How to: Social Anxiety
Visiting the senior home can be intimidating, but if you suffer from social anxiety, it can feel almost impossible. But don't worry! Today on the blog, GG Volunteer Julia Henninger shares her tips for keeping her anxiety at bay while speaking with senior home residents.
Social anxiety is a chronic mental health condition in which social interactions cause irrational anxiety. With more than 200,000 reported cases per year in the US alone, social anxiety is something that plagues students around the globe for centuries. Some symptoms may include depression or fear, anxiety, palpitations, social isolation, or sweating. While some learn to cope, others may live with it until death. Whoever you may be, wherever you may reside, we all have stories related to social anxiety, especially when it comes to talking to the residents of your designated nursing home for visiting.
For me, combating social anxiety is extremely important, mainly if I plan on speaking to said residents. I remember multiple occasions where my hands started to shake and my breathing sped up whenever I painted the nails of someone I have never spoken to before. Some of my worst breakdowns come when I have no clue what to say or how to react to someone’s comment on my paint job. Of course, shaky hands don’t help when I’m trying to make someone happy. In order to calm down and face this anxiety, I follow a few short steps. If you have similar experiences I hope these will help you as well:
1. Focus on your breathing. Take long, deep breathes in, and long, deep breaths out. Do this until you feel your heart rate slow to a relaxed thump in your chest.
2. Close your eyes. Think of a place you can go to be alone. Feel yourself become more centered and focused the more you think of that place.
3. Go to your supervisor. Trust me when I say your supervisor is there to help you. In these situations, your supervisor can be your best friend because they can get you out of anything if you feel like you are going to have a panic attack.
4. Finally, focus on your surroundings. Some people may get confused by this so I'll explain. It's extremely easy to get lost, both literally and figuratively, and finding your way back by focusing on your surroundings can help with both. While your surroundings may not be comfortable, keep in mind there are other safe spaces you can go to if it becomes too unbearable (the bathroom, an empty room, etc.). It’s much easier to run and hide from your situation, but I encourage you to stay and focus on your current surroundings so you may focus on the task ahead.
I follow all of these steps during each visit and they work for me so, hopefully, they will work for you. Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your next visit!