Preparing for family dinner one night, I got some unexpected news: Friends were coming for dinner. These friends are great people; we really enjoy their company. But the moment my husband mentioned we had guests coming over, I started to feel overwhelmed.

“Do I have enough food? ... The house is a mess. ... Do I need to change my clothes?”

You get the point.

Once they arrived, my anxiety symptoms got even worse; my heart started beating faster, my chest started feeling tight, and I got really warm.

I didn’t know why I was reacting that way. So I walked into the kitchen, removing myself from the situation to take some deep breaths and notice my thoughts.

As soon as I started breathing, I became aware that I was feeling some social anxiety. After realizing this, I also noticed my thoughts weren’t very helpful; they were causing me to get even more anxious.

I continued breathing and then it hit me: At that moment, the most important thing was spending time with my friends; it wasn’t important how I looked or if I had enough food.

That insight made it an enjoyable time, not a stressful night. So with that in mind, I joined our friends for dinner. We had a nice evening, and all was well.

So remember: Mindfulness leads to awareness, and awareness leads to insight. Next time you get social anxiety, start breathing; notice your thoughts and remove yourself from the situation to center yourself. Remember, breathing helps you relax and come back to the present moment. Fear and anxious thoughts do not live there, only peace.

Ditteke Ederveen-Gorman writes from Keene. She has been helping people to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into their daily lives, so that they feel happier and more peaceful. A former model and actress, she writes, teaches and speaks about mindfulness to adults and children. Visit her blog at