How To Deal With The Office Christmas Party When You Have Anxiety

This year, you can make a plan to avoid the office Christmas party anxiety. It can be one of the most stressful events of the year. The overwhelming thought of all the awkward conversations you will have, the thought that you might drink too much to cover your anxiety and the exhaustion that you will feel the next day, all of this can cause someone with anxiety to come undone (even before the party has begun).

The office Christmas party is one of the most dreaded social events of the year for someone with anxiety. Sometimes, even if you want to stay home under the covers, you can’t and still need to attend. Here are some tips for how to deal with an office Christmas party when you have anxiety:

1. Have a plan for the night

Take the stress out of the office Christmas party by having a plan in place.

  • If you’re going to be drinking, work out how much you’re able to drink and what your limits are. When you have anxiety, you can often drink more than you want to. This is normally to cover the overwhelming and anxious thoughts and feelings. You could even ask a friend to keep you accountable for the night.
  • Know what time the official party and formalities will finish so that you don’t get anxious wondering when it will end. This also helps so that you don’t stay any longer than you have to.
  • Have your transport sorted out in advance to and from the party. This is so that you don’t get into stressful situations managing traffic or getting to the party late (because you couldn’t find a ride on time).

2. Be prepared for certain topics

When you’re heading into the office Christmas party, there will be certain people who will take the opportunity to be intrusive and ask you questions about your personal life. Even if your co-worker means well and is trying to be friendly, it doesn’t mean that you have to answer all of their personal questions.

If someone asks an intrusive question, try responding with “I don’t mind sharing, but I’d rather not go into too much detail.” This lets the person know that while they’re welcome to ask questions, it’s okay if they want to move on in order to avoid making everything awkward.

Anxiety in social settings is very common. Northwestern Medicine describes the commonality of anxiety like this:

“Anxiety is the most common mental health condition seen in our society,” explains Danesh Alam, MD, medical director of Behavioral Health Services at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.

Symptoms of anxiety disorders are thought to be a disruption of the emotional processing center in the brain rather than the higher cognitive centers. The brain’s limbic system, comprised of the hippocampus, amygdala, hypothalamus and thalamus, is responsible for the majority of emotional processing. Individuals with an anxiety disorder may have heightened activity in these areas.

The National Institute of Mental Health discusses why we may have anxiety around socialising. It is important to understand why we feel this way in order to help us be more in control of our emotions.

Social anxiety disorder is a common type of anxiety disorder. A person with social anxiety disorder feels symptoms of anxiety or fear in situations where they may be scrutinized, evaluated, or judged by others, such as speaking in public, meeting new people, dating, being on a job interview, answering a question in class, or having to talk to a cashier in a store. Doing everyday things, such as eating or drinking in front of others or using a public restroom, also may cause anxiety or fear due to concerns about being humiliated, judged, and rejected.

Social anxiety disorder is generally treated with psychotherapy (sometimes called “talk therapy”), medication, or both. Speak with a health care provider about the best treatment for you.

3. Organise your outfit well in advance

Organise your outfit well in advance for the office Christmas party. This will avoid anxiety and decrease your stress. Whatever you choose to wear, make sure it is comfortable and something that you know you will feel great in. This is not the time to try out a new hairstyle or a new fashion trend if you haven’t tried it before. Doing so, could only make your anxiety worse (because it may not turn out to look the way you intended it to).

Choose an outfit that suits both work and play. If you feel comfortable while still being stylish and professional, then this will help you feel appropriately dressed. Remember, you can impress your boss or get to know your co-workers better at the office Christmas party. If you feel stylish, comfortable and professional, this will help with reducing anxiety around networking at the event.

4. Have a plan for self-care the day after the party

Having something organised for the day after that makes you feel happy and relaxed will help to decrease your anxiety. When we have a stressful event that exhausts us emotionally and physically, having a self-care day afterwards lowers our blood pressure, calms our nervous system and gives our brains a break.

The Orlando Science Center highlights the importance of this type of self-care:

Your nervous system controls everything you do – walking, thinking, feeling, and even breathing. It’s important that any kind of self-care you practice cares for your entire nervous system – both your body and your brain. There are some activities that scientists recommend to help you do this, including mindful breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation, which involves intentionally relaxing one muscle at a time.

When you make self-care a routine part of your life, research suggests that you can reduce stress and avoid burnout, which is a feeling of emotional, mental, and even physical exhaustion that can be caused by prolonged stress. Tuning into yourself and enhancing your emotional self-awareness through regular self-care is a great way to create balance in your life.

Be kind to yourself and allow your batteries to recharge. This could be watching a funny movie, cooking your favourite dish, spending time in bed, going to the beach or hanging out with your favourite person. You know what is best for you and what helps you unwind, so do more of that. Knowing in advance that you will have a self-care day after the party can make you feel a lot better about having to attend in the first place.

The office Christmas party is a great time to let loose, relax and have fun with your coworkers. It is also an opportunity for you to show that you are comfortable in social situations, but it can be stressful if you have anxiety. By making yourself aware of certain topics or activities that may trigger your anxiety before the party and then planning accordingly, you’ll find yourself enjoying the event even more.

Always speak to your doctor or a licenced therapist with any concerns you have about anxiety. They can help you find the best treatment available and help you to have a stress-free holiday season.