How Can I Reduce Anxiety When Meeting People Besides Drinking Alcohol?

Carol Landau, Ph.D., healthy living expert at iVillage.com, answers your questions about managing your 20s and 30s without getting depressed

This is a common problem for men and women alike. Good for you for recognizing that it is a problem and taking steps to remedy it. Knowing the health risks may help you cut back.

Having three or four drinks a day -- or even half that -- increases your risk of developing breast cancer by 51 percent. Drinking too much can lead to reproductive problems, ulcers and depression. Alcohol can reduce anxiety, as you have experienced, but it can also be a depressant.

Next time you go to a bar, ask a friend to go with you. She can help get conversations started with other people and can watch out for you if she notices you’re drinking too much.

You can also calm your anxiety with slow, consistent breathing before you enter a place with new people. If necessary, retreat to the ladies’ room occasionally to breathe and regroup.

Or consider staying away from bars for a while, especially since the only thing you may have in common with the people you meet there is drinking. Look into Meetup.com to find people with common interests or those who are also new to the area. You can also meet people at gyms, coffee shops and bookstores.

Making new friends is one of the challenges women face in the decade after college along with moving to a new place, looking for work and establishing a new routine after a structured campus life. If the transition doesn’t go smoothly it can lead to depression. Learn more about the pitfalls and read this survival guide. To ask questions or get and lend support, visit our Depression Support message board.

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