For the Socially Anxious: 3 Sentences to Remember

For the Socially Anxious: 3 Sentences to Remember

why am I always so awkward at events?

What to do when small talk makes you sweat

Anyone older than 5 knows life is full of opportunities to mix and mingle in social situations.

But if you have social anxiety, events can feel incredibly overwhelming.

First of all, if this is you, it’s important to give yourself permission to limit your social RSVP yes responses.

Sure, you want to be part of the festivities, but if you’re going to drink too much to try and calm your nerves, it’s a recipe for office rumors.

I’m giving you permission to say no to a social event as long as you’re not isolating and declining all the invites. After all, if social anxiety leaves you feeling drained and unable to manage the rest of life, then you need to be mindful of your boundaries around socializing.

Social Anxiety is really a form of Performance Anxiety

The underlying cause for many social anxieties is a worry about how others will perceive you.

Fear of judgement can be a powerful force.

Assuming the anxiety is connected to fear of judgment (and not a trauma-based anxiety about feeling physically unsafe in public), you can take steps to feel less stressed in the public eye.

Choose the events that you truly feel are important (including events that may not be optional).

Marie Kondo the events that don’t spark joy.

For the social functions you decide to (or must) attend, memorize these 3 sentences to alleviate some of the stress you feel when faced with the expectation for small talk.

Shift the focus with a question

When your fear is based on how people might judge you, questions can have the added benefit of shifting the focus away from you and onto the other person.

Open-ended questions are your best bet…they help keep the conversation flowing and leave less room for the dreaded awkward silences.

In the moment, it can be challenging to think of open-ended questions… so keep these 3 examples in your back pocket (figuratively or literally… no judgement if you take this list and sneak off to the restroom to read them as a reminder mid-event!).

3 questions to use when have

social anxiety

How to Make Small Talk With Less Anxiety

1. What plans do you have for (insert upcoming holiday or weekend)?

This is an oldie but a goodie.

If the person has exciting plans, they’ll share.

Even if their answer is “nothing,” people will often elaborate as to why they are taking time away from the social scene (we’ve been busy at work, last week was hectic, etc.).

If their answer is “nothing,” and that’s all you get, you can encourage them to elaborate by asking, “how do you feel about having the (holiday, weekend, etc.) free to yourself?”

2. What good books have you read/shows have you Netflixed/ movies have you seen lately?

Asking someone’s recommendation shows you value their opinion.

To continue the conversation, you can follow up with, “what is it that you like about that book/genre/movie/show/etc.?”

3. What’s the most memorable place you’ve traveled?

If they don’t have an answer, you can ask where they’d like to go someday.

Follow up questions to keep the conversation flowing are things like, “what was it that made that trip so special/memorable?” and “do you plan to ever make that trip again?”

will this work for my social anxiety?

The point of small talk is to keep the interactions short and sweet.

Try sticking to just one or two questions per conversation, then politely excuse yourself to the buffet, restroom, bar, etc. and include a sweet, “It was nice chatting with you,” to signal to the other person that you’re moving on.

Find another new person, and start the process again.

The party will end and the guests you talked to will leave feeling grateful that someone like you took an interest in getting to know a little about them.

Remember, the key is to ask open-ended questions (instead of yes/no questions).

It might also be helpful to spend some time thinking of your own answers to these questions… just in case the person you’re asking is also anxious and decides to ask you the same things.

find a therapist for your social anxiety

The following therapists at The Joy Effect offer counseling for social anxiety.  Click on each name to read more about the therapist.

Carolyn Robistow | Carla Litzsey

 

How to Support a Friend Through Infertility

How to Support a Friend Through Infertility

brace yourself. it’s a long post.

Her secret fears when she’s trying to be social during fertility treatments

You want to help…you want to say the right thing to let her know you care about her and want to support her and help her feel hopeful…. but all these blog posts on what not to do make it seem like no matter what you say, it’ll be wrong, and she’ll be offended…or worse, burst into tears.
 
