It’s holiday party season! Office parties, family celebrations and gatherings with friends are a big appeal to the holiday season -- FOR SOME. Yes, that’s right, not everybody wants to “party like it’s 1999” or wait -- 2019! For individuals who experience social anxiety, attending a party can take every last ounce of energy they have. Are you someone who clams up at the sight of an invitation? Does the thought of meeting new people cause you to feel dread? If so, here are some tips to help you get through and maybe even enjoy some of the upcoming festivities.
Visualize the time leading up to the party: If you dread attending a party well in advance, it might help to visualize the time leading up to the party. What part of your day will remain the same as usual? What other things are you looking forward to experiencing? For example, will you attend the gym at your usual time or get to relax with your dog? Remember most parties are only a small portion of an entire day and focusing on what you are looking forward to prior can help calm the anxiety.
Focus on what is in your control: While there is a certain level of uncertainty that comes with attending parties, there are always things within your control. What would you like to wear to the party? What time would you like to arrive or leave the party? What type of food do you want to eat? Who would you like to engage in conversation with? Acknowledge these things because they are in your control!
Focus on the positive: When social anxiety takes over, it’s easy to focus on all the negative thoughts and everything you dread about attending the party. Try to focus on what you do like about parties, do you like dressing up? A relaxed environment? Food? Music? ETC.
Confront your what-if’s: Most people with anxiety are no stranger to the “what-if’s”. Am I right?! I always tell my client’s that they need to follow up these thoughts with “so what”. For example, “what if I get to the party and don’t know anybody?” “So what! If I get to the party and don’t know anybody, there’s nothing that I can do about it. I’ll have no choice but to do my best.” Don’t let those “what-if” statements leave you in fear, follow through with it. The worst is generally not so bad.
Prep for some small talk: Yes, the dreaded small talk! Think of the people attending the party: what general interests or topics do you think they are into? What are some general topics to talk about? Keep in mind there may be some uncomfortable moments of silence or some awkwardness, this is normal. The point of small talk is not to speak perfectly but rather to show the other person that you are friendly and are open to engaging in communication. For more on small talk, check out my previous blog!
Use your tools: If your anxiety decides to tag along for the party think of what helps you calm it. Does stepping outside for a moment or taking a deep breath help you feel better?
Remember you’re NOT alone: You may feel alone in your social anxiety but remember many people feel anxious and uncomfortable with the thought of meeting new people or being around crowds. NOBODY IS PERFECT.
If your anxiety is holding you back from attending parties or you’re enduring them with fear and/or panic, then you may want to consider counseling. At A Little Counseling, PLLC we provide weekly training for individuals experiencing anxiety. Give us a call!