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How to Manage Your Social Anxiety During Summer Pool Parties

A group of four young friends are having a pool party. They are all jumping in the pool together at the same time. There are two floaties in the pool.

How to Manage Your Social Anxiety During Summer Pool Parties

A group of four young friends are having a pool party. They are all jumping in the pool together at the same time. There are two floaties in the pool.

Summer pool parties can be a source of great fun and relaxation, but for those with social anxiety, they can also be a significant source of stress. The impending summer season of pool parties and BBQs is something that comes up a lot at the time of year in our Woodland Hills social anxiety therapy sessions. The combination of social interactions, public settings, and often minimal clothing can amplify feelings of self-consciousness and fear. However, with the right strategies, you can manage your social anxiety and enjoy these events.

Understanding Social Anxiety During Summer

Social anxiety is characterized by an intense fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation. During summer, this can be exacerbated by the pressure to attend social gatherings like pool parties, where you might feel exposed and scrutinized. Common triggers at these events include:

  • Body Image Concerns: Wearing swimsuits can make individuals feel vulnerable and self-conscious about their bodies.
  • Social Interactions: The need to engage in conversations and social activities can be overwhelming for those who fear negative judgment.
  • Unstructured Environment: The casual and often unpredictable nature of pool parties can heighten anxiety due to the lack of control over the situation.

3 Ways to Manage Your Social Anxiety During Summer Pool Parties

A young woman is shopping by the beach. She is wearing sunglasses as she looks at an orange swimsuit.

1) Prepare in Advance:
Preparation can significantly reduce anxiety. Plan your outfit in advance, choosing something that makes you feel comfortable and confident. If you’re particularly anxious about your appearance, consider trying on different swimsuits beforehand to find one that you feel good in. Talk to yourself kindly about your body. That may sound like an impossible task, and at the moment when you are trying things on, it may be the furthest thing from your mind. If you haven’t pulled out your summer wear yet this season, you may be trying things on for the first time in almost a year. Your body may have changed in that time; bodies change. It is the job of your clothing to fit your body, not the other way around. This can sometimes present financial challenges when you have to replace an item. It can also be emotional if your favorite something no longer works for you. Give yourself space to validate the disappointment you might feel as you recognize that your body has different needs than your current wardrobe.

Body acceptance is an ongoing job. Depending on the day you’re having, it might feel easier or harder. Plan for both scenarios; assume you’ll want to go in the pool and assume you’ll want to socialize outside of it instead. How will you be comfortable with both? How can you set yourself up to do what feels right for you at that moment? Most likely, this will mean finding a swimsuit that you feel at least okay in and also making sure you have enough layers and sun protection to be out of the pool chatting, eating, and hydrating.

Imagine for yourself the kind of world you want a young person in your life to grow up in. You may have grown up in a world where body criticism was high. Everywhere you looked, you might have seen airbrushed and retouched images, a very narrow scope of body types, and the message that this was the only body worthy of having. Who did you see who looked like you or like someone you loved? Where did you see cellulite, stretch marks, blemishes, body hair, and diversity of body color, shape and size? Can you be that person for someone? Sometimes in life, all it takes is one person. One example is one leader. While preparing your own strategies for body acceptance, remember that not everyone will do the same. Make a plan for how you will feel about diet and body talk; it can be triggering and pervasive, especially in a scenario where people are wearing less clothing than usual.

If you worry about what to talk about, think of some ideas and why you’d like to share them. Social gatherings where you don’t know everyone can be tricky that way. If you share a passion and aren’t met with enthusiasm, that can feel bad. If you stick to the surface-level conversation (low-stakes chatter), you can worry about being “boring.” Prepare not only something you might feel comfortable and happy to talk about but also ways in which you can change the subject or decline to answer questions that you don’t feel comfortable with. “I’m not familiar enough with that topic to make a judgment about it” or “I’d prefer not to speculate” are both options for when someone is taking you into a conversation that you don’t feel equipped to handle.

Last but not least, prepare to leave. Choose a time to leave by at the latest. Choose physical or mental cues that let you know it’s time to go. Recruit your party date to stick to the time or to leave if either of you says the code word. Knowing you can and will leave at any time and truly believing it takes some of the pressure and anxiety away.

2) Set Realistic Expectations:

A group of friends is having a pool party in their backyard. Two of the women are standing around the grill as they talk together. Two men are sitting on the floor on blankets as one of them plays the guitar.

Understand that it’s normal to feel some level of anxiety in social situations, and it’s okay not to be perfect. Set small, achievable goals for yourself, such as initiating a conversation with one person or staying at the party for a set amount of time. As a social anxiety counselor in Woodland Hills, I know how valuable these milestones can be. Whether you attend in-person or online social anxiety therapy, you may want to discuss these goals with your counselor to determine why they are important to you and how you will approach them.

Being realistic about how much you have available to give to a social event is a way of supporting both yourself and others. Nobody’s experience is made better by someone ignoring their instincts and feelings and staying longer than they want to or continuing to talk to someone they aren’t having a good time with. It is not a weakness to consider what is realistic, but rather proactive and a show of kindness for everyone involved.

