When we have depression, socialising can be tricky. We can become very isolated very quickly: we might not have ventured out for quite a while, so leaving our bedroom or house can be incredibly overwhelming.
We know how incredibly hard it can be to muster the energy to leave the house and see people, and that socialising – even with people we know well – can feel really scary.
However, if we want – or have to – attend social events, here are some tips to make it a little easier:
One Step At A Time
We are never going to go from feeling trapped in our house, to partying every night, all in one go. It can be hard to start doing things again when we are unwell, so it’s important to take things slowly – stretching ourselves without overwhelming ourselves.
We can try setting little targets for ourselves, starting with things like texting a friend back, or walking into our garden or outside the front door. Once we’re comfortable doing these things we could move onto inviting friends over, visiting the local shop, or meeting up with someone for coffee. Different people will want to achieve different things when it comes to socialising, but having little goals and taking baby steps can work really well.
Some social engagements might feel a little more doable than others. Seeing one or two people at a time might feel easier than a room full of people, and quieter places might be preferable to noisy places.
We don’t have to do attend every social engagement that we’re invited to – nobody can do that! We need to pick the ones that we feel most able to tackle.
Ask for Alterations
If we really want to see friends or family, but feel unable to take part in the activity or event they have suggested, it could be worth asking whether plans can be altered a little bit. For example – going to a children’s play area for the day might feel impossible due to the noise and/or the enclosed space; however meeting at a park might be better. There’s no harm in asking (if we do so nicely) – even if the answer is no, our loved ones will want to to try and accommodate us.
If we’re invited to a big event but feel too anxious or unsure to go to it alone, we can ask if we can bring a friend or partner along for moral support. Just having someone alongside us can help an overwhelming and impossible situation feel a little more possible.
Plan An Escape Route
If we feel like we can’t get out of somewhere, it can be incredibly anxiety-provoking. Planning an escape route before we go somewhere – or as soon as we arrive – can help to reduce our anxieties. This could include things like making sure we can see the door from wherever we’re sitting or standing, making sure we have transport to get home, and planning to leave at a certain time. If we’re at a busy venue with a friend, we could also agree an ‘I need to leave right now’ code in case we begin to struggle and need to leave quickly.
Time Limit It
Depression can be exhausting, which can really limit the amount of energy we have to put into socialising. Rather than worrying about when we will be able to leave somewhere, it can be helpful to have a pre-made excuse, or leave time. For example, if our parents have invited us over for tea, we could say that we need to be back by a certain time to put the kids to bed, or to be in bed on time, ready for work the next day.
If we become overwhelmed by a social situation, it’s absolutely okay to take a bit of time out. We could pop to the toilet, or bob outside for a bit of fresh air, and take a few deep breaths, or text a friend for support, before going back to socialising.
When we are anxious, it can be heard to know what to do with our hands, which can make us feel even more self-conscious. There are lots of fiddle toys available (see this post for some examples) that can help us channel our anxieties into one place rather than becoming completely overwhelmed.
Budget Time To Breathe
Socialising can really wipe us out. It’s important to allow ourselves some down time afterwards away from all the hustle and bustle of people, to wind-down and re-group. This will look different for everyone – some might having a relaxing bath, others might go on a run or binge-watch TV, it’s just about having a bit of ‘me time’. If we have a big social event coming up, we might also like to have some quiet time beforehand to conserve our energy and prepare for the upcoming event.
The longer we avoid socialising, the harder it can become. Doing something once, like meeting a friend, is a great achievement. But if we only do it once, then our fear surrounding it will start to build up again. To stop the fear reaching horribly high levels again, it helps to keep trying to do things – even when they feel really difficult.
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