For introverts, it can easily seem as if you are the only person to be wired that way and the rest of the world is anxiety free and socializing with ease.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you are introverted, you are not alone. There are plenty of similarly minded people out there. As an introvert, I long ago realized that large groups and parties were never going to be my happy place. Along the way I came up with creative hacks to make socializing easier on me. With a few accommodations, socializing is perfectly possible. Today’s column is for all of my fellow introverts and tackles such topics as panic attacks, working around introversion and how to enter the scene even if you are not a raging social butterfly.
How Can Introverts Meet People?
“As a fairly introverted person, I can often find leaving my house fairly challenging. I WANT to meet people, but I am having a hard time. What should I do?”–Intensely Introverted
As a fellow introvert, I feel you. We watch extroverts socialize and we wonder how they seem do it so effortlessly. All is not lost though. Introverts can socialize, we just need to find reasonable workarounds to help us circumvent our anxiety. Because just going to some place where you don’t know anyone and trying to be social sounds about as appealing as stepping on Legos, you have to do some homework and preparation ahead of time. The more tools you have in your tool bag, the easier socializing becomes. Here are some hacks I use.
Join some online discussion groups on any topic that you feel passionate about. Use these discussions to slowly get to know other people in the group at a pace that feels natural to you. Make sure whatever discussion group you join also has the occasional real life meet ups(most do). Once you have a online connection to some people, meeting them in real life will flow much easier.
Finding an activity or something to focus on is immensely helpful for us introverts. An invaluable resource for this is Meetup. There is a group on Meetup for practically any interest, from cutting edge robotics to Scottish Country Dancing. A group activity is a low pressure ways to interact with your fellow humans without your introversion building to overly stressful levels. Once you are doing a group activity, the conversation is going to flow much smoother than if you were going to walk up to a stranger and try and start a dialogue.
You can also do volunteer work for an organization or cause that you believe in. This is a great way to meet people that share common ideals as you. It also has the added bonus of bringing about social change or improving your community. You can find plenty of volunteer opportunities on websites like VolunteerMatch.
The real trick is to keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Nothing worth having comes without hard work. The more you force yourself to address your introvert tendencies, the easier the socializing will become. I promise.
How Can I Deal With My Social Anxiety And Panic Attacks?
“I have fairly severe social anxiety to the point that I have panic attacks. Once they start happening, I can’t get on top of them. These panic attacks make socializing really difficult for me. I honestly don’t know what to do and feel really stressed about interacting in social settings. Help me!”–Super Socially Stressed
Ah, panic attacks. That lovely moment when our entire body and brain seems to revolt and leave us a sweaty wild-eyed mess of unhappy human. As a fellow panic attack sufferer, I am going to give you the tips I use to make sure that things don’t spiral out of control on me.
The first and most important thing to do is to identify your triggers. Once a panic attack gets going, it is much harder to cut off at the pass. The moment my heart starts racing, my breath gets rapid and I start sweating, the odds that I am going to be able to get on top of my panic attack is much lower. While it may seem like panic attacks come out of left field and blindside us completely, the truth is that there is something that gets the ball rolling in the first place. My particular triggers are being in large crowds with strangers pressed up against me. Also, to a lesser degree, being in social settings where I do not have anyone to talk to. I circumvent this by making sure that I don’t go to social events without a wing person and avoiding large crowds.
Think back on the last couple of times you experienced a panic attack. What happened just prior to the attack? Did these attacks happen in similar situations or circumstances? After experiencing a panic attack do your best to scribble some notes about the experience while it is fresh in your mind. Once you have an understanding about what might be causing these attacks you can begin brainstorming ways to adapt to or avoid the circumstances leading to them.
You may never completely conquer your panic attacks, heaven knows I have not completely succeeded in doing so myself. So you need to devise a plan to deal with them when they occur. My techniques are to deliberately work on slowing down my breathing, closing my eyes and counting numbers in my head in a slow and regular manner and removing myself from the situation that is causing me to panic in the first place. Once I do that, I can get on top of the attack.
What relaxes you? Some people have found that having an object to fidget with and focus on helps bring them down. Or you can try making a play list of certain songs that have a calming effect on you. Come up with a couple of things that sooth you and make sure that you have them at hand when you start feeling your anxiety build.
By identifying your triggers and developing techniques to address the attack before it spirals into something bigger, you can make them not so all encompassing. It is not easy. But it is doable. If they continue to severely affect your quality of life, I recommend seeking professional help. Best of luck and stay strong!
What Can Kinky Introverts Do To Enter The Scene?
“As a kinky person, I know what it is that I want. The problem is that all of the munches and events and dungeon parties just feel too overwhelming to me. I end up never going and just sit at home looking at all the fun that people seem to be having through my computer, while feeling like I am missing out on all of the fun. How does an introvert enter the scene?”–Introvert Wants To Join
For whatever reason, the lifestyle seems to attract its fair share of introverts. Yours is a very common question IWTJ. Fear not, I do have very helpful and concrete advice for you. However, it is on you to actually apply the principles into practice. Where many introverts fumble off the path to successful socializing is that they are unwilling to take that final leap of exiting their front door.
Introverts do much better with projects or events like a class as opposed to jumping straight into a dungeon event where you don’t know anyone. You get ready, drive to the party, pay to get in and then spend the whole night sitting awkwardly in the corner watching other people interact before going home and swearing to never bother with such a painful night again…sound familiar? It doesn’t have to go down like that though.
Start off by attending a class on a subject that you are interested in. Every other person in the room is interested in the same thing as you and most classes have a 10 minute break in the middle for people to stretch their feet and get some water. I specifically design all of the classes that I teach with that break in the middle as I want to give my fellow introverts a natural and low pressure way to interact with each other in a way that you don’t get with a play party. You get to exchange a few sentences and then sit back down for the second half of the class. It is from such simple interactions that introverts find their socializing workarounds.
Another really helpful technique is to volunteer for a party or event. Not only will you get free admission to the event, which saves you money, but you will have something to do while getting to know your fellow kinksters! By being a greeter or part of the clean up or set up crew, you will have a task to keep your introverted mind distracted and you find yourself getting to meet people in a very natural and organic manner.
Once you start to have some connections with your fellow kinksters, maintain them online to help them grow. I don’t suggest doing this by PM, as not everyone is receptive to maintaining conversations via their inbox with people that they don`t know very well. Instead, become active in online local discussion groups. It gives people a chance to get to know you better and allows stronger social connections to form. Eventually, you will have people in the community that you know well enough that the scary beast of socializing will seem much reduced. Now get out there and have the fun that you deserve!