Hopefully this list gives you get an understanding of what she’s going through…to take a few steps in her shoes, if you will.  Empathy is a pretty powerful tool.

she’s not sure how to say this to you

Rather than list all the things that will bring her to tears, I’m going to tell you the top unspoken fears for women who are in the midst of infertility.

I compiled this list by asking women who are at the end of a frustrating first year of trying to conceive naturally, women who have or experienced medical interventions such as NaPro, IUI, or IVF, and women who have experienced the pain and grief of miscarriage.

Each experience is painful in its own way, but certain fears stood out as almost universal for these women. (And in case you’re wondering, yes, there were men involved in this poll… but that’s a whole other post…this one is long enough as is).

what women said is most upsetting about infertility

Written for anyone trying to show love and support for a woman facing infertility

1. She’s worried the only conversation at social events will revolve around children, and she will have nothing meaningful to contribute. 

Not only were the women I polled worried about the “so when are you having kids?” question, but almost more so they fear being in a group where all conversation revolves around experiences unique to parenting and momming so hard. 

How can you help?

Casually bring up a topic of conversation you know she can relate to.

2. She won’t be able to control her emotions if something does hit her in a painful spot. 

This one applies especially to the women whose bodies are either being pumped full of hormones or trying to regulate after an unsuccessful treatment or miscarriage.

Those hormones are no joke. She knows she’s more emotional than usual, but it’s just so dang hard to stop it once it starts, even for the most rational of women.

How can you help?

This one is a “just know that’s what it feels like” and maybe offer a hug or ask if she wants to be alone for a minute.

Patience and empathy are really the only tools you have for this one.

3. People will assume she either does or does not want to hold all the babies. This is where communication is key.

She’s not sure how she’ll feel in the moment when a baby is passed her way (see fear number 2), and she is also worried about offending the baby mama if she just isn’t up for it right now.

Add on the fear that the baby will cry and everyone will silently think “that’s why she can’t have kids, she’s obviously not fit for it,” and the heaviness of being handed a baby is exacerbated. 

How can you help?

Ask her if she wants to hold the baby, and if she says “yes,” pass that bundle over, if she says “no,” then move on to the next spare set of hands who might be waiting for a turn.

No biggie.

If you’re not the baby mama, let her know that if she doesn’t feel like baby-holding yet somehow ended up with one (it happens more than you think), she can always call on you to come take the baby for some cuddles…like you’re her wingman.

4. She won’t get invited to the social functions that center around children’s activities, which means she’ll be the only one of her friends not there.

You might think she’s not interested in the trip to the zoo or Santa’s Wonderland with everyone having kids in tow.

But when the entire group gets together and she’s not invited, it can leave her feeling left behind.

That being said, she’s also scared that if she says no out of fear number 2, you’ll stop inviting her. 

How can you help?

Invite her, but subtly include the detail that this is a kid-centered event so she’s able to make an informed decision.

Let her know you think it would be fun to have her there (so she doesn’t think it’s a pity invite).

If she says, no, keep her on the invite list for next time unless she specifically asks you to stop inviting her to kid-centered events.

5. She’s worried every social function will be a mommy-baby event, and she’ll be a perpetual fifth wheel.

Yes, this is similar to number 4, but not quite the same.

Sure, she might need the invite to kid-friendly functions, but she also wants some adult-only time with her friends when you aren’t consistently distracted by making sure your kid isn’t eating dirt (let’s be real, so do you, but it’s hard to find the time to make it happen). 

How can you help?

Take the initiative to text the group, suggest going in together on a sitter to save money, and plan a girls’ (or couples’) night out or offer to host (but ditto on the sitter elsewhere).

6. People will avoid her if she feels like talking about her experience (or think she’s a drama queen, Debbie downer, etc.).
There isn’t really a time limit on grief, and what she’s experiencing is grief.
It’s on her mind more often than she cares to admit (especially if she’s having to live by the calendar), and while sometimes talking about it is painful, at other times it can be healing. 

How can you help?

