How Do I Deal With Social Anxiety at a Party?

1
Decide Whether to Go to the Party

HolidayParty.jpg
Holidays can leave you feeling stressed. Lucas Sartoni / Flickr

Coping with anxiety about parties starts with deciding whether or not it is reasonable for you to attend.

Make a point of not overbooking yourself. If you already have something planned for the day of an evening party, it is OK to decline another invite, especially if you think that it is more than you can handle.

What about making the last-minute decision not to go? If you haven't found adequate ways to cope with your anxiety or you feel as though you are in the middle of a crisis, it is probably better to stay home and vow to be better prepared next time.

If possible, call your host to let her know that something has come up and that you won't be there.

2
How to Get Ready for a Party

A bath before a party can help to soothe nerves.
Soothe anxiety before a party with a bath. Getty / Hero Images

Start thinking early about how you will spend your time relaxing before the party. If possible, make sure that you have at least a few hours of downtime to prepare. Try pampering yourself. Some ideas might include the following:

  • a lavender bubble bath
  • a workout
  • a good book
  • a favorite hobby

Make sure to plan well in advance what you will wear to the event. If it is a formal affair, ask about the dress code. Choose clothing that both looks good on you and that is comfortable.

3
What to Bring to a Party

Offer a gift to the host or hostess of your party.
Wine can be a nice gift for an adult party. Getty / Hero Images

Although you will not always need to bring a gift to a party, there are occasions when it will be appropriate. Similar to choosing your clothing, purchasing gifts should be done as much in advance as possible. This will give you time to put thought into your choices and to ask others for advice if you are unsure about what to bring.

4
How to Decide When to Arrive at a Party

Arrive a bit early to get your bearings at a party.
Choose your party arrival time wisely. Getty / Hero Images

If you suffer with social anxiety, it is better to arrive at a party on time or a little early, than to be fashionably late.

Arriving early allows you to meet guests as they arrive, rather than walking into a large group and facing a long list of introductions.

5
How to Approach People at a Party

Find something you have in common with a stranger.
Approaching people at a party doesn't have to be hard. Getty / Hero Images

If you find yourself at a party where you don't know anyone (kudos to you for going!), the first hurdle will be to find someone with whom you can talk. Look for a friendly face in the crowd. Perhaps there is someone who also appears to be alone.

Make a general comment about your surroundings such as

  • "The food looks really good"
  • "Perfect weather for an outdoor party"

If the person does not reciprocate, try again with someone else.

The best way to enter a group at a party is through the introduction of one of its members.

If you see someone break apart from a group, try approaching that person one-on-one. Be aware of your body language in addition to what you say. Don't cross your arms and make sure to smile. Ideally that person will introduce you to the rest of the group.

6
What to Talk About at a Party

Learn how to make small talk at a party.
Making small talk can be challenging when you have social anxiety. Getty / Taxi / Portra Images

If you have little experience talking to others, it can be hard to know what to talk about at a party. There are some things that you can prepare beforehand, such as funny jokes or interesting stories. It is best to talk about topics that are mainstream. Some examples include the following:

  • sports
  • music
  • current events
  • favorite movies
  • restaurants

Ask questions and try to find common interests with others. Make sure that your questions are open-ended and encourage conversation.

For example, it is better to ask, "How do you like being a veterinarian?" than "So, you are a veterinarian?"

In general, overly personal topics and political and religious issues are not good conversation starters with strangers.

7
What to Eat and Drink at a Party

The buffet can make or break your ability to cope with party anxiety.
Choose your food and drink wisely at a party. Getty / Cultura / Brett Stevens

Try to limit alcohol consumption when at a party. Although it can be tempting to use alcohol to feel less anxious, the danger of alcoholism is too great for those who suffer with social anxiety.

If you do drink, do so in moderation and eat food to offset the effects of the alcohol. If eating in front of others is an anxiety trigger for you, make sure to eat something before you go.

8
What to Do at a Party

Be a good sport and participate in party games.
Party games can be a way to get to know other people. Getty / The Image Bank / Matthias Tunger

Taking part in games and activities with others may feel like you are being put in the spotlight. However, it is important to at least try to participate.

Remember, the objective is not to be the best or to win the game. The goal is to get to know the people at the party and feel more comfortable with them.

9
How to Cope With Anxiety at a Party

A friend can help if anxiety strikes while at a party.
Have a plan for when anxiety strikes at a party. Getty / Blend Images / Alberto Guglielmi

Have coping strategies in place in case you find yourself overwhelmed with anxiety. Identify a place that you can escape to briefly, and go there if needed.

Practice deep breathing ahead of time and put it into practice when you are feeling out of control. If possible, bring someone along who knows about your anxiety and who will help you cope if needed.

10
When to Leave a Party

Always plan ahead when you will leave a party.
Have a pre-planned time to leave a party. Getty / Hero Images

Set a time limit before you go to a party and stick to your exit plan.

Knowing how much time you will spend in advance should help to reduce anxiety. If you find that you are having fun and want to stay longer, great! If on the other hand, you don't think that you can stay the entire time, know that it is OK to slip away early. Feel good for staying as long as you did.

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