Tag Archives: socialising

3 ways to beat Social Anxiety

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Rewind to be beginning of the year.  Remember when you told yourself that you would get out and meet new people?  Then the excuses started. You are busy at work, you are short of cash…the list goes on.  Deep down we know you are nervous, if not terrified. Social Anxiety can cripple any thoughts of socialising – and it is important you learn to manage it if you want a fulfilling life. 

You may have liked and shared social anxiety memes.  You know the ones which glorify our excitement about cancelled plans.  Whilst it is great to talk about mental health openly – and acknowledge the fact you have social anxiety – it is a form of anxiety which should be mastered.  Before you hurl abuse at me through the screen. Know this. I used to suffer crippling social anxiety.

Social Anxiety and Shyness are not the same thing.

You would not believe me.  I was quiet and introverted at school, yet I had a small group of friends who shared my imagination and interest in the natural world. I was shy when I first met people.  Yet this was somehow deemed as a fault and I was pushed into a drama group in order try and give me more confidence. Because there is nothing like being stood on stage in front of the whole school to cure shyness and introversion.  What I did learn is how to fake extraversion I suddenly started to care how others saw me. It was the start of my relationship with anxiety.

So, on entering a room, I was the one who talked a million miles an hour, would make others laugh with my self-deprecating humour and dressed to kill.  Yet – if you looked closely – you could recognise how anxious I was. I was often late. I wouldn’t be listening, instead over-analysing what I had just said.  If anything went wrong – it was met with diva-like tendencies.

So trust me in the advice that follows.

You cannot hide behind a screen.

Like many people –  your current friendship group have been with you since university. Back then, making friends  involved drunken declarations of affection in bathroom of a cheap club.  

As we grow older, our life choices means that we grow apart from our friends.

Maybe they are married with children, whilst you moved to another part of the country with your career.  

Maybe you are more content watching a play, than partying to the small hours.

Social media is great for connecting with like-minded individuals. But nothing beats spending quality time with friends and loved ones. Research suggests that forming strong social bonds is essential to good mental health.

So you have to get out there and *gasp* actually meet people.

As you consider the prospect of meeting new people, a million questions run through your mind.

Will anyone talk to me. What if they don’t like me? I really don’t want to walk into a room full of strangers and have everyone stare at me.

Soon all your worst nightmares are dancing through your mind and you find a reason not to attend the event you had been looking forward to.  Maybe next week?

Stop.  I have been there, I have made the excuses but then paid the price.  

I do understand.  Anxiety is an absolute nightmare.  But it can be overcome following these baby steps.

#1 Take a breath

When your body experiences anxiety, many changes can take place. The physical symptoms of anxiety include increased heart rate, pounding chest, dizziness and muscle tension. Learning to take a minute and slow down your breath can help you take back control of your body. There are several breathing techniques that can help to relax and calm the body.  When going to a social gathering, simply take a seat, get comfortable and take the biggest breath you’ve taken all day and hold it in for four seconds. Then exhale slowly, pushing out as much air as possible. Take another deep breath filling the stomach with air and continue until you feel your breath slowing down to its normal rate. Then, just focus on your next step.  Whether it is putting your coat away or seeking out the host. A word of warning, whilst it is natural to want to reach for a glass of wine to help with your nerves, this is not always helpful and can actually make you feel worse. Always drink responsibly.

#2 Don’t focus on yourself

It’s hard to stop the anxiety demons chattering when you’re in social situations. We often focus on ourselves and how others will perceive us, almost always assuming it will be negative. The thought that everyone will be looking at you when you walk into a room and judging you in one way or another. This isn’t the case. Stop focusing on yourself and what other people are thinking of you. Focus on other people, try to be present and make genuine connections.

Anxiety isn’t as visible as you may think. Chances are that there are others feeling the same way. Even if someone notices you’re a little nervous, they’re not thinking of you negatively. No-one is perfect. We all suffer embarrassment at some point.

In a small study where three job candidates were being evaluated for the same position, they chose the interviewee with great scores who spilt coffee all over himself. Instead of choosing a perfect candidate they chose someone who made a small blunder. Their reasoning was that he seemed far more approachable!!

So remember.  99.9% of the people you meet are nice and would not write you off if you are nervous. Instead focus your attention on the person you are talking to and ask them open questions about themselves.  It takes the pressure off yourself and has the added bonus of making the other person feel great about themselves too!

#3 Seek out social situations.

