8 ways to make friends when you have anxiety

Having anxiety sucks. It can hold you back from doing fun things and meeting interesting people. According to several studies cited in a New York Post article, the Millennial generation is the most anxious yet. This can be traced to millennials moving farther away from home than past generations, and our constant access to social media where we can compare ourselves to others at any point in time.

For those of us who struggle daily with this new plague of anxiety, some of us may have trouble existing in social settings, and therefore have a hard time making quality friends. We’ve made up a list of tips to enter the friend dating game, while keeping your anxiety at bay.

1Make an effort to step outside your comfort zone.

Yes, this is easier said than done when you have your little pal anxiety poking you in the head. But we’re not talking about something extreme like going to speed dating alone on a Sunday night. We’re talking about joining your coworkers for drinks after work, even if the thought of socializing with them makes you sweat a little more.

Consciously do something each day to open yourself up to new potential friends. When you have anxiety, it’s important to secure allies who can help you through rough days. And anyone can potentially be that ally. Putting yourself out there, even in the smallest of ways, can actually be the first step in treating your anxiety in the future.

2Make plans, and keep plans, even if your stomach hurts.

We know the last minute, “hey guys, I’m not gonna be able to make it” text too well because we’ve sent it way too many times. When you’re making new friends it’s so important to keep the plans you make, even if the looming friend date makes your stomach churn.

Maybe even work friend dates into your weekly schedule so they are less spontaneous/anxiety inducing. Routines can help keep anxiety at bay.

3Make friends through other friends.

Once you’ve talked yourself into joining your old friend and her gal pals for brunch, you can start building mutual friendships. Having that one person there that knows you well is comforting and might allow your anxiety to sit in the back seat during the social interaction with potential new friends. Plus, it’s always fun to get to know people over mimosas.

For people with social anxiety, it might be hard to speak up and join in on group conversations. But if that old friend is your anxiety ally, he or she can help you share stories and experiences with the gang.

4Find and use your mantra.

Figuring out how to calm yourself down in a situation that is stressing you out is crucial when stepping into social scenarios. Repeating a mantra to yourself when you begin to panic is one of the simplest things to do. Remove yourself from the scene, either physically by heading to the bathroom, or mentally by refocusing on yourself, and repeat your mantra until you feel able to reenter the conversation.

Remind yourself that you can overcome this bad feeling. Let yourself center in on where your feet are and focus on that small piece of space. Find words that makes you feel better like, “gouda” or “asiago.” A mini mantra is the easiest thing to go back to when your head starts to wander.

5Don’t try to hide your anxiety.

Maintaining a lasting friendship is all about being open and honest with one another. This means that even though your anxiety may be hard to face head on and talk about, it’s really necessary that your friends know that you sometimes struggle to do certain things.

Once that “confession” is out in the open, you’ll be amazed to find that your friends want to help you and make you feel comfortable rather than berate you for being different. Also, more often than not, you’ll learn that some of your friends are dealing with a similar affliction and can empathize with you! If your new friend starts treating you differently after you open up to them about your anxiety, then they’re not really friend material anyway, right?

6Arrange friends dates at your “safe space.”

Some of us probably have a list of places where we feel safe and comfortable — our homes, certain restaurants, specific stores, etc. A great way to ease the stress of socialization is to socialize within one of these safe spaces. Invite a new friend on your daily walk around the pond by your house. Arrange a group get-together at the coffee shop you frequent often.

Keeping one part of the social interaction a constant can truly help curb your anxiety. You can remind yourself that even if the friend date isn’t going as planned, at least you’re in a spot that makes you feel good and comfortable. It gives you something positive to look at if things go south and panic sets in.

7Stop actively trying to make friends, especially if it’s just not working out.

The more you try to make friends, the more you overthink things, and we all know that overthinking can lead to panic attacks and upset stomachs. Making friends is an organic process, so don’t try to force anything to happen. Sometimes people don’t share chemistry, and that’s okay.

As long as you’re being as genuine and true to yourself as possible in a social situation, then friends will come to you. If rom-coms have taught us anything it’s that trying to be someone you’re not always get you in mega trouble.

8Give it time.

Big changes rarely happen overnight. That’s especially true with friendships. When you meet someone, it’s rare that you will become BFFs an hour into knowing each other. So don’t blame yourself, or your anxiety, if things are moving slower than you expected.

Give yourself plenty of time to get to know another person and for them to get to know you. The more time you take, the more comfortable the transition from acquaintance to friend will be.

And if you need to cancel on plans because you’re feeling uneasy? Do it (just try to give that person a heads up!). If you don’t feel like being extra social one day, that’s totally okay. Your mental health comes first.

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