I’m a social butterfly that loves people.
I’m also socially awkward, and easily overwhelmed by people.
How!? Literally, how is this possible?
The answer? Anxiety.
About a year ago, I went to Howard University’s homecoming. I remember the excitement and anticipation of seeing so many beautiful black people (fist up!). An added plus was seeing members of my sorority (the best sorority in all the land, that is! Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.!) I honestly thought I’d feel most comfortable here — I was so wrong.
I’d never been so overwhelmed and uncomfortable in my life. I was so anxious, and embarrassed by my anxiety. I couldn’t shake how I felt and even more, I felt terrible for my friend that was with me.
He was so engrossed in the experience, having the time of his life while I was struggling to breathe. My heart was racing, I could feel every breath I took. I wanted to run away. Why?
To this day, I’m not quite sure why. I do know, however, that the magnitude of people and their unfamiliar faces sent me into an immediate, intense anxiety attack. I needed to breathe. I needed space. I needed to leave.
So, we did.
Driving away, instantly, I was relieved. (though I dreaded having to explain what just happened to me to my friend.) I didn’t want to, neither did I know how to. But in this moment, it was almost as if God used my friend as a human version of peace, speaking words of affirmation, and comfort over me.
“Cordelia, you’re fine.”
“Everything is okay.”
“There is nothing wrong with you.”
“Take a deep breath and relax.”
“I’m here for you and you’re fine.”
This is just one experience, I can share where I was with someone while experiencing high social anxiety. But, there have also been many times where I was alone. Here’s a few things I’ve done in those instances to help. (not all at once):
1. I went for a walk.
- Walking gives me a moment to clear my head. It gives me an opportunity to release without the obligation of explaining myself. I’ve walked the streets of Manhattan in tears many times to keep from crying at work. Say what you want about crying– but, it helps!
- I wrote down ALL of my feelings.
- At times, I’ve learned that I’m not sure why I’m feeling anxious. Usually there’s a simple trigger (spilling something on my shirt or making a typo in a very important work email). I’ve learned that I dwell on so many things day to day that when I’ve reached my limit, anything can try to ruin me. Writing all of my feelings, issues in list form allow me to confront everything, and work toward a solution for them all.
- I wrote self affirmations. Or, recited them in the mirror.
- I’ve learned, you are what you say you are! As a Christian, I’m certain, I am who God says I am. What does God say I am? “I’m the head and not the tail, I’m above and not beneath, I’m a lender and not a borrower. Before I was in my mother’s womb, He knew me and His plans for me were good. I am a victor, and never the victim.” Additionally, “I am strong, I am not my feelings. My job is not my identity. I’m worthy of love. I am peace. I have the power inside of me to bring my mind and body to peace.”
I’m a firm believer that if you speak it, it will be. Words have power!
- I called my “person!”
- Any Grey’s Anatomy fans, here? Remember Meridith Grey and Christina Yang’s friendship? They knew each other inside and out, close like sisters with a strong, pure bond. When I say “person”, I mean, call your Christina, your Meridith.
My person varies between situation but, I am so grateful for my community of family and friends who I can rely on in times of mental need.
When you can’t gather your thoughts yourself, it’s great to be able to call someone who can gather them for you. Someone to help you put things in perspective without faulting you.
- I prayed.
- Praying and connecting to the Father (God) has helped me so many times! It allows you to feel loved and understood almost instantly. As a Christian, in moments of anxiety, I focus on one simple scripture that says “Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you.” In moments of racing thoughts, I’m reminded that my worries, my struggles, are not my own. I have a Helper!
- Lastly, I breathed!
- Take deep breaths. Breathe in your nose and out of your mouth. Anxiety has made me feel like I was dying. (I’m being dramatic, but not.) Something as simple as breathing helps!
I’m not a licensed psychologist. I’m just a girl with anxiety, who refuses to allow it to run her life. However, I’m aware that anxiety can sometimes be bigger than we are. It’s always okay, always appropriate, always necessary to seek help, outside of friendly advice. Therapy is amazing. Counseling is amazing. Seeing a clinical psychologist is just as important as seeing your PCP (primary care doctor). Let’s use all of these tools to live our best full, mentally and emotionally stable lives!
Cordelia Paris (@cordeliaparis_) has a B.A. in Mass Communications: Public Relations from the University of Bridgeport. She plans to use this degree as an avenue for her public speaking career.
She currently works in Social Media, and has a passion for all things people, and all things fun. An active learning, she’s ready to change the world one word at a time.