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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

With the festive season upon us, the fear of the numerous Christmas parties is becoming more real for any introvert. Most are likely all too familiar with the sensation of standing in the corner of a room with a glass of mulled wine, desperately trying not to make eye contact. Fortunately, Christmas parties don’t have to increase social anxiety and with the right approach can actually improve mental health and happiness.

In many cases, the build up to a Christmas party or social gathering can be worse than the actual event itself. It is important to remember that any fears are often worse than reality and it is important to develop a more positive mindset. Try to think about what you are looking forward (maybe it is the festive decorations, your favourite song, seeing someone you haven’t spoken to in months or just excitement that we are finally in the build up to Christmas!) and remind yourself that you have coped with these situations before and there is no reason why you can’t cope with them again. A more confident attitude will also help you appear more friendly and approachable, encouraging others to start any conversations.

Another way to prevent social anxiety is to plan and prepare for each event. You could make a list of conversation starters on your phone, or try setting goals and intentions that you want to achieve. Interacting with people makes it easier to enjoy festive events and, as you start to move beyond small talk, can be a fantastic way of building deep connections with other guests. It is also good to know how long you intend on staying at an event for as this can help preserve your social battery. However, this is tricky if you have agreed to car-share or leave with as friend so try to make your own personal exit plan and don’t feel ashamed to say if you feel like you want to leave. Nevertheless, going to a party with a close friend can help lessen social awkwardness and meet new people to talk to so it is always wise to find a guest who you can arrive with.

On the topic of arrival, it can be easier to arrive before the party starts to help the host set up and to get a better understanding of the venue. Not only does this give you something to occupy your mind (and potentially continue to keep you busy throughout the evening) but it also means that as the other guests begin arrive, the host will introduce you personally, allowing you to start off with one-to-one interactions instead of large group discussions. During such conversations, don’t be afraid to let other people talk about themselves and ask them questions to show interest in their lives. Being an active listener allows you to socialise whilst still preserving your social battery.

It is important to remember that if things do begin to get too overwhelming, it is fine to take a 5-10 minute break in a quiet spot to recharge your social battery. This maybe a quick visit to the bathroom to touch up your make-up, a walk in the garden or even a quick scroll through Instagram in a quiet corridor. If the high-demand social scene of the festive season does ever become too much, don’t be afraid to say no to invitations to parties where you may not know as many people or are not close friends with the host. Whilst staying social is important, this should not come at the cost of mental health.

Finally, after you have left a party or social occasion, try to avoid dwelling on things you think you should have done differently. Most of the time what you perceive as a major social mistake will go completely unnoticed by everyone else. If you do tend to overthink such social situations, consider the positives and the goals you managed to achieve during the evening.

The festive season is a perfect time to catch up with friends and family, and social anxiety should not have to get in the way of this. Just remember the importance of mentally preparing yourself for social occasions and going with the intention of having a good time. If things aren’t working out the way you intended, then there is no shame in declining invitations or leaving if things become too much.

Hello! I'm a second-year history student studying at Exeter Uni, who loves reading, travelling, baking, acting and a variety of sports.