Tell her that you know some days will be harder than others, and even if it’s years down the road, you’ll still be an open ear and shoulder to cry on if she just needs to let it out.
** If you truly think she’s struggling to deal with her experience in a healthy way, there are loving ways to suggest she seek help from a counselor or support group**
 

7. Her family and friends are disappointed in her every time it doesn’t work OR judging her and her partner for the methods/timeline/cost/etc. of the route they have chosen to go.

This one rang especially true for women who were the first or only woman in that generation of the family to try to have children.

You want her to know you’re excited and supportive of her journey, and sometimes that taps into to her fear that you’ll be disappointed in her if she doesn’t make you a grandparent/aunt/ uncle/etc. 

This includes fear of feeback if she and her partner choose a treatment or timeline that you think is …well…not what you would have chosen.

**This one was a biggie for women going through secondary infertility (when the struggles begin while trying to conceive after minimal difficulty or complications with a first child).

How can you help?

This response varied somewhat from woman to woman.

About half wanted you to still be excited and buy her baby things to show your hopefulness and be positive.

The other half felt like the baby gifts and excited requests of “any news???” added to the pressure and increased the fear of disappointing you.

First of all, let her know that you understand none of their decisions were made lightly.

Secondly, ask her (or her partner if you don’t feel comfortable asking her directly) how she feels about you buying baby gifts while she’s trying to conceive.

At worst, you can still buy them and just hold onto them until the time is right.

  1. People won’t know what to say, so they won’t say anything at all, and she’ll be alone.

A fear for anyone who is grieving any loss.

She wants you to know that it’s okay to take a respectful interest in her struggle.

She is probably going to a TON of appointments and getting a TON of ultrasounds and lab results with milestones and measurements to meet along the way.

She wants to know she’s not walking this road alone (yes, her partner is there, but partners often have worries and experiences of their own and can struggle to be the only source of support or outlet for the other).

She also wants you to know that by bringing it up, you aren’t reminding her of it… it’s frequently on her mind anyway.

How can you help?

Tell her you love her, mark down any notable dates she tells you, and reach out to her on those dates.

You don’t need to say anything other than “thinking of you today” (as opposed to “how did it go?”).

Know that whether she responds with details or just a “thank you,” she genuinely appreciates the thought.

that was a lot of information

You’ve probably noticed by now, being the intuitive and loving friend or family member you are … most of her fears involve being judged, alone, or left behind.
Even knowing that those are the themes behind her biggest fears, you have some insight into the side of infertility that she might not know how to share with you.

I applaud you for being so interested in supporting her that you read this whole thing! She is lucky to have you. Hugs.

find a therapist for infertility

Whether you’re dealing with infertility and reading this to see if it’s something you want to share with your friends and family, or you are the friend or family member concerned for her, counseling can help with the grief and fears that are an unfortunately normal part of the fertility journey.

The following therapists at The Joy Effect currently work with mental wellness during infertility.  Click on each name to read more about the therapist.

Carolyn Robistow | Carla Litzsey

 

How to Choose a Counselor

How to Choose a Counselor

a quick story about trust

If you’ve ever been scuba diving, you know that before they let you loose in the open sea with only a tank of air and underwater camera, you have to prove you’re somewhat capable of breathing underwater in a mock-scuba environment… like a swimming pool.
 
Well there I was, listening to a guy who was maybe 21 and clearly spent half his days surfing and the other half teaching tourists how to not panic and swim straight to the surface (which is a no-no in scuba diving).
 
This guy was ah-mazing. He pretty much beat me to the punch on every worry I had. He said things like, “If THIS happens, then you do this hand signal, and I will fix the problem.” And he said it repeatedly. I felt soooo much better.
Then I totally aced the pool-diving part. 

i’m with you so far…then what?

A few hours later (we were scheduled for the afternoon dive), we arrive at the boat. Scuba Coach Guy is walking off and explains that our dive guide will be there shortly.
 
Say what?
 
Enter stage left, the coolest and most fit woman I’ve ever seen in real life. Gorgeous accent and all.
 
She was so full of energy and pumped about us getting into our suits and into the water and down to the sea floor and getting all the photos and having the BEST scuba experience ever.
 
