Surviving the Office Party When You Have Social Anxiety
Does just the thought of going to the office holiday party make you start sweating? Do you plan where you’re going to sit long before the party starts? (hint- you’ll be sitting in the dark corner, thank you very much!). Do you pre-plan things that you can talk about with your co-workers? Dread eating in front of your boss? Or maybe you can’t even force yourself to go and spend the week before trying to think of a good excuse. These can all be signs of social anxiety.
What is Social Anxiety and What Does it Look Like
Social Anxiety Disorder is notable for a disabling fear of being in social situations. It is the fear of being watched and even worse, of being judged. Many of us who don’t have Social Anxiety Disorder still experience varying degrees of anxiety in these situations, but the intensity of social anxiety is much worse.
Worry about embarrassing yourself
Fear of being judged negatively, and fear of situations where this might occur
Fear of talking with strangers
Avoiding situations that might make you anxious or embarrassed
Over-analysis of your performance in social situations
Expecting the absolute worst-case scenario to happen every time
Extreme anxiety of social situations
Sweating, shortness of breath, blushing, trembling, or shaky voice
10 Tips to Surviving that Office Party with Your Head Held High
1. Ask a Friend. Ask someone that you are comfortable with to go with you. That way you will have someone to stand with and who you can approach others with.
2. Take Control of Your environment. Instead of standing around getting in your own head, make a plan of action so that you can decide who you will approach and when. You can decide that you want to talk with your manager and 3 co-workers. Or maybe your immediate supervisor and HER supervisor. Take charge of the who and the when. This enhanced sense of control can boost your confidence.
3. Compliments for everyone! Plan to say something nice or to say a compliment to each person you approach. Think something like, “I really love your shoes”, “The decorations in this place are great”, “I really liked your presentation today”, or even “The snow is beautiful tonight”. It can really be about anything but saying something nice can put the other person at ease and boost how they feel about you. Just try to make it something that you believe so that it seems sincere.
4. Admit your fears! Chances are that the other person is anxious as well so why not just bring it out into the open? You can say something like, “These types of things always make me so uncomfortable!”. Don’t over-share about how bad your social anxiety is and that it’s making you sweat buckets, but a general statement like the above can be a good ice breaker.
5. Limit how much you drink. I know it can be tempting to use alcohol to numb your anxiety, but really, the benefits of that will diminish after 1 or 2 drinks and then your judgment will start to be affected possibly leading you to questionable choices.
6. Accept your anxiety! Everybody gets anxious- everybody! Just trust me on this. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You don’t have to shame yourself for becoming anxious- it certainly won’t make the anxiety disappear and will only make you feel worse! Instead, accept that you are nervous, take a deep breath, and go talk with someone.
7. Dress up! If you dress in something that you think you look good in and that you feel comfortable in, you will feel more confident.
8. Have coping skills at the ready! Check out some of my other blogs on deep breathing, the use of touchstones, grounding techniques, and visualization to learn a coping skill that you can use if you need to. Sometimes just having a plan of what to do will help you to not be as anxious.
9. Confront those negative thoughts! Chances are you are anxious because you think that everyone is thinking you don’t fit in, or that you are ugly, or that you aren’t smart enough, or some other way that you aren’t adequate. Fight back against those thoughts! There is a CBT technique in which you confront those thoughts head-on by asking people directly about them. It’s REALLY effective, but if the idea of doing that is too much for you, then try thinking of what your best friend would tell you in that situation. They wouldn’t tell you that you’re right and that you’re too ugly/stupid/inadequate! They would say that you are fine just the way you are.
10. Go to the party! Avoiding it is really one of the worst things you can do for your anxiety. Avoiding what you are afraid of only reinforces the fear and makes it worse. If you absolutely can’t stand the idea of going and none of these techniques are enough to manage your anxiety, then maybe make a deal with yourself that you will go, and as soon as you talk to one person you can go. Or that you can go after you eat. Or after 30 min. Then, if you are able to go and do what you said you would make sure to give yourself credit for that! It’s an accomplishment!
I hope that some of these tips are helpful for you and that you are able to go and enjoy your office party. If however, your anxiety is too much to handle on your own, or if it is really negatively affecting your life, please reach out to me by following the link for anxiety treatment.