Social anxiety is no laughing matter, and unfortunately, this may end up developing in those with high functioning autism or those with Asperger’s Syndrome. I’m not saying that everyone who is like that will develop it, but there are a lot who do end up developing it due to past experiences. In my last post, I finally opened up and talked about how social anxiety affects those on the spectrum, and what goes on in our heads, or at least, my head, when my social anxiety rears its ugly head. So, in line with that, I decided to list down how I cope with social anxiety at parties and events.
1.Make a Decision and Stick With It
Making the decision whether to go or not to go to a party or event is a big one in itself. However, make sure that you do not overbook yourself, and make the decision right away. I sometimes have a hard time with this one, especially when it may be possible that I might not know anyone at the event or party at all. When this happens, I evaluate whether I do have time to go that party, and my reasons for wanting to go and for not wanting to go. More often than not, I give myself lame excuses rather than legitimate reasons, and when I do recognize that, I end up realizing that there won’t be any harm in attending it at all.
2. Plan Your Outfit A Week in Advance
Planning your look a week in advance will help you not be so stressed when you start preparing or dressing up for the party or event. Also, having it set as aside and ready for the day means that there will be less chances of things going wrong when it comes to your outfit. Usually when this happens to me, I end up not being able to find things that I need for my outfit, and I end up rushing to put on shoes that I am not even sure I can be comfortable in.
3. Make Sure You Know What You Will Bringing to the Party or Event One Week in Advance
Just like your outfit, make sure that you have this ready at least a week beforehand. This will lessen your stress tremendously as you won’t have to buy a bottle of wine or gift last minute, or if you are bringing food, you can have that ready to go at least a day beforehand.
4. Mentally Prepare Yourself for the Event
Prepping to attend a party or event used to take me an entire day, and now, I only need half a day to prepare. Aside from preparing what I’ll be bringing, dressing up and putting on my make up, I know that I need to be relaxed and stress free throughout the day, so I do something that relaxes me in order to prepare for all the stress and anxiety that will follow, such as reading a book or watching something that makes me laugh.
5. Give Yourself a Little Pep Talk On Your Way to the Party & Resist the Urge to Flee
The ride towards the event or party is usually the most stressful part of the entire ordeal. It is during the ride going to the party where all my fears and anxieties come to play. I worry about how I look, what people might think of me, how I’ll approach people at the event, all the way to worrying about my behavior, what I will say, and what people will think about me afterwards. It is here where I usually have the most urge to just turn around and go home, and no one will be the wiser. All of this is actually called anticipatory anxiety. First, you should give yourself a few minutes to calm down so you can think clearly. Then, tell yourself that you can do it, that you have your strategies in place, and sometimes, it helps to make it a sort of social experiment for yourself or a game.
6.Plan What Time You Will Arrive
Arriving on time or arriving a little bit early is a good strategy. Both will give you enough time to get the lay of the land, and you can already start doing some small talk to those that are already there. Don’t arrive TOO early because that means that you’ll have absolutely nothing to do until other guests arrive, and don’t arrive too late either as you also don’t want to attract too much attention to yourself. This also means that instead of having to struggle to join in on conversations, you can start conversations yourself with those that are there and that are coming in.
7. Have an Exit Strategy On Hand & Plan When You Will Leave
When things are just too much for you, have an exit strategy so that you can have some time to calm down before heading out again into the party. It’s also good to know when you will leave and plan out how exactly you will take your leave from the host of the party. However, if you do find yourself having more fun than you thought you would be having, then it is alright to stay a little bit longer than planned.
8. Remember That You Are Not the Center of Everything
Part of my social anxiety stems from my worry that almost everything that I do and say will be scrutinized by those around me and that they will talk about me because of it. When this happens, it is good to remind ourselves that we are not at the center of everything and that not everyone will honestly care about what I do and say. More often than not, I find that the little slip ups that do occur during a party or event, and which I agonize over, really didn’t matter to those around me. So, now, I try to remind myself of this, and I try my best to chalk up everything to experience.
9. Prepare Small Talk Topics & Strategize on How To Approach People and Join Conversations
Aside from the anxiety that starts coming in on the way to the party, actually getting yourself to interact with people is also very hard, as I end up resisting the urge to run to the bathroom, and calling a friend or family member up in my panic. In order to cope with this, make sure that you have small talk topics ready, and if you are near a conversation that interests you or if you do know a lot about what they are talking about, you can join the conversation by politely saying “Excuse me, but I noticed that you were talking about _______” and say something you know about it, or tell them that you are interested in the topic as well. If you can find a conversation that you can join in on that has to do with your special interest, that would be ideal. Just remember to be aware of verbal and body cues to know whether you should stop rambling about it, and talk about something else.
10. And Finally, Relax, Have Fun and Enjoy the Experience
Honestly, attending parties and events are ultimately great experiences in which you can try and test your strategies out to see if they work, and are great experiences in and of themselves. More often than not, experiences at parties are bound to be pleasant surprises. Allow yourself to have new experiences, make new friends, and just experience things without any regrets, as long as you don’t do anything that you know is harmful to yourself. To be honest, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I was able to find people to talk to, and that no one really cares if you are not good at a particular game that everyone seems to want to play. In the end, all of this will be chalked up to experience, which is always a good thing, because, honestly, you’ve got nothing to lose whether or not they become pleasant experiences or experiences that you can learn from.
What do you think of my list? How do you cope with Social Anxiety at parties or events? Let me know if you have anything to add to this list in the comments below!