One of the biggest fears you probably have when facing a big event or social gathering is the fear of something happening. You’re amongst a crowd of strangers or friends, everything is going fine, and then out of nowhere, you begin to feel off. Suddenly, your body is tingling, you feel a wave of numbness wash over you. Your stomach is beginning to tighten and turn, your hands become clenched fists as you try to control your breathing. You can feel your heart picking up speed like someone is pressing a button on a treadmill. You look around you and all you see are people; some you know, some you don’t, but a sea of bodies and voices. You feel the walls closing in on your mind and all you want is to be alone. Then the panic begins to set in.
Nobody wants to be in public when these kinds of things hit them. Our preferred location would be the safety of our home or room, alone or with a small number of trusted people. There, we feel safe and secure. Outside, we feel exposed and vulnerable. But we can’t shut ourselves off from the world like a hermit. We can’t completely avoid social interaction and large groups of people. We need that exposure to the world around us, even if it means running the risk of an episode happening. We know it’s scary to think about but we are here to help you. We know what it’s like to be in those moments, as we have all been there ourselves. Our lives are full of these moments where we have to balance our need for social interaction and our mental illnesses and conditions.
How to Handle an Issue When You Are Out in the World
The first thing to remember, and it seems obvious, is to not panic. Simple, right? Well, not really. Panic isn’t a logical sensation. It thrives on restricting your logical thought processes to make sure that you do not think as clearly as you can. If it lets you think clearly, you wouldn’t be panicking in the first place, so it tries to take that ability away from you. So it’s on us to try to counteract its effects. We all have coping mechanisms that we can utilize to help us. First things first, monitor your breathing. Focusing on taking deep, slow breaths can do wonders for keeping your levels down and panic at a minimum. Your heart rate will also slow down as long you keep your breathing calm. Your body needs oxygen in these moments so don’t restrict that. Keep breathing and the fog of anxiety will falter.
Know who is around you. It’s important to always have someone with you who you trust to be there for you if you need them. If you start to feel off or like something is about to happen, tell them. Let them know what is going through your head and your body, and help them understand what they can do to help you. Sometimes, just speaking your fears to someone can start to dissipate them. You feel heard and understood, and that, in turn, will give you a sense of control.
Get out of the crowd. If you’re somewhere with a large gathering of people, find a spot where there is space. You won’t feel as suffocated if there are fewer people around you and the environment, in general, will feel calmer. The air around you will feel safer and can help your body begin to calm down.
If necessary, you can leave. Never be afraid of excusing yourself for your health. Sometimes, your body just isn’t ready for it and that’s okay. We know that it can be defeating and disheartening, but excusing yourself from a situation that affects you negatively is smart and healthy. If things are really getting bad, then leave and go to a place of comfort. It is okay to say no to plans and events. Your loved ones will understand if you just can’t go to something. Your health is, ultimately, the most important thing and sometimes you just have to focus on that. We don’t want you to be afraid of socializing but we also want you to do what is best for yourself.
We know how hard it is to manage a social life with a mental disorder. You have to constantly consider your emotions and mental state while trying to interact with people. Sometimes, things are going to come up and that’s okay. You have the tools to deal with it and you know how to help yourself. You have the ability to keep yourself calm and collected as your body begins to feel, and you have the choice to remove yourself if necessary. Life may be changed by your disorder but it isn’t dictated by it. You have that power and you can choose how it affects you.
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with anxiety or mental illness,
do not hesitate to contact the team here at True Recovery at (866) 399-6528.