From networking events to company parties and dinners, work events required for many jobs can seriously ramp up your anxiety.
Work events can be stressful for anyone, but if you struggle with social anxiety issues, it can be especially trying. With some planning, there are ways to manage your anxiety to comfortably get through those office functions that require you to be present, professional and social.
Tips for Managing Your Anxiety at Work Functions
When you struggle with anxiety, the key is planning. You may want to believe a particular office party will be no big deal, but there is always a chance that something could trigger your anxiety. Here are some things to keep in mind for your next work function:
1. Get There Early
Rushing around and then being put on the spot the minute you arrive can be extremely stressful. It is a better idea to plan extra time to find the venue, park your car and arrive early. Entering a crowded room can be intimidating, but if you arrive early, you will have an opportunity to get comfortable in your surroundings before people start to arrive.
2. Avoid Excessive Drinking
Some people think that alcohol helps take the edge off in awkward social situations. When you are prone to anxiety, though, too much alcohol can make the situation worse.
If you do decide to drink, take it slow and ensure your total alcohol intake for the evening does not exceed two drinks. This will help you remain in control and keep your stress levels down.
3. Focus on Active Listening
Anxiety tends to creep in when your brain leaves the room. If you allow yourself to start ruminating about what-if scenarios and lose your focus on the present moment, your anxiety could escalate. Instead, practice active listening to keep your mind in the current moment.
In conversation, reiterate what other people are saying for clarity. Ask questions to reinforce the fact that you are following the conversation. By concentrating on what someone else is talking about, you can keep the focus off of you and avoid feeling too self-conscious.
4. Avoid Obsessing Over Interactions
A lot of things are said in casual conversation that seem awkward or inappropriate because social interactions are generally not rehearsed. If you suffer from social anxiety, you may be hyper-critical of your own social performance. The more you worry about or analyze how you are doing, though, the more anxious you will become.
If you say something that gets a negative response or that you think sounds dumb, let it go. Try to move the conversation onto a different topic, or redirect the focus to someone else by asking them a question. No one is going to remember what you said or didn’t say in a social setting like this. No one is taking notes. Understand that you are the only one who notices when you make a mistake in conversation — and by noticing it yourself, you are only drawing attention to it and escalating your own anxiety.
5. Schedule Quiet Time for Yourself Before and After
Sometimes the time leading up to an event can be worse than the event itself. If you spend that time worrying about all the things that can go wrong and make yourself feel anxious and uncomfortable, you will feel defeated before the party even starts. Instead, take some quiet time before the event to relax and clear your mind.
Go for a walk or listen to some music. Spending time alone before a social event can help ground you, so you go into it with a better mindset. After the event is over, take some time to decompress. Allow yourself to go over the event in your mind and remember the high points of the evening. Then, declare it a social success, and do not analyze it anymore.
Struggling with anxiety can make work functions difficult to deal with. If you prepare yourself and have a solid plan going into the event, though, it is possible to enjoy the social interaction with your colleagues. Instead of letting anxiety keep you on the periphery of the crowd, have a plan to manage it and be an engaged participant.