Managing Holiday Parties with Social Anxiety

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Whether you are attending a family get-together, a party at a friend's home or your office party, if you have social anxiety disorder (SAD) you might be filled with fear at just the thought of going. If you are like many people with SAD, you  will go to great lengths to avoid social activities, faking illness, coming up with excuses, whatever you need to do to stay home, where you feel safe.

     

    But sometimes attending a social function is unavoidable, your family may be expecting you to be there or a workplace party could be important to your future. Even when it is not absolutely necessary to attend, you might feel guilty not going or feel you are letting others down. Or maybe you really want to attend, but are so nervous and so scared you aren't sure if you can make it through.

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    The following are tips to help you be less anxious and maybe even enjoy your next social function:

     

    Before

     

    Relax before you go. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready. Take a long, luxurious shower or bath, relax with a good book or your favorite hobby. This will help you remain calm rather than spending time worrying about the upcoming event.

     

    Be prepared. If you aren't sure whether to wear something formal or casual, ask. It is better to be prepared than to worry whether you are over-dressed or under-dressed. Choose something that is comfortable and flattering to help you feel more confident.

     

    Eat before you go. If you are anxious about eating in front of others, have a meal before you go, limiting the amount of food you will need to eat at the party.

     

    Practice your deep-breathing and other relaxation techniques so you can use this during the party if you are feeling overwhelmed.

     

    Decide how long you want to stay at the party. Sometimes you can curb anxiety by knowing you only have to be at the party for a set amount of time.

     

    Plan to arrive early or on-time for the party. When you have social anxiety, if you make a late entrance, you may believe everyone is looking at you as you arrive. Instead, try to be a little early so you can be settled and greet other guests as they arrive.

     

    During

     

    When arriving at the party, look around for a quiet area you will be able to escape to if you are feeling overwhelmed or overly anxious. Find a spot where you can sit quietly, breathe deeply and gain your composure. You may not need to use this area during the party, but the knowledge of knowing where you can be by yourself can help you relax.

     

    When choosing someone to talk to at the party, look around for someone that is standing alone and looks friendly. Start with general comments, such as, "The food looks delicious." If you don't get much of a response, try asking a question, such as, "How do you know Tom?" You can also comment on something about the person, for example, "What a lovely necklace. Is that an opal?" Remember, this person might be just as nervous as you but if you don't get any feedback, move on and speak to someone else.

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    When joining a conversation, take a few minutes to listen to the conversation and join in when you feel you have something to add. Ask questions if you don't understand or want to know more about a subject being discussed.


    Keep discussions and conversations to common, mainstream subjects. Talk about sports, movies, local restaurants, current events or your favorite music. Topics that cause divisions, such as religion or politics, should be avoided.

    Ask open-ended questions. People like to talk about themselves and their interests. Asking questions helps others to feel more relaxed, which, in turn, will help you feel more relaxed. Show interest in their answers and use this information to build further conversation.


    Limit your consumption of alcoholic beverages and if you do have a drink, make sure you eat something. It  can be tempting to use alcohol as a way to relax, however, having too much to drink can cause you to be embarrassed later and those with anxiety have a greater danger of alcoholism.

     

    After

     

    Thank your hosts for having you and say good-bye to the other party attendees.

     

    Congratulate yourself for having made it through the party.

     

    For more information:

     

    Managing Holiday Anxiety

     

Published On: December 15, 2010