The minute I walk into a crowded room, my heart begins to race, my breathing becomes shallow, my mouth dries up quicker than a desert, and my palms sweat profusely.
My body is ready to bolt because it feels like immediate danger is present, even when it’s a room full of my closest friends and family.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve dealt with social anxiety and never understood why, or where it came from. It’s been one of my biggest pain points, filling me with shame and encouraging me to avoid public events like it’s a full-time job. This tends to put stress on and cause unnecessary fighting in most of my relationships.
When we label ourselves as intuitive, highly sensitive, and empathic people, it’s understandable to fear crowded holiday parties. We know that these events zap our energy, leaving us feeling emotionally hungover for days.
We then find ourselves angry—with our partners and ourselves—for attending in the first place, when all we wanted was to “be like everyone else,” and enjoy the holiday cheer. We want to be social, let loose, and have fun, but the thought of navigating energy vampires and selfish conversationalists (who only like to hear themselves speak), or turning into everyone’s life coach, makes us feel like we should be getting paid for this exhausting work.
No more, we say. There are simple solutions to help prepare before, during, and after a party so that we can take our energy back, avoid anxiously hiding in coat closets, and make socializing more fun.
1. Preparing Before the Event
There is an often-cited axiom that says, “A failure to plan is a plan to fail.” The key to success in these situations is preparation not just beforehand, but during and after the event too.
The pre-work can be summed up in three words: ground, protect, and communicate.
Grounding work can involve doing yoga poses and meditations on the floor. Taking time to envision showing up as the most confident version of yourself allows you to relax, have fun, and be fully present at the upcoming event.
A protection ritual can involve wearing crystals or stones in your jewelry or in your bra, like black tourmaline for protection, or sodalite to clear the throat chakra.
Communication is key. It is important to create boundaries for ourselves ahead of time, and to communicate the plan with whomever we are attending the event with. For example, I find that three to four hours is my maximum socializing capacity before I’m ready to go home. Making arrangements with companions to take separate cars allows them to continue enjoying the party if they choose while I have an escape plan when my time limit for peopling has expired. It’s important to make sure that everyone is on the same page so feelings don’t get hurt and you don’t feel guilty for not being “more fun.”
2. How to Navigate During the Party
To make connections more manageable and fun, we might challenge ourselves to talk to three new people during the party, and maybe more after that goal is met if it feels good. Having some pre-planned questions to ask others can aid in removing the anxiety of mustering up talking points on the spot. Try replacing, “What do you do?” with the more interesting, “What’s your story?”
When we begin having these conversations, we might tap into some energy that immediately drains us. If this happens, we can do a shielding exercise in our mind by imagining being surrounded by a white light or protective armor. Having a simple mantra, like, “I’m sending your energy back to you right now,” can be just what we need to bring us back to the present and to step back into our power.
Just as in preparation for the event, it’s equally as imperative to have boundaries in place while at the party. Taking breaks outside and stepping away are powerful acts of self-care. It is neither rude nor disrespectful to leave the physical space for a short time to recharge. In fact, this can be a necessary reset that allows us to preserve and extend our energy so we can continue to be engaged for the remainder of the event. Standing up for ourselves is not selfish; it helps us find solutions that are workable for ourselves and those around us.
3. Self-Care After the Event
Once we leave the event and have returned home, a rinse-and-repeat cycle of ground, protect, and communicate, which I mentioned before, is imperative to reconnect with our own energies and disconnect from anything we’ve picked up.
A delicious way to protect after a party is by taking a warm bath with candles and essential oils while listening to a cord-cutting meditation. Closing your eyes and cutting an invisible energetic cord with everyone you’ve come into contact with that day can help you to quickly recover.
To acknowledge ourselves for showing up and to release what isn’t serving us, we can write down five things that have made us feel anxious or nervous during the event, and five good things that happened as a result of showing up. None of these have to be large in magnitude, but seeing them in writing helps us gain perspective and feel accomplished for showing up despite the fear. Feel free to communicate these findings with your loved ones later that evening or the next day.
For those of us who are often affected by the energies of others, social anxiety is the real deal. Having strategies ahead of time can vastly help us to feel more empowered in crowded situations. Couple that with practicing good self-care during and after the event, and we have the recipe to party success for us empaths, introverts, and highly sensitive people.