Do you feel pre-party dread? This one is for you.

social anxiety party
| Opinion > Advice Column

Social anxiety is tough. If you’ve ever felt party anxiety and the ensuing guilt, you’ll know how those feelings of anxiety and guilt can reverberate and boost each other to your own detriment.

Personally, I’ve felt sometimes obliged to celebrate birthdays where I’ve wanted to honour and support friends and family, but have felt horrendous social anxiety and “I don’t want to do this” beforehand. The fear sets in a few hours before the event, and I start internally listing ways I can get out of being the centre of attention. And yet… as soon as other guests are in the room, I find myself flitting around the party without a care in the world.

Celebration is a part of life. Whether it’s a wedding, a 21st birthday or passing a driving test, celebration is always around the corner. There are some ways to cope if you know you’re going to attend said social gathering, but the prospect of raging festivities fills you with dread rather than excitement.

Cory Stieg writes that ‘if you’re someone with social anxiety, then parties might not be your idea of fun, but you do it on your birthday because that’s what you’re supposed to do.’ That’s the clincher, right there – that unremitting pressure to follow the trend of big birthday blowouts, hundreds of wedding guests or tables laden with food and drink you can’t afford.

Whilst I can’t certainly say that this kind of fear will dissipate over the years, there are still some things you can do to alleviate your worry.

Remember that social party anxiety is normal

Whilst we are busy fretting and actively doing anything that isn’t related to the looming birthday balloons and invites, it is easy to forget that we aren’t the only ones who feel this way. Take a deep breath, understand that these nerves are common, and make sure you take time for yourself throughout the celebration to take a breather.

Acknowledge your feelings and do what you need in order to feel safe.

It’s fine to cry. It’s okay to cry. Especially if it helps you to release pent-up emotion.

If your anxiety escalates at any point before or during a celebration, give yourself time out. You can gently head somewhere quieter, or you can tell a trusted person you need a little space and perhaps see if they’d like to come with you, if that might help.

If you have any tendency towards panic attacks, the 5-step method may help to ease you back down from a panic-state.

Do your own preparation

The notion of a surprise party makes my nose crinkle. To ensure nerves don’t get the better of you, be sure to plan your own event or celebration. That way, you can do exactly what you want and what you need to guarantee that you have a good time. It’s important to give yourself time to feel like you have a degree of agency, whether giving or attending a party.

Fuel yourself

This may be more of a practical tip, but it’s severely underrated. If you are anything like me, you get nervous eating around other people. This can have risks, especially when coupled with drinking. If you know you’ll struggle with eating in company, you could choose to cook your favourite meal beforehand. It will make you all happy and warm inside, but will give you enough energy to get you through the day. Alchol is no friend to an empty stomach, and hunger pangs can exarcerbate nerves.

Try to minimise using drinking as a means to alleviate social anxiety.

This is absolutely crucial. As anxiety and binge drinking can walk hand in hand, this can have negative repercussions not only on the night but the morning after – and, if you regularly self-medicate with alcohol, the benefits can be outweighed not only by health issues but also your mental comfort and self-esteem. Wondering what you said or did is the best way to ruin the next day, especially if there are portions of the evening you don’t remember. If you are drinking, set a limit for yourself. Whether it be one drink or three, set boundaries that you know you won’t feel tempted to cross and will leave you enjoying the party and a hangover-free morning.

For all those who truly hate parties… Dorothy Parker has your back.

If you need a little cathartic release, Dorothy Parker dreaded parties too.

Parties: A Hymn of Hate

I hate Parties;
They bring out the worst in me.

There is the Novelty Affair,
Given by the woman
Who is awfully clever at that sort of thing.
Everybody must come in fancy dress;
They are always eleven Old-Fashioned Girls,
And fourteen Hawaiian gentlemen
Wearing the native costume
Of last season’s tennis clothes, with a wreath around the neck.

The hostess introduces a series of clean, home games:
Each participant is given a fair chance
To guess the number of seeds in a cucumber,
Or thread a needle against time,
Or see how many names of wild flowers he knows.
Ice cream in trick formations,
And punch like Volstead used to make
Buoy up the players after the mental strain.
You have to tell the hostess that it’s a riot,
And she says she’ll just die if you don’t come to her next party—
If only a guarantee went with that!

Then there is the Bridge Festival.
The winner is awarded an arts-and-crafts hearth-brush,
And all the rest get garlands of hothouse raspberries.
You cut for partners
And draw the man who wrote the game.
He won’t let bygones be bygones;
After each hand
He starts getting personal about your motives in leading clubs,
And one word frequently leads to another.

At the next table
You have one of those partners
Who says it is nothing but a game, after all.
He trumps your ace
And tries to laugh it off.
And yet they shoot men like Elwell.

There is the Day in the Country;
It seems more like a week.
All the contestants are wedged into automobiles,
And you are allotted the space between two ladies
Who close in on you.
The party gets a nice early start,
Because everybody wants to make a long day of it—
The get their wish.
Everyone contributes a basket of lunch;
Each person has it all figured out
That no one else will think of bringing hard-boiled eggs.

There is intensive picking of dogwood,
And no one is quite sure what poison ivy is like;
They find out the next day.
Things start off with a rush.
Everybody joins in the old songs,
And points out cloud effects,
And puts in a good word for the colour of the grass.

But after the first fifty miles,
Nature doesn’t go over so big,
And singing belongs to the lost arts.
There is a slight spurt on the homestretch,
And everyone exclaims over how beautiful the lights of the city look—
I’ll say they do.

And there is the informal little Dinner Party;
The lowest form of taking nourishment.
The man on your left draws diagrams with a fork,
Illustrating the way he is going to have a new sun-parlour built on;
And the one on your right
Explains how soon business conditions will better, and why.

When the more material part of the evening is over,
You have your choice of listening to the Harry Lauder records,
Or having the hostess hem you in
And show you the snapshots of the baby they took last summer.

Just before you break away,
You mutter something to the host and hostess
About sometime soon you must have them over—
Over your dead body.

I hate Parties;
They bring out the worst in me.


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