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How To Stop Anxiety From Ruining Your Friendships


There’s a wealth of information about how anxiety impacts your health—mentally, emotionally, and physically. But have you ever considered how your anxiety is impacting your friendships? 

Anxiety can cause you to feel panicky, overwhelmed, uneasy, and tense when there’s no need for you to be. And your friendships are a vital element in maintaining your mental health. We need to talk to our friends and listen when our friends want to talk to us. They can keep us grounded and help us put things into perspective. A solid friendship is a foundation for coping with life’s problems.

Here are a few ways you can stop anxiety from ruining your friendships:

Attend to your needs, not your fears. It’s only normal to avoid the things that make you anxious. But in the long run, avoiding certain situations can make anxiety worse. The more you practice exposing yourself to the situations you fear, the more comfortable you get managing them. You don’t have to face all of your biggest fears at once, either. Experiment with social failure and awkward situations. 

Start as small as possible and gradually work up to the bigger ones. For example, if your friend wants to go to a party, but you aren’t too keen on going, agree to go for 30 minutes, or whatever you feel comfortable committing to. If you clam up when meeting new people while you’re there, start small by trying the following:

  • make eye contact with someone you don’t know
  • smile at a stranger 
  • introduce yourself to a new person 
  • give someone a compliment

Reframe your thoughts. Another great coping strategy for social and other forms of anxiety is to reframe your understanding of your stressors. Start paying attention to how your body responds to specific stressors. When you do, you’ll ultimately feel less stress in uncomfortable social situations. 

Research has shown that a helpful tool in coping with worries and negative thoughts is using the “yes, but” technique, where you challenge negative thoughts and counteract them with a positive, helpful affirmation. 

For example, in a social anxiety scenario, you may think: “Yes, I’ll be attending a party packed with people that I don’t know. But, I’m also a funny, interesting individual with lots of things to talk about, so I’ll ultimately find something to share with other people.”

Specialists suggest turning the table on the negative thoughts completely; people should counter their fear with not just one but a few positive, affirming thoughts.

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Take a second to pause before reacting. Rather than reacting impulsively, let yourself calm down and take some time to work out a reasonable plan. 

Avoid unhealthy coping strategies. The emotional and mental states associated with anxiety can leave you feeling worse than you did before. So when you find yourself in an unavoidable social situation-like a friend’s birthday party, many people try to cope with anxiety through negative coping strategies, like drinking. While the first 1-2 drinks may seem like the best antidote against compulsive worry, drinking too much will ultimately make your anxiety worse.

In fact, approximately 20% of individuals with social anxiety also have alcohol use disorder. 

So when it comes to keeping your anxiety at bay and avoiding a potential worsening of symptoms, avoid drinking excessively, even if the initial feeling of relaxation that alcohol can provide seems attractive.

Don’t make assumptions. People with anxiety tend to have trouble making friends and assume the friendships they have aren’t quantity.The problem with this perception, according to research, is that their friends don’t necessarily agree.The study found that people with anxiety often overestimate how bad their friendships are compared to what their friends have to say.

Agree to disagree with your negative thoughts. One of the first lines of defense is to immediately put up an automatic wall of negative thoughts like ‘They’re going to think ‘I’m stupid’ or, ‘I’m going to make a fool out of myself’ when it comes to people with anxiety. One way to press through these thoughts is by practicing agreeing to disagree with these initial responses. This is known as curiosity training

How to keep negative thoughts at bay: when completely silencing negative thoughts isn’t working as planned, try the following strategy not to get too caught up in them.

  • Acknowledge the negative thoughts for what they are. Thoughts, not facts. 
  • Don’t judge your thoughts or be hard on yourself for having them.
  • Allow them to exist by maintaining a neutral response to them-‘I may be having this thought, but that doesn’t mean it’s my reality’ or ‘I agree to disagree, anxiety.’ The thoughts will ultimately shift into the background.
  • If you choose, you can imagine a positive outcome or scenario in response to the thoughts. But don’t be hard on yourself if this is challenging to do.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Use your sense of humor to overcome anxiety. Remember to laugh and enjoy the time you have with your friends. Joy can physically heal and comfort your mind in ways that are vital for a healthy friendship.

Don’t forget about self-care. Self-care is essential for everyone, but especially if you have anxiety. Remember to be kind to yourself, know your limits, and don’t push yourself past your emotional breaking point. Get adequate sleep and eat healthy meals. The more loving you are towards yourself, the more you invite others to follow suit.

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Take this quick quiz to find out whether your overthinking habit is holding you back from getting the success you know you deserve.


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Take this quick quiz to find out whether your overthinking habit is holding you back from getting the success (you know) you deserve.