Yes, you heard me. Making a conscious effort to be more social is how you actually overcome social anxiety. Little by little,  the anxiety starts to fade.  Soon it is replaced by genuine -and enviable – confidence.   Actively look for supportive social environments that can help you overcome your fears.  Perhaps start by looking at groups who offer events that appeal to your interests. You’ll also be engaging with people who have similar interests so you’ll know at least one thing you can talk about and will have in common.  If you are nervous about your ability to hold a conversation, then there are plenty of courses where you can work on your communication skills and build rewarding relationships slowly.

It can help to attend an event  or gathering with a friend, or even just let the host or organiser know how you are feeling.  I remember confessing my nerves to a host in advance of a Social Circle event. She was so kind and offered to meet me outside.   Of course, by that point I already felt I knew someone – which gave me a much-needed boost of confidence.  

Be kind to yourself

Social anxiety can have a massive negative effect on numerous areas of your life. From family life to education as well as work and close relationships. It can be helpful to list different situations from low anxiety to full panic attack.  Choose events that are in your comfort zone, perhaps that have minimal interaction like going to the cinema and then progress gradually from there. 

Overcoming social anxiety is a long journey and it takes time so be kind and patient with yourself.  On days where your anxiety is high, do not be tempted to overlook the progress you have made.  

Is your social anxiety is constantly interfering with your daily life? Then don’t hesitate to seek professional help in whatever form you feel comfortable looking for. There are great ways to help overcome your social anxiety including Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Hypnotherapy. 

Although it seems like an impossible obstacle, it’s so worth overcoming so you can live your life to the fullest.

3 Brilliant Ways to Meet New People.

Ready to Mingle? Find out the best ways to meet new people.

Ready to Mingle? Find out the best ways to meet new people.

 

I think most people know that expanding your social circle is key to finding fulfilling friendships and romantic relationships.  As a social guy, I am often asked for advice on how to meet new people. Of course, Social Circle was founded on the principle of bringing like-minded people together.  However, over the years I have learned that certain events make it even easier for people to get chatting and make new friends. So here are my top 3 activities to meet new people and make friends.

#1 Go for a Walk.

Walking is one of my favourite activities.  Whether it be a leisurely stroll around local woods or something more challenging, walking has several benefits.

  • it gets you out of the office and moving which contributes to your health and wellbeing.  
  • Fresh air and great views are great for mental health.
  • You can talk to other walkers at the same time!

There are loads of MeetUps and similar groups that focus on walking, although our members tell us they prefer the way we do things rather than going it alone in a crowd.  However, the fact is however you you do it, it gives you time to chat to other people and exchange details. This makes it a winning activity for meeting new people.

#2 Find your Foodie Heaven.

Lets face it, we are a nation of food lovers.

If you fancy yourself as a bit of a food snob then it is easy to find kindred spirits in Manchester.  Firstly, have you tried signing up to group cooking lessons?  It is a perfect way to meet people who are also refining their skills.  Foodie events like food tours of Manchester and taster evenings also give you a chance to mingle with other food lovers.  Finally, look for events at your favourite restaurants  – what better way to get to know people than sharing a meal?

Plus you can check for any disgusting habits before you take someone on a date.  Sloppy habits can be dealbreakers for some you know!

#3 Mingle All the Way.

If you are looking to meet new people then take the bull by the horns and get out there.  There is literally zero chance of you meeting new people if you are sat at home.

Maybe you can initiate a conversation with a random in a bar, but if that makes you nervous, then why not meet up with others as part of an organised night out?  

Just a reminder – meet and mingle parties are not all about dating – they can be a great way to let your hair down and meet new people in Manchester.  So if you are keen to expand your social circle then why not look for a few mingle events in the area? Maybe you will be lucky enough to join in the fun at one of Manchester’s hottest venues, totally free of charge (hint, hint)   If you have never been to a meet and mingle event – then we tell you what to expect here.

Of course, rather than searching for various events, you could just join us and chose from 100s of fun events each and every month. 

How a Digital Detox let me connect with Loved Ones.

We rely on our phones for so much. But is it time you took a digital detox?

We rely on our phones for so much. But is it time you took a digital detox?

Have you ever felt so tired and cranky that you are just completely joyless?  I used to think it was the time of year or that business was getting on top of me. It was only when I read more about the effects of being glued to my phone did I realise that I really needed to switch off from the world and take a digital detox.   I found it was the best way to reconnect with my loved ones, and myself.

Believe me it was a tough call.

After all I run a business and need to be able to answer emails and calls from members.  My business is based on connecting people after all.

But I found myself scrolling through my emails instead of watching my favourite TV programme.

I found myself checking my phone, even briefly, whilst at dinner with friends and family which annoyed them intensely.

That all too familiar feeling of guilt and annoyance when the messenger bubble pops up.  ‘Can’t you all just leave me alone’ I wonder.

A quick scroll through social media late at night when I couldn’t sleep doesn’t seem too bad, yet I kept waking up cranky and not looking forward to my day.

