8 Tips for Surviving a Party or Gathering

– Posted in: Opinion

I don’t make it a practice of reposting articles, but I’m doing it this time.

There is a post from July 3, 2008 entitled “8 Tips to Survive Gatherings on the Fourth” that is relevant to gatherings on Labor Day, or Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or any day that you have to go to a gathering or a party. I have updated it and present it here, hoping it will help someone.

It will be especially helpful for people with Social Phobia, Panic Disorder, and those that suffer from panic attacks.

I have to go to a wedding party soon, and you can bet that I will be using those tips myself!

Here are some suggestions for things that have helped me:

1. Don’t try to go to too many gatherings — Set boundaries

You may be invited to more than one gathering, such as one at Mom’s and one at your best friend’s. You don’t need to attend all the parties you are invited to. Have an excuse to say “no” without stretching the truth too far. If you have to turn down an invitation, be kind but firm. When you put yourself first, you will have more to give everyone else.

2. Try to find out how many people will be there

It is very upsetting to me to find a house full of people when I just expected a friend and his family. Try to find out who will be there, and how many. This may not always be possible, but it’s worth a try to ask tactfully. If the circumstances are not right — too many unfamiliar people, or just too many people in a small space — you can take a rain check on the invitation. Do not sacrifice yourself to do what you think others expect.

3. If you go, set time limits

You don’t have to be the first to arrive and the last to leave. I always try to arrive not too long after a party starts to avoid making “grand entrance” in front of a lot of people. Always decide in advance when you are going to leave, whether it’s a set time or a set of circumstances, such as a decent interval after the meal is finished. Agree on this time with any persons going with you, so no one is disappointed or angry. And remember that if you need to leave before your agreed upon time, it’s ok.

4. Have a safe place you can retreat to

You need to have a safe place to go when you need to if your Anxiety is severe, particularly if you have Panic Disorder and Social Phobia. If your host understands, your safe place might be a bedroom or home office. Failing that, you might retreat to a bathroom or even your car. Do not be embarrassed to get away from the party to pull yourself together! Knowing that you have a safe place might mean that you never have to use it.

5. Bring someone along who understands

If at all possible, bring a friend or family member who understands your situation. For people with Agoraphobia, taking another person along may be the only way that you can go. This person should understand that you need to leave when you say so, and should know about your safe place and why you may need to use it. You don’t want to hang onto or hide behind this person, but having a “safe” person along will help you enjoy yourself more.

6. Help yourself remember your coping skills

If you have severe Anxiety Disorders and are recovered enough to go to parties, you will already have a set of coping skills to use, such as deep breathing and relaxation. Go over these skills before you leave home. Under pressure it’s easy to get flustered and forget the skills you have fought so hard to learn. There’s nothing wrong with writing them down on a slip of paper to remind yourself.

7. Remember why you are celebrating

Though it’s great to celebrate a wedding, a holiday, or a birthday, the main reason you are going is to be with people you care about and to meet new ones. It’s a time of enjoyment, sharing friendship and happiness. Think about how much you will enjoy yourself. If you think you will have to violate yourself to fit in, it may be better to stay at home.

8. If you can’t go, you can’t go. If you can’t stay, you can’t stay

You can say “no” at any time. It’s ok if you can’t go or you can’t stay. You can make it up to the people at another time, if you think they may be offended. Don’t make yourself sick when you realize you’re too anxious to go or stay, even if you have to cancel at the last minute. But if you can’t go or stay, make real goals to work on in the future.

What do you think?

  • Do you have any further suggestions?
  • What has worked for you?

As always, your comments are welcome!

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9 Comments… add one
Tina August 30, 2008, 10:20 pm

Very very useful tips. I like to refer to myself as anti social.While I like people, I prefer one on one. This list is something I can review and shove in my pocket when I got to a writing conference.

I find goal setting to be very helpful in social/networking events. What do I want to accomplish?

1. I will talk to one industry professional.
2. I will introduce myself to one new person.
3. I will stay for more than fifteen minutes.
4. I will walk around the entire room at least once.

Then once I accomplish my goals I am free to leave or stay.

I laugh as I write this but truly, once I went to an industry social event…got off the elevator and walked across the room to another elevator and left.

Goals do help.

Thanks again, Mike

Mike August 30, 2008, 11:23 pm

Thanks for the comment, Tina!

A list of goals is a good idea. Maybe write them on the same slip of paper as the coping skills. Then they can be reviewed if need be.

It’s the events I really can’t leave after 15 minutes that bother me. For example, I have to go to my best friend’s daughter’s engagement celebration party soon. I can’t leave too early or there will be hurt feelings.

I’ve already started my lists, and now I can add goals to them. It will help me a lot by giving me something specific to do rather than just wandering around or hiding in a corner.

Thanks for the suggestion!

Mary Jamison August 31, 2008, 11:44 am

I really like the list of goals.
For years, formal holiday get-togethers, where everyone sat around a table, were something I dreaded. I pretty much just endured them. Finishing the meal always was a good point; after that, I could at least move around the house. When I see the pictures now, I’m so glad I was able to do it.
Another thought is to figure out what the halfway point is, so that you know when you’re heading toward the “OK to go home” part of the event.

Mike August 31, 2008, 2:22 pm

Thanks for the comment, Mary!

Figuring out the mid-point is a good idea. It gives you hope that there is an end in sight!

My goal is to be able to attend a formal family gathering at Christmas, and the mid-point ought to be right as the desert is being served!

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ian harris August 4, 2013, 5:33 am

I have chronic pain and when im with people like me ie christian gatherings ,im fine ,but parties etc i always struggle badly and its affecting my marriage.People think ITS ALL IN YOUR HEAD.

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