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My Go-To Trick for Getting Through Parties as Someone With Social Anxiety

Ever got to a party, stay at a friend’s house or at a function room, and felt the sharp slap of anxiety knock the breath out of you?

It starts out with a churning in your stomach a few hours before you get there, when you’re panicking about what to wear or how to do your makeup. Then you have to actually get there. If you want to drink, you can’t drive, but taxis can be expensive. You can’t get on the bus all dolled up, people will stare at you. And it’s just too far to walk.

You finally sort out your transportation and your mind is temporarily quiet while you get there. Then the worst part for me will happen.

You take a deep breath and open the door.

You step into the room and countless faces turn to look at you, trying to get a glimpse of who just walked in. They might know you, they might not. But they all still look.

I notice them looking and try to ignore them, but it’s already happening. My lungs feel compressed, my stomach is flipping and I feel like I’m going to vomit all over myself.

Just to see everyone lock eyes with me even just for a second sends my anxiety spiraling out of my control, and the rest of my evening is ruined. I used to duck my head, or stand in a corner silently crying until people forgot about me.

Then when I started becoming more social and attending more gatherings, I admitted I didn’t want to be that way. I mean who does? I feel embarrassed and angry at myself, and I just end up putting myself down more than I already have. So I tried something new.

When my friend would throw parties (guests included close friends and people I barely knew) everyone would start turning up around the same time, and by the time I got there it was usually enough to trigger my anxiety.

Eventually I thought, “I’m gonna get there a bit earlier, that should be enough time to get settled in and start calming myself.”

And amazingly, it was. Not only could I get a quick hold on my anxiety, but guests would drip in one or two at a time, and I could greet or be introduced to them comfortably instead of thinking, “oh my god, everyone’s staring at me.” It was a welcome change, and ever since, I have aimed to arrive at gatherings earlier than everyone else.

That’s not saying I’ve been miraculously cured; I still occasionally get overwhelmed and have to disappear briefly to run through breathing exercises or submit myself to a moment of panic. It may not even work for anyone else. For instance a friend of mine listened to me telling him this and he said he preferred to arrive when everyone was already there, that way it was all over with at once, like ripping off a Band-Aid.

Some people have methods that work perfectly for them; others may not even have one method. It’s about taking time and patience in finding what works for you. It cannot be rushed. Don’t be discouraged, and never give up.

Unsplash photo via Lidya Nada

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