Ever get s sense of dread as you approach the door to that holiday party where everyone’s expecting you to show up? Or maybe you hardly know anyone at all and you’re deciding to be adventurous by accepting an invitation from a new acquaintance. Either way, it makes perfect sense that anxiety would rear it’s head at a time when faced with walking into a room full of unknowns: any combination of moods, personalities, and opinions, along with a smorgasbord of libations and food might create an unpredictable environment that can quickly feel overwhelming and out of control. BUT, there are some things you can do to make the experience feel more grounded and manageable.
For one, remember to ask questions. While some of us might be terrible at small talk, the good news is that people generally like to talk about themselves. So if you get good at asking questions, you can keep the focus on them, and maybe even learn something interesting and new. Safe topics usually include plans for the holidays, books, movies and kids. Might be best to stay away from politics and religion unless you’re sure you’re in like-minded company.
While alcohol is often associated with loosening up, it might not be a good idea to let go of all your inhibitions, especially at work parties where you want to maintain a good impression. If you choose to drink, or feel pressured to do so, you can always alternate (or replace) cocktails with a glass of sparkling water or tonic garnished with lemon or lime. No one needs to know the difference and it might save you some grace. Just remember that carbonated beverages actually increase the rate of alcohol into the bloodstream so plain water might be a safer bet. And always be sure that you’ve got a safe ride home.
Also, don’t forget to set yourself up in a good way by eating balanced meals beforehand. Sometimes people fear that they will eat too much and choose to restrict earlier in the day if they know they will be around tempting foods. This is a bad idea as it only informs your body that it’s starving and will make it harder to know when to stop. Remember that there are always opportunities to meet your exchanges, even when faced with random snacks. Admittedly, nutrition is not my area of expertise but if you’re in the market for a dietitian, let me know as I can point you in the direction of some really great referrals.