If you have social anxiety, attending a party or event can be an uncomfortable and debilitating experience. If you’re feeling nervous or overwhelmed, how do you ensure the best possible experience? What can you do to enjoy the evening without overdoing it? Here are some tips that will help your next event go smoothly!
The first step is to decide what event you’d like to attend — and when. Then, create a plan that includes all the steps you need to take before the event to make it run smoothly.
Make arrangements well in advance, including making travel plans. This way, you’ll have more time to get ready, and you won’t be pressured into attending because of a short-term scheduling conflict.
If the event is at someone else’s home, find out if there will be some other guests who come alone — and take advantage of this opportunity to ease yourself into the experience.
Managing Anxiety During the Event.
When you’re at a social gathering, there are some actions that can help reduce stress and even produce positive results. Keep these in mind throughout the party:
This simply means being firm and persistent without being aggressive. If you’ve been invited to a party you’re not comfortable attending or one that’s given you bad anxiety in the past, let the host know.
Go with a plan.
Know what the evening will entail. This can eliminate much of the anxiety you associate with going to an event. A plan can include knowing which people you’ll talk to, what you’ll talk about when you meet them, where the food is located, where the restrooms are, and where your car keys are.
Focus on short-term goals.
It’s hard to see beyond “I have to attend this party.” Try a new angle: Focus on the specific things you do at a party. For example: “I’m going to say hello to my friend Jennifer,” or “I’m going to go get some food,” or “I’m going to have a drink.” Focusing on short-term goals can help alleviate anxiety.
Arrive early rather than late so that it’s easier for you to get where you need to go, and plan on leaving before the last guest leaves so that it’s easier for you to say your goodbyes.
Let yourself leave.
If you’re at a party that’s overwhelming or stressful, you can always leave — even if you feel like “everyone will wonder where I went” or “I should stay longer.” Being afraid of people noticing that you’re uncomfortable is a symptom of social anxiety. Remind yourself that it’s okay to do what makes YOU happy! It’s hard to let go of this fear, but the more often and the longer you can practice doing so, the more comfortable it’ll become in general.
Coping with Post-Event Stress
When leaving an event, you may find yourself with mixed emotions — particularly if connections weren’t made. We all want to connect, but if you struggle with social anxiety, you may be hesitant to approach others. Follow these tips for setting yourself up for success after the event:
Give yourself a break.
Don’t push too hard; rather, learn from your experience and go back a second time. Rather than trying to seek out conversations with specific strangers, instead focus on people who you feel comfortable with or relate to.
Choose your friends wisely.
When you’re social anxiety doesn’t allow you to make meaningful connections with friends, choose those that are kind and supportive.
Be yourself — all the time!
Don’t be afraid to be yourself in social situations. If you’re not sure if a certain person is a good fit for you, just go with your gut and ask them about an interest that really excites you. Be open about who you are!
Make connections when it matters.
If the event is something that really excites or interests you, try to connect so others will understand where your passion for it comes from. You may learn something new that they enjoy as well.
Be there to learn.
If you go to an event and are feeling insecure, try to learn from the experience. Think about what went well and what didn’t. How can you prepare better for the next event?
Try new things.
Next time, try a new hobby or activity so that you have a broader group of friends who enjoy the same things as you do. This way, when trying to meet new people in your life, you’ll be more comfortable knowing someone who loves the same hobbies as you — it’s a great way to start a meaningful friendship!
As with any other skill in life, practice makes perfect. The more you can force yourself to be involved in social situations and get comfortable with them, the easier it’ll be to approach new people. The next time a party comes up on your calendar, choose to attend. It’s always much better to live life on your own terms rather than letting your anxiety take control!
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