Sound familiar?

I was shocked to find that smartphone addiction is a thing. We rely on our smartphones for everything, from paying bills to connecting with family and even booking social circle events.  I know people who liken misplacing their phone to losing a limb.

Yet, if we are not careful we can find ourselves hunched over our screens, taking in all the drama of other people’s lives and disconnecting from our own. It is damaging to our relationships and our emotional and physical health.

So I took action.

I vowed to take a digital detox.

Ironically, I used my phone to book a holiday for me and Louise to Malaga. 

Me and Louise relaxing away from our phones!

Me and Louise relaxing away from our phones!

I delegated any Social Circle stuff to Cathy and my team of amazing hosts.  I confess at times I did cave in and I did send a few emails only to get told forcibly ‘ thought you were on holiday’.

Whilst it was hard not reaching for my phone, after 24 hours I felt less stressed and got the best nights sleep in a long time.  I found myself looking up as I explored the old towns with my wife, hand in hand. We got some good quality time together and found ourselves laughing and talking over our evening meals rather than looking at our phones. 

It is the best thing I have done in a long time.

If you needed convincing as to why a digital detox may be good for you, then read this article for inspiration.

In the meantime, I have had some ideas of my own as to how I can maintain this sense of calm and not let my phone rule my life.

Switch off notifications.

Your phone constantly pinging causes you to reach for it constantly.  We touch our phones a minimum of 80 times per day. Half of the notifications are not even important and cause you to lose focus.  Change your phone settings so you only get notifications from certain apps.

Switch off an hour before bed.

The blue light in phones and laptops can have a disruptive effect on our brains, interfering with our sleep patterns.  Further, energy and happiness can be quickly zapped by getting yourself embroiled in social media drama meaning the last thing we think about before we hit the sack is Julies latest brawl with the in-laws or Pete’s political standpoints.  

Use your phones flight or do not disturb mode so no one calls. Leave it in another room and buy an old fashioned alarm clock.  If you must have your phone near you at least use ‘night mode’.

Have a phone free day a week.

Easier said than done but if you have a day off from your laptop and phone then you will really feel that you are getting a break. You will boost memory, creativity and concentration for switching off so put your emails on auto respond and peel yourself away from facebook.

Imagine what you can do with all that free time?  Perhaps read a book, have a lie in or connect with nature by going walking or cycling.  

Put your phone on flight mode when you are with friends.

The saddest thing I saw recently was a family at a restaurant all glued to their phones. There is no excuse really. You only need one photo (if any) of your food and when everyone has arrived then put your phone onto flight mode and put it away.

 If you are attending one of our events, then vow to put your phone onto flight mode and put it away so you can connect with like-minded people through good old fashioned conversation.

So no excuses. Switch off when you can so you can connect with those around you.

Too Fat to Fit in? Why size shouldn’t stop you socialising.

When it comes to Socialising, some us feel too fat to fit in. It need not be that way.

When it comes to Socialising, some us feel too fat to fit in. It need not be that way.

Slimming World has recently come under fire for suggesting you should drop your fat friends if you want to lose weight. Well Thanks. What if you ARE the fat friend?  Are we are too fat to fit in?    The reality is that those of us carrying excess weight  are already put off  socialising and exercising out of fear of judgement and ridicule.   Yet it need not be that way. 

Having dropped 5 dress sizes (60lbs) and kept it off, I can confidently say that size has no influence on my friendships or social life.  At all.

Even today, my fellow social circle members have said how they want to introduce close friends to our events, but their friends put joining us to meet new people as ‘they had put on a few pounds.’

Its not a surprise that if we are reluctant to socialise given the daily fat-shaming we get from the media.

I was the same.

I used to proudly show my before and after pictures until one of my friends stopped me in my tracks. She called me out for body shaming myself.   I remember her words clearly:

“That girl was and is a friend of mine. I thought she was funny, brilliant and beautiful.”

Damn.  That hit home.

My size did not matter to my friends at all.

Some of my best friends are overweight. It does not detract from how I feel about them as friends, or the relationship we have.  In fact, my fat friends are often the ones who have been cheerleading the fact I am making healthier life choices,  encourage me to get out and socialise or ask the hottie out on a date. (“what have you got to lose?!)

Our true friends are those that share similar values and support you in this journey called life.  

Size is f**king irrelevant to that principle.

Being fat  does not mean you are a bad person, or any less worthy of love and respect and a life you love.

You are still more than your body and are perfectly entitled to pursue the life, career and relationships that you dream of.  

Love does not happen exclusively to thin people.  People of all sizes are making their dreams happen. Go anywhere and you will see a mix of people enjoying themselves.  

