First dates, work lunches or formal dinner parties – if you’re nervous eating in front of others then you might endure these situations with discomfort and stress. Don’t let the fear of eating around people cause you to avoid being social. Here’s four tips to help ease your eating-out anxiety.
Know What Triggers You
One of the best tools for managing anxiety is understanding its source. People have many reasons for feeling nervous about eating in public, take time to learn what triggers your fear. Some people dislike the formality of dining in a restaurant, while others fear crowds or eating in front of authority figures. For some, it’s the fear of spilling their food or looking unattractive while they eat. Whichever your reason, take time to learn what it is you’re afraid of so you can better understand how to conquer it.
Switch Your Focus
It’s easy to feel nervous about the way you’re eating when it’s all you can focus on. Try turning your attention to something other than the thought of spilling your food. Focus on the conversation at hand and forming deliberate responses. Or, if being social heightens your anxiety – focus on the food itself. Concentrate on the flavour and texture of your meal and turn your attention away from the actual act of eating it.
Practice with Friends
Start with one or two people that you’re most comfortable with, and make a point to practice eating in public together. In a comfortable situation like this, try being messy or spilling your food on purpose. Forcing yourself to confront your fear in a safe setting will help you realize that a meal time mishap is nothing to be afraid of, and will ease your anxiety the next time your dining in public.
Take a Step Back
If your anxiety is getting the best of you while eating around others, put down the fork and take a break. Try visiting the restroom to regroup. While away from the table, experts suggest practicing positive affirmations to refocus your thoughts; remind yourself that there’s nothing to fear while eating in public.