I am an introvert and I have severe social anxiety, so socializing is hard for me. However- I’m human— I need regular human contact. I’ve learned from experience, and from friends, how to use projects as a way of reducing the social anxiety/awkwardness that one, both, or all parties feel. These are my top four!
Purchase the game “B*tches.” (I promise I am not advertising for this company. I just love the game.
This dice game is fun to play alone or with other people, taking turns, and competing against yourself and others. It’s easy to play and learn, and sort of addicting. It’s a small bag of dice you can put in a pocket and whip out when things get awkward or the silence is bugging you.
When I’m rolling dice, or watching my friend roll the dice, I stay focused on the present moment. When my anxiety comes in to tell me I’m doing something wrong or being wrong, I can quiet that voice by refocusing on the game. When people ask personal questions about my life, I find it easier to answer when eye contact is not required, so focusing on the game is really effective for deep or difficult conversations.
A deck of cards will easily fit into a pocket or purse. Everyone knows at least one game they can teach a friend. If you have the ability to learn a new game, you can expand your repertoire. But if you’re overwhelmed, overstimulated, or anxious, something you both know how to play is easier. Go Fish, Gin, Rummy, Gin Rummy, Golf… Look up a few games ahead of time when you’re calm so you have a game to teach or play when you’re with friends.
My mom brings a deck of cards everywhere now because they have saved the day several times when I’ve ended up in the hospital. Gin Rummy is our favorite game, and our family has its own rules, as most families do. I thought it was very wise of a recent date to bring a deck of cards on a first date with me. When I was in too much pain to keep playing arcade games, he found a table and took out his cards. We were able to have a fun conversation, and still feel like we were doing things without sitting around doing nothing and getting stressed out by our own minds.
Bring a puzzle to a friend’s house if you like to keep your hands busy. Rather than picking at your cuticles or biting your nails, doing a puzzle reduces my anxiety by focusing my attention. I find I can listen to my friends better when I’m working on a puzzle. And you can stop and take it apart and put it away at any point. There are no rules that say you have to complete it.
This is an amazing game that is fun to play with friends when you want to hang out but you don’t really want to go deep. It can also give you a break from deep conversations.
I lose myself in the fast-paced word game, and my anxiety dissipates as my mind tries to spell words. Sometimes that short reprieve is enough to revisit whatever deep conversation was happening before playing the game. I have played this game for hours with other patients in treatment centers as well, when we didn’t have the bandwidth to talk, but we also wanted company, or were stuck in a room together. It doesn’t require talking in order to have fun!