By Racheal Chapman
Have you ever stood somewhere and felt so out of place that, had you have not NEEDED to be there, you could have ran? Ran as far away as you could possibly get.
The first time round (during my primary school years at least) the school playground was full of fun, laughter, games of tennis ball footy, tag, french elastic and hopscotch.
And the second time round as a teacher, well the playground was full of school-bell ringing, conflict resolution, and watching children go wild on windy days. But the third time round as a mother, the school playground was a strange old place. When you struggle with anxiety, a large open space full of what seems like ready made groups of friends can be a daunting place. Life couldn't seem better for these joyous groups of mothers. But for me, I just felt sick.
Sometimes I'd stand and stare intensely at my phone. Other times I'd be in deep conversation with my littlest one trying hard not to make eye contact with anyone. Then there'd be the times I'd stand there with my hands so deeply rooted in my pockets, willing that feeling in the pit of my stomach to just 'do one'. ~ For you, that place may not be the playground. It may be the workplace, a family dinner, a social gathering, the shopping centre. Or any public place FULL STOP.
Wherever that place is, here is some practical advice for surviving the anxiety surrounding that situation... * Breathe * Use your senses to ground you: list 3 sounds, 3 smells, 3 things you can hear * Focus on why you are there (not what you dislike about being there) * If you’re feeling brave - step out of your comfort zone and speak to someone, even if just a smile and friendly ‘hello’.
After all, you don’t know who else may be feeling anxious at that moment in time too. And your smile might just be the one thing that stops the ground from swallowing them up...