3 simple tips to alleviate anxiety-related symptoms at bars + restaurants
He ordered a round of tequila shots as he rambled on about the current state of Orthopedics. He had a thick English accent, wild dark hair, crooked teeth (despite proudly proclaiming he lacked the ‘characteristic English jibs’ on his online dating profile). And still, he was rather handsome. This was our first date. He was a bit of a mumbler, so I leaned in closer, trying to catch each word that fell between his lips and bites of chicken satay.
The house music was loud. Like stupid loud. I’ve always struggled with sensory overload. Loud noises, bright lights - no, thank you. I could feel my face flushing and heart pounding. This was my first date post-5 year relationship breakup. I was so ready meet men, do the dating thing, and at the same time I could feel my nerves nudging me to pull the ‘chute and escape like D.B. Cooper.
If you’re anything like me, and here’s to hoping you’re not, over stimulation can cause me to have overwhelming feelings which can easily trigger a panic attack. Anxiety attacks are nothing new for me - I've been a crusader in this battle since I was a fetus. I like to think that if I were born earlier, I'd be one of the great over-thinking philosophers of the world. With that said, I decided that instead of fleeing the scene (which is what my mind was urging me to do) and ruining a perfectly good evening, I'd implement my 'save the day,' tried and true technique for coping with anxiety in a bar, restaurant or crowded space. Here's how it works:
Excuse Yourself ...
Deadbolt the bathroom door like Jack Nicholson's wife in The Shining. All work + no play makes Jack an anxious boy.
Crank the cold water on until it runs frigid. Like Jack + Rose frigid.
Grab a paper towel + soak it under the running water. That little square will be as valuable as liquid gold in about a second.
Squeeze out the excess liquid + soothe your flushed skin by focusing on:
Back of neck, ears, chest + lips (for ladies - dab on lips, you don't want to look like the Joker when you emerge from the restroom)
Hold your breath + pull your arms into your chest for a big hug. Ah, that feels nice.
Take a huge breath circling your arms down, to the sides then up over your head (people in other stalls may be curious why your arms keep creeping above the stall line - pay them no mind, this is you-time).
Stretch your body from your arms through your toes (lift up onto the balls of your feet). Fill your entire body with calming breaths. Fully exhale, relaxing your body. Repeat as many times as necessary until your body feels limp.
This is a good time to look in the mirror, admire yourself for being a beautiful, strong, badass. You stayed through the date rather than escaping from the guy you’d only end up going out with 3 more times before realizing he still isn't over his ex. You beat your brain this time. Though a small step, this is an invaluable one because the more you stick around when you want to escape an uncomfortable situation, the more your mind will build up evidence that nothing bad will happen to you if you stay. Priceless.
Oh right! The mantra. Look in the mirror + say “You’ve (inhale) Got (exhale) This (inhale).” Repeat it slowly.
Time to get back out there, champ. You don’t want the poor guy to think you were pooping in there. And if you were, no worries - there’s an article for that, too.