Managing Social Anxiety During July 4th Gatherings

Who knows? By focusing on managing social anxiety, you might find yourself becoming the bridge-builder, weaving together diverse threads of the American experience
The Love Central - Managing Social Anxiety During July 4th Gatherings The Love Central - Managing Social Anxiety During July 4th Gatherings
Managing Social Anxiety During July 4th Gatherings
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Fireworks, BBQs, and… panic attacks? For many African immigrants and their descendants, July 4th celebrations can be a minefield of social anxiety. This article will arm you with strategies for managing social anxiety during these patriotic gatherings

July 4th, 1776 marks American independence, but for the African diaspora, it’s complicated. In his 1852 speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”, Frederick Douglass pointedly asked, 

Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?” 

This historical tension still reverberates. A 2021 Gallup poll found that only 63% of non-white Americans feel proud to be American, compared to 72% of white Americans. This undercurrent can amplify social anxiety at patriotic gatherings.

Now, let’s dissect strategies for managing social anxiety with surgical precision:

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At 3 PM an hour before the party practice the 5 4 3 2 1 grounding technique Image source Freepik

1. Pre-party ritual

At 3 PM, an hour before the party, practice the “5-4-3-2-1” grounding technique. Name 5 things you can see (like your Ankara print shirt), 4 things you can touch (your smooth shea butter-moisturized skin), 3 things you can hear (maybe Souti Sol playing in the background), 2 things you can smell (coconut oil in your hair), and 1 thing you can taste (lingering peppermint from your toothpaste). This anchors you in the present, crucial for managing social anxiety.

2. Culinary conversation starter

Bring a dish that’s a fusion of American and African cuisines. How about jollof rice arancini balls? As you set them on the table, casually mention, “These are inspired by my Ghanaian heritage and my love for Italian food. Anyone want to guess the secret ingredient?” Boom! – instant icebreaker.

3. Diaspora detective work

Scan the gathering for potential allies. Look for someone wearing a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt, sporting an afro, or rocking African-inspired jewelry. Approach them with a compliment: “I love your adinkra symbol necklace. Are you familiar with its meaning?” This shared cultural knowledge can ease social anxiety.

4. Micro-breaks for managing anxiety

Every 20 minutes, excuse yourself for a 2-minute breather. Find a quiet spot – maybe behind the big oak tree in the yard. Use this time to do five “power poses.” Stand tall, hands on hips, chin up, for 30 seconds each. Research shows this can actually lower cortisol, the stress hormone.

5. Conversation navigation

If talk turns to the polarizing topic of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, try this redirection: “Speaking of patriotism, have you heard about the ‘Black Eagles’? They were a group of African American pilots who fought in World War II. Their story of service despite facing discrimination at home is fascinating.”

6. You’re in good company

Social anxiety disorder affects about 7.1% of Americans – that’s roughly 23 million people. It’s more common than the entire population of Ghana (31 million). Remember this when your anxiety whispers you’re alone.

7. Afrocentric celebration

Host a small “Pan-African Fourth” party. Decorate with the colors of various African flags. Serve Red Stripe beer (Jamaica), bobotie (South Africa), and apple pie (USA). Play a playlist mixing Fela Kuti, Jazz, and current American hip-hop.

8. Wingman tactics

Bring a friend who understands your social anxiety. Agree on three hand signals: touching your left ear means “help me exit this conversation,” right ear means “join this conversation,” and scratching your nose means “I need a moment alone.”

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When you feel anxiety rising ask specific questions about others experiences Image source Freepik

9. Curiosity as anxiety antidote

When you feel anxiety rising, ask specific questions about others’ experiences. “What’s the most memorable Fourth of July you’ve had?” or “How does this compare to independence day celebrations in your family’s country of origin?” This shifts focus externally, a key strategy in managing social anxiety.

10. Exit strategy executed

Plan your departure around a specific event. “I’ll leave right after we sing the Black National Anthem at 8:30 PM.” Having this fixed point can make the gathering feel more manageable. Have your Lyft pre-scheduled, or better yet, arrange a carpool with other diaspora attendees for post-event decompression.

Conclusion: Managing Social Anxiety During July 4th Gatherings

Remember, managing social anxiety at these events is like mastering the Gwara Gwara dance – it takes practice, but with time, you’ll find your rhythm. By employing these strategies, you’re not just surviving July 4th gatherings, you’re turning them into opportunities for cultural exchange and connection.

Who knows? By focusing on managing social anxiety, you might find yourself becoming the bridge-builder, weaving together diverse threads of the American experience. And that, my friend, is true independence.

READ: Beyond the Flawless Filter: Why Imperfections Make You More Likable

Perfection is a myth, and imperfections are what make us human and, ultimately, more relatable. This article dismantles the myth of perfection and explores the psychological reasons why embracing our flaws can actually strengthen our relationships. 

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