I think many people can relate to the nervousness or butterflies you get before going to a big social event, party, or gathering. Some experience the anxiety worse than others – especially if you have agoraphobic tendencies or social anxiety in general. On the flipside, I’m sure there are some people who don’t have trouble at all. However, for those of you who are familiar with the symptoms of anxiety, you know that it’s no fun.
Previously, I thought that after an event was over, I was out of the woods, in the clear, free from harm…done with anxiety for the time being. But after last weekend, I became aware of this other anxiety that came after an event. I realized, begrudgingly, that there must also be a post-party anxiety.
Social events drain my batteries (even though I do enjoy them and participate in them because, to me, it’s worth the work). Nonetheless, the company, the conversations, and all that good stuff, still get me overwhelmed and nervous. Even after the event is over, I noticed that I get a different kind of anxiety that threatens to take over my brain.
I spend time mentally preparing for social situations, and I try to equip myself with the skills I need to get through it joyfully and relatively pain-free. Yet, I haven’t been prepared for what comes after, even when I’ve successfully stayed at a gathering without leaving early because of anxiety.
It’s probably the result of low resources – being at parties takes a lot out of me – and I don’t have the strength to fight off the anxiety demons post-party. But, I think a lot of it can be prevented (or at least, reduced) if I have a game plan.
It’s worth it to me to attend social gatherings. I’m not just going to stay home all the time. I want to learn how to cope with the anxiety so that it’s not so bad. And being aware of what causes me anxiety is a good first step in learning how to deal with it.
After a party, I find myself unable to relax. It’s like I need to decompress, move really slow, and reorient myself to my surroundings. I find that I analyze conversations, re-live certain moments, and think and think and think and think about the day.
“Did I say the right thing to that person? I didn’t get a chance to talk to that one person. That one moment was really awkward. Why did I say that? Sometimes, I don’t know why I say certain things. I should think before I talk! Did I unintentionally blow off anyone? I didn’t finish that conversation with that one person. I hope they don’t think I didn’t want to talk to them.”
And vanity and pride play a part as well…
“Did I sound silly when I said that? Did I overdo it when talking to that person? Did I look dumb? Did I eat too much or too fast? Is that person still going to like me after that interaction? Are they still going to think highly of me? Is this one person still going to want to hang out with me in the future?”
My mind feels like it’s going 100mph and I don’t feel like I can stop it or slow it down. Sometimes I find myself walking around the house in circles doing random things that aren’t necessary. Like, I’ll fluff the couch pillows, fill up my water bottle, and organize the books on my end table…at midnight.
I think that I can help myself in these situations by first becoming aware of this “Post-Party Anxiety”, how it affects me, and what I can do about it.
I think a good way to deal with this type of anxiety is to first get rid of the desire to appear a certain way; whether it’s about physical looks or whether it’s about personality – appearing smart, composed, or graceful.
A lot of my anxiety stems from the fear of not being a certain way. And the fear of not being a certain way comes from the fear of not being accepted and loved.
I need to remember that I am who I am and that this good enough for me. I need to care less about what others think of me, because, in the end, it doesn’t matter what they think anyway. Comparing myself to others is useless because it only leads to discouragement and self-pity. I need to remember that I am loved, I am accepted, and I am good enough – first and foremost, because my self-worth comes from God Himself.
Also, I need to remind myself that I’m not weird. It’s OK to have a transitional routine – nothing out of control or really lengthy – just a few things that help me settle down. I was doing this before without realizing what I was doing, but my mistake was that I thought I was crazy and I felt weird for doing it. But I can see now that it is helpful to have a specific routine in order to transition from a particularly taxing event. What I need to add to the routine is the awareness of what I am doing and the confidence that when I’m done I can let go of the anxiety. And I need to give myself permission to wind down when I get home instead of expecting myself to go perfectly from one thing to the next.
A transition routine can be anything from brushing your teeth to taking a shower to sitting for a few moments with your eyes closed or mediating. I think a good practice would be to pray the rosary because it is so rhythmic and repetitious. A rosary can calm the anxiety while getting you back into a pattern of peace and trust. Or, if not a whole rosary, I’ll try just a decade or even just a short prayer, “Lord, I offer you this anxiety. I pray for everyone I spoke with this evening. I trust that you’ll bring good from all my weaknesses. Help me always to desire to lead others to You. All for Your greater honor and glory. Amen”