When you have anxiety or various other mental health problems, going to an office Christmas party can be very daunting. Having avoided it in previous years, this year, I tried to challenge that and attended my first ever work do and guess what? – I’m still alive!
Find someone to go with – In previous years, I wanted to go but I didn’t really know many of my colleagues properly. What helped is having someone you usually talk to at work and ask if they’re going and if they’d be willing to go with you or meet you there. This really helped me, because at least I knew I’d have at least one person to talk. The main fear of an anxious person is being alone in a party full of people.
Take a breather – Being around a lot of people can be overwhelming, so stepping outside for some fresh air can do you good. Take a minute and then go back in when you’re ready. Or, if someone is going outside for a smoke, offer to go with them (even if you don’t smoke).
Don’t drink too much – When you’re nervous, people often use alcohol to relax and be more talkative. I don’t drink so this isn’t a choice for me. But, if you do drink, make sure you don’t go overboard and get hammered. You’ll most likely embarrass yourself which is certainly humiliating in front of work colleagues, especially if you’re a paranoid person like me – you’d constantly be thinking how you came across and be judging yourself.
Make eye-contact – I find it hard to make the first move and say hello to people. What helps is making eye contact with someone and they come to you. That makes me feel like I’m actually someone worthy of talking to! So, if you’re nervous, just make eye contact and smile at someone, and they will be more than likely to come up to you and say hello.
Ask questions – I’m someone who doesn’t like talking about myself because I feel like I’m too boring or I’ll stutter. So what I do is I always ask others questions (maybe the journalist in me). I feel like it is the easiest way to shift the focus on to the other person and there is less pressure on you.
For someone who doesn’t drink, there isn’t a way for me to not be me during a Christmas party because I’m the only sober one there. This can make it more difficult because I’m still me with my anxious thoughts, thinking what my colleagues are thinking of me.
But I had to remind myself that everyone there is in their own world. No one is going to care if you said something embarrassing. They might not even remember! It is important to remember that it is a party and nothing more. You are supposed to be enjoying yourself. We are often so hard on ourselves that we forgot why we are even there.