 

 Its true you know, and not dependant on what the scales say.

Its true you know, and not dependant on what the scales say.

I found that as I took steps to enrich my life,  I lost weight naturally.

 Instead of gorging on takeaways when I had a tough week, I went out to a restaurant with friends. Eating food with friends means you take longer and can share dessert.  I made healthier choices when deciding what to eat too. 

My trigger was emotional eating and I felt the need to reward myself with food.  I replaced comfort food with treats such as theatre tickets or would take myself to a movie.  Of course, I made space to reach out to new friends for coffee, as well as taking time to pursue other hobbies such as writing and blogging. 

I started going on walks and to classes with friends so I could increase my physical activity without feeling like the only fat person at the gym. You are never the only one at the gym who has to lose weight but I appreciate its nerve wracking.

You know what happened when I tried those things as a size 20?  

I had fun.  I felt great.  I made friends.

No one laughed at me.  No one shamed me for my size.  

Of course they didn’t.

 Because to mock my body size would be an extraordinarily sh*tty thing to do.  

There is a sliver of truth in the slimming world research though.

To keep the weight off you have to keep away from toxic habits and people who keep you in the mindset that would let you believe you are not worthy of a happy healthy life.

When I realised that;  I slammed the door in a few peoples faces, and cancelled my slimming world membership.

So, don’t put off what you want to do because you are packing a few pounds.   

You can decide to be accepting of where you are at the moment and pursue your a life you love. Right now.

If  you don’t, you may be missing out on spending people who love you for exactly who you are.

 

 

Want to meet new people in Manchester? I did and my life changed for the better.

 

Social Circle celebrated 10 years of introducing friends in 2017.

Over 10 years ago, I found myself alone in Manchester after my life and marriage fell apart. I took the first job I could.  I was a divorced 30-something father-of-two in a strange city with no friends locally. I missed company on a weekend. I realised that had to change and I needed to get out there and meet new people. 

My days of picking up strangers in a club were long behind me. I wanted something meaningful.  Something real that happened naturally. Even today, the large majority of people find their significant others through friends. I decided my social life needed a boost.

I told myself that whatever was meant for me, whether it be love or friendship, would not pass me by.

I set up dating profiles on every website going.   I even downloaded those apps and got swiping. But what could I bring to the table?  All work and no play made for awkward and dull conversations and my profile was like every other out there.  I got tired quickly of it all. I am a romantic at heart and believe that a good relationship starts naturally, without pressure, between friends sharing mutual interests.  

So I joined existing social groups. But  they were lacking in so many ways.  I could not find a group that suited my needs as a thirty-something.  It was either boozy nights out for students, gentle health walks for silver-haired retirees or clubs for semi-pro runners.  Come Friday, after a busy week at work, I just wanted fun on my doorstep with people who had similar interests to me. I did not want to be stuck to doing one thing on one night. I wanted my social calendar to work around me.

There had to be more people like me? Right?  Surely other singles were looking to meet new people?

Fortunately my hunch was correct.  Before long I had found other funny, genuine and smart men and women who had also experienced a major life change and wanted to meet new people – but didn’t know where to start.

 A pint at the Slug and Lettuce  turned into hiking adventures, meals out at restaurants and evenings at local comedy clubs.  I found there was always a new friend willing to join me at the cinema or share a laugh at the Frog and Bucket. As my social circle grew, so did my confidence. I found I wanted to try more events as my new friends introduced me to their friends.

It turned out I was doing everyone a favour by starting Social Circle.

 We all want to try something new, but we are often time-poor or exhausted from work (or both!) to organise anything ourselves.  Word soon got around that you could just book an event and turn up. I went from Billy-no-mates to always being the centre of attention at parties. I always had offers of dates.   After all, I seemed like a fun and interesting guy who found it easy to meet new friends!

Soon I had built an action packed calendar with events taking place at top Manchester Venues every night of the week and lots of new people joining us.  People, just like me and you. Soon I had to recruit a team of  hosts to make sure each event ran smoothly and that everyone got a warm welcome.  Of course, all our hosts are also members so know exactly what it is like to be a nervous newbie.

Yet, I am proud to say that after all this time, I am still close friends with the people who took a chance on having a drink with a stranger on a Friday night.

In fact it was one of my Social Circle friends,  who suggested that I organise a weekend away for Social Circle to Barcelona.   It just so happened that a new member Louise, decided that she would book the trip.  It was love at first sight and 2012 she became my wife.

Steve and Louise on their Wedding Day. A Social Circle Success Story!

Who knew that within years after turning up to my first event, that I would have a thriving business,  great friends and have met the love of my life?

So take a chance and step out there.  You never know where it may lead.