I was so overwhelmed I’m still surprised I didn’t puke right there in front of her.
 
Long story short(er), with maybe one inch of water above my head, I was giving the “I need to go to the surface” hand signal ….. (side note: yes, I totally could have safely popped my head right up to the life-giving oxygen an inch above… but Scuba Coach Guy had assured me that the hand signals were uber important! #rulefollower)
 
She tried to run me through all the “try and pop your ears to relieve the pressure” signals, but there was no changing my mind.
 
I was scared.
 
I wanted out.
 

so what went wrong?

Surfer Coach Guy had repeatedly assured me he understood the things that scared me. He told me over and over again that he had a plan to get me through anything the ocean might throw my way.
 
I trusted him. I felt connected. I felt like he got me (in an I know this is new and intimidating for you but I promise I’m looking out for your best interest kinda way)
 
This girl? Nope.
No way was I trusting her with looking out for me or making sure I felt comfortable. She was clearly more interested in convincing us to pay the extra fee for the underwater pics she was going to take for us.
 
I spent the excursion sitting on the boat with the captain and my friend who had also called it quits at the last second.
 

I assume there’s a connection to therapy in this story?

Trust
Feeling like someone “gets” you. If you’re sitting across from the world’s most renowned specialist in treating xyz, and all you can think is but can I trust you with the actual truth of my deepest and darkest?, then you’ll likely end up stuck.
The importance of a good connection can accidentally be overlooked when you first reach out. 
That means it can also be easy to spend unneccessary amounts of money on a therapist who came highly recommeded, but wasn’t really a good fit for you.
When you begin the search for a counselor, I encourage you to consider the importance of finding someone who helps you feel heard.
 
It’s tempting to jump online, find someone close by who takes your insurance, and book the first available appointment.
I’m not knocking that strategy.
I’m saying it can be easy to go that route and spend money on months of therapy, only to realize you don’t feel like your counselor really gets you.
 

what do I need to do to find the right counselor?

Whether you’re going the insurance route or the private pay route (paying out of pocket without going through insurance), I encourage you to do a few things before you make the decision to choose a particular counselor:
  • Check out the websites of your prospective counselors…look for information on any specialty areas, read the “about me” pages, browse any blog posts… all of these will give you a better picture of who this counselor is and who she (or he) serves best.
  • Ask if there’s a free phone consultationA phone call is an opportunity to speak to him or her and see how comfortable you feel. Ask any questions about charges, scheduling, hours of availability, familiarity with your concerns, etc.
  • Remember that as tempting as it is to price shop, your goal is healing, and going with the cheapest option can’t guarantee a healing relationship (that being said, it doesn’t rule it out, either…which is why these points are key!).
  • If you’re seeking services for your child, inquire about communication and updates between the counselor and you, the parent. It can feel mysterious to send your child back to the office while you wait in the lobby, then leave without any idea as to how things are going. Different counselors handle it different ways.
  • If you’re comfortable sharing any details with friends, ask around for referrals…but keep in mind that just because your friend LOVED her experience with a certain therapist doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right one for you.
The decision to enter into therapy often comes at a time when you are feeling overwhelmed and out of ideas. It can be tempting to jump into a therapeutic relationship with the most convenient or cheapest therapist.
 
Sometimes, you get lucky, and it’s a perfect match! But don’t be afraid to advocate for what helps you to feel comfortable.
 
You’re going to be sharing some of your most vulnerable self with your therapist. Trust and feeling like she gets you are key to healing.
 
If you’re unsure whether a certain therapist is right for you, it’s okay to give it a few sessions to see… sometimes it takes time to develop that trusting relationship. And if you’ve done your homework (see above bullet points), then it might be worth allowing yourself the time to grow comfortable.
 
In therapy, it’s never wrong to give the “I need to go to the surface” hand signal and look for someone who totally gets you.
 
After all, this is your life… not the scuba guide’s.

find a therapist

At The Joy Effect, we have multiple therapists available to help with a variety of concerns.

You can read about each individual therapist below, or scroll farther to look for help with your specific concern.

Carolyn Robistow | Carla Litzsey