For years I wanted to know how to manage my social anxiety at parties. I’d stick to the friend I came with like glue. I’d stand or sit in a quiet corner somewhere and wouldn’t move and I’d never be able to join in on the jokes and the conversation because my mind was either too focused on my anxiety, or I just didn’t think I had anything interesting to say.
Over the years I’ve learned how to cope with my social anxiety to a point where it’s at a normal level, rather than a social anxiety disorder but I still get a good amount of social anxiety at parties. I think a lot of people do, even if they don’t struggle with social anxiety when it comes to day-to-day stuff. Parties are just one of those things, you can love them and still feel socially anxious.
Here’s a few things I do to manage social anxiety at parties, that you could try.
Before the party
The anxiety starts way before the actual party happens, in fact that’s when most of the anxiety happens. Social anxiety is a lot about anticipation and if you have all day to think about the party you’re going to in the evening, you can end up talking yourself out of it before it even starts.
To stop myself from letting negative thoughts take over and from spending hours before the party thinking of all the worst things that could happen, I try and distract myself. I keep myself busy, I listen to music that gets me in the party mood and I smell calming scents such as lavender.
Another thing that helps ease my social anxiety at parties, is having my outfit ready the day before and knowing exactly what I’m doing with my hair and make-up. That way, the day of the party, I’m not getting super anxious and stressed about what I’m going to wear and having longer to get ready keeps me calm.
Having a few stock conversation openers can be helpful. I always find that if I meet new people, I’m always worried about freezing and not knowing what to say to them but if I have a couple of rehearsed conversation prompts to whip out, I’m much more relaxed about it.
If you struggle having conversations due to social anxiety, you can read this post for some conversation ideas.
Arrive as soon as the party starts
I’d say arrive early but as a person who regularly hosts parties, please don’t do that. It can make the host more anxious if people are arriving early and they’re not ready for their guests yet.
Having said that, a lot of people will arrive at a party later than the start time, so if you get there as soon as it starts, it will be a bit quieter. You can get comfortable being at the party and get to know other guests as they arrive, before there are lots of people.
It can be a lot more intimidating walking into a party that’s already in full swing, than turning up while it’s starting and getting used to each new person that comes in.
Use your social anxiety coping techniques at the party
Just like any other social situation that makes you anxious, you can use coping techniques such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation (even if you just tense your whole body at once and then slowly relax it, so nobody will notice) grounding techniques and replacing your negative thoughts with more neutral ones.
Leaving when you want to leave
I don’t know about you but when in the past when I’ve had social anxiety at parties, I’ve never known how to leave the damn party when I’ve actually needed to.
It’s like, I want to cancel going to the party before I arrive but when I get there, I can’t tell the host that I actually need to go. So in some twisted sick anxiety joke, I end up staying longer than I need to, at a party my social anxiety didn’t want me to go to in the first place!
The most important things I’ve learnt from having social anxiety at parties is that a) cancelling my plans to go to the party hurts my social anxiety in the long run and b) saying that I need to leave when I’m at the party is perfectly okay and normal.
Saying your goodbyes can be hard if you have social anxiety and people may say that it’s a shame you’re going and try and convince you to stay but that’s just because they liked your company. It’s absolutely fine to say “I have to go now but thank you for having me”.
When you get social anxiety at parties, just remember that people go to parties to meet and be around other people and somebody asked you to come, which means you are wanted and you do bring something valuable by being there!
Often times our social anxiety tells us that we’re not interesting and people are judging us negatively but clearly you’re being invited to a party which means you’re awesome and people want you around.
Even if you can’t manage the whole party, just going and trying is the main thing. Show yourself that you can make it through the door and enter the party and take it from there! Good luck!
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