you ever watched Happy Gilmore? If not I’m assigning you to watch it as part of happiness therapy as it’s one of the best and funniest Adam Sandler films.
Anyway, in the film, “Happy” is struggling to stay calm and collected when playing golf. He then goes to his happy place and bam… well I won’t ruin the ending for you but you get the idea.
This technique requires a little practice at home. Take five minutes out of your day, sit, close your eyes and start to imagine the happiest place you can think of, it doesn’t even need to be real.
Once you start to gather information about your happy place, you can add more and more detail.
If you’re out, take a few seconds to imagine your happy place, again all about distracting that inner eight year old, and remind yourself of all the detailed things you loved about your happy place.
Set goals before you enter the public place
If public places aren’t your thing, but you want them to be, start setting goals! No one is expecting you to jump in the deep end and attend a concert. Start off small.
- Going to the supermarket
- Attending small gatherings
- Going to a bar
- Having a picnic at the park
- Inviting friends over to your house
Each goal will be specific to you. Overcoming a fear isn’t easy, but do what you can at your own pace.
Asking a friend for help
Before going to a public place, open up to a friend that you trust. Although this can be scary af, it can also be very rewarding.
Sit a friend down and explain that you’re anxious about public places. If you’re feeling brave, you can also mention your triggers. I found this to be really helpful because when we were in a public place, my friend was also aware of triggering situations.
Another way to communicate is to use a safe word. Create a safe word before going out and explain plan B. If you are over whelmed, use the safe word and the plan you created earlier.
I would be terrified to talk about my anxiety, even to my friends because… I thought I was the only person suffering.
Shock horror, I wasn’t. Opening up allowed my friends to understand me on a deeper level and it allowed our friendships to grow stronger.
How to reduce anxiety in a public place
Let’s recap the important points from this post.
- 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year.
- Opening to people that you trust is beneficial and can bring friendships together.
- Create smaller goals. Don’t try to run before you can walk. Oh, and celebrate the wins, you’ve earned it.
- Distract your inner eight year old.
- Create a happy place and provide as much detail as you possibly can.
Anxiety doesn’t take weekends or bank holidays off, therefore we need to learn to deal with, reduce and understand our anxiety.
What are some ways you reduce anxiety in a public place?