WORKPLACE / NOV. 30, 2014
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How to Cope With Office Party Anxiety

Christmas is just around the corner and the office party season is already underway. For many this is a much-anticipated opportunity to unwind and have fun with colleagues and maybe get some useful networking done. However, there are plenty of people out there for whom the office party is a loathsome annual ordeal to be dreaded.

Social anxiety is a surprisingly common condition that affects more people than you might at first realise. It’s not that they’re antisocial party-poopers; they just become extremely agitated and anxious in social situations.

If you’re dreading this year’s office party, here are some tips to help you cope.

Go with an understanding friend

If you feel anxious or concerned about the annual office social event, confide in a friend and ask them to go with you. It’s amazing just how beneficial the support of an understanding confidant can be. Be open about the problem and know that if you do need to leave early, you won’t have to walk out on your own.

You don’t really matter

Although this sounds very harsh, it’s also important for you to understand. Many people become anxious at parties because they feel that they have a certain image or ‘persona’ to live up to in front of their peers. Concerns that you might not choose the right outfit, the trendiest hairdo or that you might not be the witty and amusing companion your colleagues expect you to be can leave you feeling nervous, paranoid and anxious before you even leave the house.

Contrary to what you might think, other partygoers are not scrutinising your every move. Most people are far too concerned with their own issues to be remotely worried about you.

Lose the anticipation

Becoming anxious at the party itself is only part of the problem. Very often, it’s the weeks of nervous anticipation that are worse and you can wind yourself up so much that by the day of the party your anxiety levels have already reached fever-pitch.

The trick to controlling pre-party anxiety is to become aware of it. You can actually reduce your worries simply by realising that concern is starting to manifest itself. You don’t need to try to get rid of the worry – just accept it and move on; that’s half the battle.

Nothing lasts forever

Another good technique to help you combat office party anxiety is to realise that it won’t last forever. The stress that you feel will certainly arrive, but it will also depart. It really isn’t getting all worked-up over something that’s so fleeting.

Avoid alcohol, coffee and cigarettes

On a more practical level, it will help your nerves enormously if you avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. All these substances can lead to increased anxiety and cutting them out on party nights will leave you feeling physically much calmer and more relaxed.

Mental chatter

Another very effective strategy is to cut out the mental chatter that everyone indulges in. We all like to conjure up mental images of different scenarios that might arise at a party; good and bad. This makes your anxiety and worry ten times worse.

In essence all you’re doing is worrying and pontificating about something that probably won’t even happen!

Exercise before you go

Exercise causes your body to release endorphins into your system. These chemicals are the body’s natural feel-good substances that can also reduce stress levels.

Try either a high-intensity work-out or perhaps a run or bike ride on the day of the party to kick-start your anti-anxiety hormone fix; alternatively, you might find yoga or tai chi calming and relaxing.

We don’t all look forward to the office party, but it’s worth remembering that there are many people around the world who do not have the ability or the freedom to attend such events.

Next time your anxiety threatens to get too much, just remind yourself that a party is actually a fun, happy event; relax and enjoy!

Image source: Boutique Disco

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