Meeting new people can be quite intolerable for a person with a mental illness. A lot of factors play a role in the experience. Self-esteem, past experiences, sensory sensitivity, too many to really list here in this brief introduction. However, a commentor mentioned that she struggles with this and that being put in a new job months ago, this is something that she was faced with. So I thought that since this is something that most of us face to some degree now and again it might be a good topic to discuss.
First, knowing your limitations can be quite freeing and being nervous is OK! So take a deep breath and know you are not alone.
Second, do not compare yourself to others around you. If you catch yourself feeling like your work mates get-a-long better with each other than they do you, that is your cue to start talking yourself back down to base-line.
Third, it is OK to stand out as different! Be yourself. I know it sounds like a cliche after-school special, but it really is true in life. Acceptance is key. Acceptance of who you are and where you are in life will shine through to anyone new that you meet. Strength, comfort and belief in yourself is contagious!
Some practical suggestions and ideas...
Get plenty of sleep the night before a new job or an event that you know you will be meeting new people. Especially the night before you will be meeting many new people the next day. Go easy on the caffeine. Try listening to easy music or something soothing on your way to the event. Use mindfulness breathing in the car before you go in.
Stay focused on what your body is telling you. If you feel you are rising off of baseline too fast, take a discreet bathroom break and begin again with your breathing. Do this as often as you need to get through the event.
If you are going somewhere that they are serving alcohol, either pass completely or make an agreement with yourself before-hand as to what your limit is. This way it will be easier to know when you are at your limit, without an embarrassing experience.
I know that some of these suggestions maybe harder to obtain, but practicing them will help tremendously. If you are already in a habit of using a mindfulness exercise to start each day, then chances are using one before entering a situation where you will meet new people, is more likely to work.
If you haven't really worked on mindfulness much, likely trying it before a new job will be less effective. So practice, practice and practice more.
Brush up on the skills that you feel like you have down pat, then add new ones. Search yourself, and be honest with yourself, is it working? Are there other skills that work better....
and then use what works! Be creative too, just because it hasn't been written in a book, if it is something that soothes you, and it doesn't undo your progress, or cause ineffective outcomes, then use it.
Let us hear your ideas too!
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