Prom season is upon us and so I wanted to give some advice to the teenagers out there who are suffering from social anxiety like I did. I attended my prom with an anxious belly, but I’m glad that I went!
Here are some tips to cope with prom when you have social anxiety:
This is a great tool for surviving big group events when you have social anxiety. It can be overwhelming to be stuck in a room with loud music, many bodies, and forced interactions. Therefore, you need to escape every now and then.
(This is also a great tool for introverts to avoid social exhaustion!)
The bathroom is usually a quieter space than the main hall. So, at prom, every now and then excuse yourself to go to the bathroom. Don’t care if your friends think you have a bladder problem! Just say it’s because you’re drinking too much. Then, take your time in there, and do some breathing techniques that I’ll explain later in this post.
A friend to help
It’s important to have at least one friend who knows about your social anxiety at prom or who you can at least confide in when you’re feeling uncomfortable. This friend could be your salvation during this hectic time.
This friend should be someone you trust not to leave you stranded, not to dismiss your feelings, and someone who has a plan of action to help you in moments of panic.
My friend Allie helped me at prom by talking through things with me, going to the bathroom with me, or stepping outside for some fresh air when needed.
(This can also be a teacher).
An anchor mantra & action
Another tool is to have a mantra (saying, expression, phrase, or word) that feels good and calming for you. Or one that puts things into perspective for you.
Your mantra for anxiety could be:
- “I am in control here and I want to be here.”
- “I am having fun and my anxiety is not going to stop me.”
- “I am safe, I am happy, I can do this.”
Something easy to repeat and something that you believe (even a little).
Another thing that can help is to have an action, movement, or something that you can do to anchor yourself into the present moment and which helps you to regain control and say your mantra.
This could be like touching the back of your neck with two fingers and tapping in a rhythm. Be aware of this touch, this action, and allow it to anchor you and show who’s in control. Then, say your mantra and do the breathwork below.
(This can be done discreetly at your table, on the dancefloor, outside, or in the bathroom).
Breathing is key for any anxiety relief. Of course, it doesn’t fix things forever, but it helps us to calm down in the moment and then move forward.
There are many breathing techniques to choose from (it’s about finding what works for you) but here are some to try:
- Square technique: (aka Box Breathing) Exhale slowly for the count of four. Inhale slowly through the nose for the count of four. Hold gently for the count of four. And then exhale slowly for the count of four. Imagine you are shaping a square in doing so.
- 7-4-8: Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- 3 Deep Breaths: Take 3 deep breaths (eyes closed works wonders) then bring yourself back into the present moment.
- Mindful Breathing: Focus on the travelling of the breath inside you, how it changes the shape of your body, and how it fills your lungs.
Remember why you’re there
Knowing our whys helps us to do things even when they’re scary. Anxiety has a way of making even small tasks very frightening, but knowing why we’re doing it, helps us to push past it.
Why are you at prom? Find a strong reason why and repeat it to yourself in anxious moments.
To celebrate the end of school with my friends.
To enjoy an important rite of passage in my life.
To have an excuse to wear an amazing dress or suit.
Refocus and Distract
With social anxiety, it’s important to not feed it. Once it comes, it demands our attention, but we can’t give it that attention. Instead, recognise that it has come and thank it for the warning and then distract yourself.
Dance. Chat. Sing. Take photos. Say your mantra. Do the breathwork. Play games. Run outside.
Do whatever distracts you from the anxiety. Focus your attention elsewhere. Be present where you are, and the anxiety will have less power over you.
A good tool is to do the 5 Senses technique. Take a moment to describe your situation with all 5 senses.
What can you see? Hear? Smell? Taste? Feel?
List them in your mind and really immerse yourself in them. This is mindfulness, present-ness, and awareness. This is relaxation, refocusing, and anxiety does not dwell here.
Good luck and happy Prom!
If you need any help in bettering your mental health, or better coping with anxiety, depression, and stress, then my book “You’re As Mad As I Am” may be for you. Check it out here, and download a free sample to see what it’s all about.
If you want to hire me to write about mental health (or other), then don’t hesitate to get in touch!