I have pretty severe social anxiety. Being in new places or around even small groups of people will trigger panic attacks. When I go to concerts, I’ll have panic attacks before setting foot in the venue. I’ve learned to navigate this by preparing myself for new experiences as much as I can ahead of time.
For example, when going to a new restaurant, I don’t stop at just looking up the menu. I google the street view, look at as many pictures as I can of the inside on Yelp, IG, or their website. This helps puts me at ease about the location and makes that part less overwhelming. Without that fear/ weight on my shoulders, I can spend more energy focusing on people.
When I’m overwhelmed by people, deep breaths help tremendously. I also lower head and close my eyes to avoid overstimulation and a possible panic attack. I take frequent breaks from the crowd and give myself a few moments to decompress and recharge, even if it’s just 2-3 min. Sometimes the smallest changes in the way you interact with the world can make a huge difference to your mental health.