Anxiety can be a massive hindrance when it comes to enjoying a party and this time of year can be a struggle, especially if you struggle with social anxiety.
I have never been an outgoing or particularly sociable person and so when I struggled with anxiety myself, it seemed that the simplest option was to avoid social events altogether.
When it comes to Christmas, there are often loads of invitations to parties that can get your heart racing. Office parties, family gatherings and Christmas parties for those you share a hobby with all come around once a year and can make the month of December very stressful indeed.
Here are some tried and tested tips to help make Christmas party season fun, even if you struggle with anxiety.
This may seem like an odd tip but arriving on time for a party or meal can be very beneficial if you don’t find socialising comfortable.
When you arrive on time you are usually there before most people who prefer to arrive fashionably late which means that you can introduce yourself to people as they arrive. If you are going to a meal with a large group, then arriving before most people gives you an opportunity to choose where you sit.
This avoids that horrible feeling that comes when you walk into a loud crowded room where everyone has already split into their groups and being introduced to huge numbers of people who, let’s be honest, you won’t remember the names of… Arriving fashionably late is great for someone who is more extroverted and loves being around large groups of people.
When it comes to the meal you can avoid taking the only place next to the person that you would rather not spend the evening with and also means that you can avoid being stuck on the end and away from the conversations. My personal choice is to pick a spot in the middle so that there is always a choice of who to talk to.
It is really common for people to make their anxiety worse by thinking about all of the negatives of going to a party. It can be thoughts like: “What if everyone thinks I’m dull?”, “I don’t have anything interesting to say” or “no-one is going to care if I go or not”. You can find out what negative thoughts are holding you back by heading to my free download here.
Some people even go as far as imagining everything that may go wrong such as spilling a drink or embarrassing themselves in some way. This is effectively mentally rehearsing things going wrong.
Try instead coming up with positive alternatives to the negative thoughts and actively make yourself imagine the party going well. When we imagine things like this it is called visualisation and is used widely by sports people to help them perform as best they can. Imagine yourself looking elegant, talking confidently and being the person you would love to be at the party.
This might sound as appealing as revising for an exam but it can be incredibly useful to have some pre thought out topics of conversation. What you prepare will depend a little on the group of people at the party such as work colleagues, family or even strangers if you are an accompanying partner.
It helps to have some topics ready in your head for those awkward small talk moments. Examples can include things such as what films are on at the moment or knowing if there have been any major sporting events on recently.
It also helps to ask open ended questions as they help the conversation and give the other person questions to ask you. Questions like how do you like your job or what are you doing over Christmas are simple questions that can help you find common ground. Make sure when you ask questions that you listen to the answer, often people with anxiety are more focused on how they feel that the person they are talking to, this can lead to awkward moments where you don’t know what someone has just said. So, make sure you listen and respond to what is being said.
Alcohol is a huge part of Christmas and so it’s very easy to normalise the consumption of it. Be especially careful if you are struggling with anxiety as alcohol in large amounts can often make anxiety worse.
The worse part of any alcohol fueled party that gets out of control is the next morning and the horrific anxiety of wondering what you said and to whom… Or possibly when incriminating pictures appear on social media!!
If you would like to drink, then try and drink slowly and make sure you have enough food to stop you getting too drunk. If you are uncomfortable eating in public then make sure you have a full meal before the party.
Things like mindfulness and self-hypnosis can work really well to help calm down anxiety but they need to be practiced before you get into the situation. This is why I provide mp3s for my clients so that they can practice at home. If you haven’t done this or don’t have time then practice deep breathing, making sure you breathe out fully before you breathe back in. Try when you can to also be aware of any tension in your body and actively relax your shoulders through the party.
Sometimes it is best to be polite but firm when you have had enough and make sure that the party doesn’t drag on for you. Decide when the right time for you to leave is and stick to your guns. Even though social anxiety isn’t something I have to worry about anymore, I still have limits when it comes to socialising especially when it gets late and I know I have to be up early to see to my horse. It is perfectly OK to practice some self-care and do what’s best for you.
I know it’s tricky but if anxiety is getting in the way of anything you want to do then seriously consider getting some help. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can teach you some great techniques for dealing with anxiety and hypnosis is an awesome way to learn how to control the symptoms.
You can book a free phone consultation with me to discuss how I can help you overcome your anxiety and build confidence: Book now
The way we think has a huge impact on our mental health. If you are looking to overcome your anxiety or just improve your mental health then first you need to know what thoughts are making things worse.
This download gives you a list of the most common ways we think negatively. All you need to do is see which ones you do most.
Also, keep an eye on your emails! I will be sending you a really useful video that goes with this exercise.