Today’s post is all about tips to get through holiday parties with social anxiety. The holiday season is upon us, and whether we like it or not, that usually means holiday parties and office parties and all kinds of assorted Christmas and Hanukkah get togethers with friends, coworkers and families.
This is such a wonderful and beautiful time of the year and yet on the other hand, the parties and other holiday stress can also make it one of the hardest, especially if you suffer from social anxiety or panic attacks.
The following are some useful tips to help you navigate the holiday party scene and be calm and cool in the process…
Get in the right frame of mind. Like any other facet of anxiety recovery, successfully going to holiday parties will take some preparation before hand. First and foremost, you have to get into the proper mindset.
In the past I would get my party invitation and immediately start obsessively thinking and worrying about it. This free floating anxiety is a beast and only serves to turn the party into some huge monstrosity in my mind that I will surely fail at.
And in my mind there are all the gory details- I will faint in the midst of the party or be so anxious that I can’t speak or have a panic attack or otherwise make a huge spectacle of myself that will have tongues flapping well past the Christmas season. God, I am such a loser…
See how naturally that nonsense comes to me? That’s the work of an anxious mind run rampant with obsessive and negative thinking…
The best thing to do for this is to nip that negative thinking in the bud right away. Know that your imagination only escalates anxiety, so do not go there…Do not go to the dark side. 🙂
Instead, pair up the party with some helpful positive affirmations for anxiety. Things like this:
I am a powerful, competent man/woman…… I have normal human emotions, and I am in control of myself at all times…..I can accept, face, and float right on through any feelings that arise……I am filled with positive energy and it feels so good to get better……..
**Important: Don’t just say them, try to believe them!**
Visualize & Affirm your way to success. See yourself attending the holiday party in your mind. Try to add as much detail as possible. Really see yourself with no social anxiety secrets or symptoms, feeling completely calm and happy- just enjoying the company and the good cheer. See yourself laughing and feeling so good that you are calm in the company of your freinds, neighbors, coworkers, etc.
Repeat this triumphant scene in your head as often as you can in the days leading up to the party. And repeat your positive affirmations like a mantra throughout the day. Doing these activities gives you busy things to do with your mind to replace the obsessive thinking and negative racing thoughts.
And they will help set the stage for when you actually go to the party. They will help ensure that you succeed and have as little social anxiety as possible.
Decide in advance when you will leave. Give yourself a set amount of time to stay at the party. Sometimes this can be really flexible- say if it;s an office party that goes from 7pm until whenever. You can predetermine how long you will stay and this can help you feel more in control.
The prospect of going to a party for 2 hours will seem like a cake walk in comparison to staying for 4 or 5 hours. Or just until the check is paid. You get the picture… 😉
Then you will know beforehand in your mind that this holiday party/ social gathering is just a small, manageable chunk of time. Once you are at the party and you get to your predetermined 2 hours or whatever, you are free to leave. But if you have succeeded with achieving a calm state and are enjoying yourself, know that you are also free to stay! 🙂
PLAN OF ACTION FOR THE PARTY:
1. Arrive when you feel most comfortable.
I read somewhere that it’s best not to arrive early, because when the party is in full swing, there is “safety in numbers.” But everyone with social anxiety has different feelings about what feels right.
For me, I happen to like to arrive early. I do my best socially with just 2 or 3 people. So when I arrive early and can get a few conversations in under my belt, it gives me the confidence I need to hang in there as more people arrive.
So find what feels right to you and that will determine when you should arrive.
2. Don’t feel obligated to join a large conversation circle.
People at parties tend to group into circles and have conversations. For me, the more people in the circle, the more like a speech it becomes. If my anxiety is high and someone starts asking me questions in a large conversation circle, it feels like all eyes are on me, and I am more likely to have a panic attack. I will seek out and join in with smaller groups.
3. Be prepared to relax through your anxiety as best you can.
Whether you call this floating, wobbling, surrendering, it’s all the same. Basically, should you get an anxiety attack or distressing panic symptom, just notice the feeling and let it ride it’s way out as best you can.
Do not tense up to it, run from the scene, or otherwise make it worse.
Do it afraid– allow yourself to just have the stupid feeling for awhile and relax as best you can despite it. Remember, it’s only adrenalin, and if you don’t focus in on it and fuel it with more, it will eventually go away. I Promise..
4. Resist the temptation to over-drink.
Especially if you feel anxious. You may have social anxiety, but believe me, nothing is worse than waking up the next day and vaguely remembering you made a complete ass out of yourself with a little alcohol courage (Raising my hand here- in the past I have done this!). Believe me, you definitely don’t want or need this.
5. Keep the conversations light and simple.
No one is expecting you to recite your philosophy of life or all the nitty bitty details of your life, so try to remember this. Don’t put pressure on yourself to perform. In fact, do your best to keep your focus outward, not inward (where those nasty social anxiety symptoms manifest).
Ask questions. Pause. Let the person answer. Pause. Keep interested.
Remember, most people love to talk about themselves. After after awhile, you may come to find you are actually a little bored. 🙂
6. Don’t forget to breathe.
Remember that anxious people naturally hold their breath and we don’t even know it.
I remember being at a party and trying to have a conversation with a woman. She was going on and on about her daughter being a vegetarian and all I could think of was that I was going to fall over.
I couldn’t come up with a response and there was this very awkward pause. I just stood there like a zombie, ready to topple over and crash into the veggie dip. Know why? Cause I was holding my breath! Don’t forget to breathe! Slow, belly breaths….If you need a refresher on this see this post: How to Do Diaphragmatic Breathing.
3 MORE QUICK TIPS:
Take a bathroom break midway through your party or event.
I always do this to take a few cleansing breaths and to just chill out and center myself for a few moments before I have at it again.
Bookmark your Christmas party or event by talking to someone who gets it.
Talk to this person before the event, all about your holiday stress and Christmas anxiety and fears, and then talk to them again after the event, letting them know how it went. This talk can be with a therapist, friend, parent, sibling, or someone else who cares.
Try to remember why you’re celebrating.
Humans are social animals and Christmas is the most social time of the year. Don’t mentally curse someone out because they invited you to their party (Raising hand again-Guilty!) On a very basic but human level, remember you are connecting with (hopefully) happy people to celebrate the season. The person who invited you means well.
Reward yourself after the party.
Whether it’s a bowl of your favorite ice cream, relaxing in a nice bath, or curling up and decompressing with a good book, give yourself a little present when you get home. Seriously, we deserve a medal for even stepping one foot in the door! So don’t forget to be nice to yourself!
In closing, just because you have panic attacks or social anxiety doesn’t mean you can’t have a perfectly nice time at holiday parties. Following these tips to help you formulate a good plan of action and being prepared will really help.
Make it a personal goal not to just survive the holiday party, but to enjoy it to the best of your ability! Cheers!
And while at the party – Remember: You can always talk to the tipsy person in the corner. (And there’s always a tipsy person or 2 at a holiday party right?) They’ll be delighted to talk to you and probably won’t remember anything anyways, so no pressure there…
I wish you peace,
ps. – Need more help? Quickly build self confidence before stressful holiday parties and social events with this self hypnosis download. Listen to this audio before your social event to boost your confidence and help you remain calm and in control. Click here for details>> Self Confidence Builder.