Speak to yourself about what you are going to do. When we let our imaginations run away with us, whether the ideas are positive or negative, we can become overwhelmed. The facts are that you are going to attend a pool party, there will be people there, and you are going to talk to some people. Some will be more friendly than others. You will have more in common with some than others. As to how far that goes, you won’t know until you’re there.

Be honest with yourself about how long you should really expect yourself to stay. Take into consideration what you have to do the next day and your regular sleep schedule. Also, be sure to check in with yourself mindfully throughout the event. If you are starting to wind down, take note of those cues and recognize that the best and happiest time won’t make a difference if you’re too burnt out to take it in. Everyone has different amounts of social battery; when yours is running out, it’s time to recharge. Consider what kind of effort that takes on your part. Some people recharge faster than others; will you be in bed all day tomorrow? Will you have to decline another event in your calendar because you over-socialized?

If you know that there might be a person (or people) with whom you aren’t the most comfortable, be realistic about the boundaries you need to set to have a good time. In a social situation, we can get caught up in not making a scene or rocking the boat or worry about being vulnerable in the face of unkindness. You have every right to excuse yourself to go to the bathroom if you need to walk away from an interaction. You have every right to confront the issues, too, if that’s what you want. Perhaps you might ask a clarifying question, such as, “Can you please explain what you meant by that?” Often, if someone hasn’t meant any harm, they will immediately reconfigure their words. If they have, they might not have the nerve to be unkind a second time, or in front of other people.
Don’t forget that it is realistic to expect that you enjoy some aspect of the party. Sometimes, we get so caught up in preparing for what could go wrong that we make it harder to see the things that go right. Realistically, whether it’s getting to spend time with a friend, enjoying having a pool to cool down in, or trying new foods or drinks, there will be something about the day that is enjoyable. Prepare to see those things in real-time and acknowledge them.

3) Use Coping Strategies Before, During, and After the Event:

A group of five young friends are swimming together in a pool. They each have drinks in their hands as they laugh together.

Employ strategies that help you manage anxiety in real time. This could include finding a safe space to take a break if you feel overwhelmed or bringing a supportive friend who understands your anxiety and can provide comfort. Set an alarm on your phone with a reminder to check in with yourself if you need a break, even if that break is just a change in location within the party.

Grounding yourself in the moment using your senses can be a good way to calm your nervous system. Taking note of your thoughts and feelings as you move through your life is known as mindfulness. You can connect with your breathing in order to bring you back to your body; you might do this when you feel anxiety coming on to enable you to excuse yourself and then find a quiet place to sit for a bit. Once you are able to sit somewhere where you can be comfortable and take some time, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Thoughts may occur at this time, and that’s normal. Note them and let them go as you pay close attention to your breathing. You can also use your senses to ground yourself – what can you see, smell, feel, hear, and taste? Often, when we experience anxiety, we begin to ruminate about the past or worry about the future. The immediacy of this sensory information reminds you that you are present and helps your mind to come to the present moment, too. Mindfulness is one of the tactics practiced with the patients we see for social anxiety therapy in Woodland Hills.

Recruiting a buddy is a great way to cope during the pool party. Not only will they be able to assist you in staying regulated, but they will also validate your feelings and support you in how you choose to handle them. Choose someone who is going to be able to follow through with a plan, whether that plan is to text one another an SOS if need be, to leave at a certain time, or any other tactic you might come up with. Anxiety around leaving and saying goodbye can be so stressful that you don’t even want to show up in the first place. Having an ally to affirm that it’s time to go (especially if you are met with people questioning why you’re “leaving so early”) is a good plan. It’s always easier to stand together than to stand alone.

If you have had a good rest the night before, consumed enough nutrition, and hydrated enough, you will set yourself up for more success at the party. Skipping meals leading up to a pool party isn’t going to make you feel strong and energized. Planning to do a million things the next day isn’t going to help you refuel. It is far easier to tune in to yourself during the event when you have practiced some good self care in the time leading up to the party. The same goes for how you care for yourself the next day. Take some time to reflect on what you experienced and what you can learn from it. Consider pleasant surprises and new gains made in your confidence, as well as what you might have uncovered about your capabilities in social situations.

In this image there are four friends in a pool throwing a beach ball to each other. Surrounding them in the pool are three floaties, one pineapple, one watermelon, and one popsicle.

Social anxiety can arise at any time, whether you are surrounded by people you know well, or strangers. It can occur at professional functions and completely casual hang-outs. The best way to set yourself up to manage it is to set yourself up to manage anything through self-care habits and consistent behaviors that support your wellness. Be kind to yourself about your expectations and about your boundaries. Remember that this is one event; you are not obligated to attend every pool party for the rest of the summer. Take it as it comes, and allow yourself to experience the positives and negatives that come with it. Don’t forget that there are likely other people who are nervous or anxious about being there as well. No matter how something seems from the outside, it can still be a total mystery. All you can know and control is your own self.

Social Anxiety Therapy in Woodland Hills 

We know social anxiety can flare up during special times of the year, and summer is definitely one of them. With more social invitations and travel plans, you may experience an increase in your social anxiety that is affecting your sleep, mood, concentration, and more. 

In Social Anxiety Therapy, our CBT specialists will be working with you to identify the role of your thoughts in your anxiety and behavior and give you practical coping skills to manage the anxiety better so you live a more fulfilling and confident summer.

Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Admin Team today!

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