If you had asked me a year ago to go on a night out with you, I would tell you the same thing I had been saying since I turned 18, “Sorry I don’t go clubbing.” or “Sorry it’s not for me.” For around 5 years I refused to go on nights out with my friends because I let my anxiety rule me, worried about feeling claustrophobic in a loud, dark and crowded space. Let me just start by saying, before we dive further, that the closest thing I’d ever come to a club before last year was being dragged into a Hollister store by a friend at 16, and if I couldn’t hack that (I almost ran out of the store in fear of a panic attack) then I definitely couldn’t handle a club which I saw as being a heightened version of that just without the clothing rails.

However I’ve come to learn that with a good amount of alcohol, the right company and the right music I am quite partial to a night on the town. Maybe it’s because post therapy me feels a lot more mentally equipped or because I was fed up of my partner and our mutual friends going out without me and the horrible anxiety that came with feeling left out. but I finally swallowed my pride last Easter and took the plunge and went on my first proper night out.

If you suffer with anxiety like myself and have also struggled to go out and enjoy an evening of drinking and dancing with friends here are a few tips I have for you that I have tried and tested and hope will help you conquer the same fear I had.

#1 Have An Exit Strategy

Whether its a friend, sibling or parent make sure there is someone on standby to pick you up if you aren’t enjoying yourself. I put this at number 1 because this is going to be your security blanket. You can follow any of the other tips on this list but if you haven’t got your exit strategy if you feel you can’t face the whole night you don’t have to feel that pressure to stay out because you have no safe or quick way to leave if you want to. By knowing you have a way of getting out if you need to, you can take some of the pressure off yourself and the night.

#2 Choose Who You Go With Wisely

So you’ve decided you are going to venture out but you don’t want to just go with any old friends. Pick the people you see as your best friends and family, people you trust to have your best interests at heart. These are the people who have probably helped you through tough and anxious times already and are well equipped to support you. The people who aren’t afraid to leave with you if it does get to much or to tell you how proud of you they are when you do succeed. My first night out was with my partner and a bunch of mutual work friends. Knowing I had people I wanted to spend my time with and that would ease me through the evening really helped to make me feel confident about my decision and got me through the night.

#3 Just Go For Pre-Drinks and See How It Goes

So you’ve sorted who your going with and what your exit strategy is now is time to actually go through with your decision on the night. How I got through my first time out was committing only to pre-drink. I don’t know about anywhere else in the world but in the UK pre-drinks are a given. They are normally held at one persons house and normally last a couple hours before going out to give a chance for everyone to get ready and have a cheaper drink at home because once you hit the town the price per drink is going to rocket.

Pre-drinks are good because you are in a safe and homely environment. It still gives you a chance to see your friends and have a drink with them even if when the time comes you don’t feel like going with. This was probably the biggest hurdle for me to get past, I attended many a pre-drinks before I finally found my courage and got in the taxi with everyone to join them out, out. I have to say though if you do lack the courage to join your friends it can be really difficult seeing them all go without you. I spent many an anxious night waiting up for Ben to come home and feeling like I was missing out, jealously checking his phone the following morning and torturing myself with the photos of the night before I was left out of. So if you do feel the confidence to go out with everyone I do urge you to as feeling left out doesn’t feel that great either.

#4 Take Deep Breathes and Give It A Try

So you got in the taxi and you’ve made it to town, give yourself a pat on the back, a round of applause or simply treat yourself with another drink because you did it. You made it out. You may just be standing in line to enter but you’ve made it this far and that deserves its own celebration. Sure its scary waiting to address the bouncer and having to reminding yourself of your birthdate, which you’ve known your whole life but in the eyes of authority when your drunk currently feels all wrong, but everyone goes through it. Grab your best friend or your partners hand, take deep breathes and embrace it, it will be over before you know it and you’ll be inside with some good music and your closest friends to dance away all the pressure before you know it. And hey if you get inside and it is crowded and you don’t like it at least you have your exit strategy in plan and can leave as soon as knowing you did and didn’t like it.

#5 Dancing Is Not Reserved For The Dancefloor

This is a key fact that will always get me through a night out, you don’t have to be on the dancefloor to dance. Like I’ve stated before the big thing that gives me anxiety about going out is the crowds of people however once you’re in there you will find its not as cramped as you’d expect it to be. There will always be areas with more space, whether that’s a separate floor, towards the walls or even near the entrance/exit (always have your exit strategy in mind). Find an area like that to have as your base to make you feel safe, so you can easily see your friends around you and also give you the room you really need to enjoy the music and bust a move. I am a firm believer that music can fix anything and I can never pull myself away when it hits the right hour and the DJ starts playing all my old favourites and it feels like I’ve really earnt that moment.

So there are my top tips for going out out. I have to say I am so proud of myself for over coming my anxiety and I hope some of these tips help either yourself or a friend who is missing out on a great time with friends. Let me know any of your stories about how you’ve conquered your anxiety or if any of these tips help you in the comments. I hope to see you on the dancefloor someday.