Mental Health

Overstimulated and Obligated: 6 Tips For The Holiday Party Season

“Do I really HAVE to go?..Okay fine I am going but I am only staying an hour”

It’s that time of year where you get invited to allll the holiday parties and you’re like wow I really don’t wanna fucking go..right? Maybe its a work party, maybe its a family gathering, maybe its just friends. Yeah, I am right there with you (except I am throwing my own..so..we will see how that goes).

I am easily overstimulated by the people, the smells, mostly the noise, the pressure and the excitement of parties. I am also getting older and drunk people are loud and obnoxious to me. Would I rather be in bed watching Netflix with a heating pad? Yes. Do I like parties? Sure..if everyone there is agreeable to the things that I like (feminism, liberal political ideas, mental health, etc) It is when people don’t have the same ideas and are openly annoying about their racism, sexism, Trump supporting – where I find myself just a tad bit “overwhelmed”. I know what you’re thinking “How can she say that? What about changing people’s minds or being around people who don’t think the same way as you?” Sorry nope. It is not my job to educate the world about why racism and sexism is wrong and I just can’t be around people who are either passively like this or aggressively. Call me a snowflake, call me a millennial, but I usually just choose to opt out of gatherings where I know conflict is imminent. 

In some way, maybe you feel obligated to go to a party this holiday season where you know you’re going to be uncomfortable. Could you say no? Absolutely. But in some way, you want to go. Here are my 6 tips for when you Overstimulated and Obligated. 

Know Your Limits

If you know you can only stand being around your family for an hour, then do that. If you think you can make it through for a good three hours…do that! My therapist and I talk about this frequently. If I can spend 2 hours with certain members of my family, I’d consider that a pretty good day.  If you have to travel to this party, figure out if you want to skip staying with the friend or family and get a hotel. You have to figure out what is going to work best for you. 

I am always reassessing my limits. I have family I do not get along with and it is best if I only see them a few times a year for very brief moments in time. This is what works for me. I used to feel guilty about this but now I don’t. I don’t feel guilty because if these family members were just people in the world I would not choose to be their friend. I am not of the impression that blood is thicker than water and I feel empowered to choose who gets to be in my life. So, that being said, I limit my time with these individuals. I think it is important to assess who you are spending time around and what would be the best choice for you. 

Bring A Friend

I do this ALL the time. My daughter was just invited to a holiday party where I wasn’t sure what it really was, who all would be there or what the vibe would be like. I brought my roommate Kate and everyone thought we were lesbians. Do we play into this? Yes. Is it funny as hell? Absolutely. Bringing a friend can help take some of the pressure off. Bringing a friend can make the experience more fun for you. If you’re going back home this Holiday season and cannot bring a friend with you, could you make a friend at the party? Chat someone up and find out!

“Wow this bread is AMAZING.” 
“Yassss. I am so glad you came with me to enjoy this bread.”

Say “NO” to conversations

I don’t mean when people walk up to you to just say “No, I am not open to conversations” although, I would really like a coffee mug or a desk sign that said this. I mean that when people bring up conversations that are just enticing a debate or that make you uncomfortable, just say let’s chat about “XYZ” OR say “What do you think about XYZ?”. Also..can we all agree that people who have realllllly far right ideas (or just crazy ideas in general) really love talking about it? Like..you’re not going to convince me but how about we just shut this convo down and talk about the weather, what book you’re reading (presuming it isn’t Trump’s memoir) or your what shows on Netflix you’re enjoying. Maybe I am the only one who has family who entice debates but I can’t be..right?

“Help me! This woman has been trying to sell me her MLM line of yoga pants for the last hour and she keeps mentioning that Trump has some really great policies”

Prepare Ahead of Time

A few days before the event, check in with yourself. Are you stressed about something? Could you take actions now to reduce your stress? For me, when I have an event coming up I stress about the details, what I am going to wear, getting a babysitter, getting ready, if my house is messy, putting gas in my car to get there, packing, bringing gifts, bringing food, making sure I have everyyyyything together. Getting your life in order a few days ahead of time really helps to reduce the stress the day of.

I take medication for anxiety, this is definitely a day I would NOT skip my meds. 

Tips for Reducing Stress Beforehand

  • Clean your house
  • Pick your outfit
  • Setup your childcare plans
  • Put gas in your car, change your oil, whatever you gotta do
  • Self care, self care, self care. Need more tips for this? Self Care This Week
  • Take your meds!
  • If you have to bring food or a gift, get these things a few days a head of time. Make it easy on yourself and don’t over commit to making some extravagant dish that is only going to stress you out more. 
“I am relaxed AF because I am prepared, medicated and not dealing with drama!”

Take A Break or Two, or Three

Taking a break and knowing your limits go hand in hand. If you are overstimulated sometimes just walking outside and breathing in some fresh air can make you feel better. Parties are noisy, hot and filled with odors (food, sweaty people, stinky children..all the things). It is OK to take a break and go splash water on your face, step outside and go for a walk or hide in the bedroom upstairs for a few minutes. You don’t have to be the life of the party and you don’t have to talk someone the entire time. I try to take a break every hour or so. Walk around, use the restroom, take a step outside, go on a walk outside. Likely, nobody will actually notice that you took a break from the gathering, so don’t even worry about it. Take time for you and your own personal limitations. 

*Just me taking a break from this Holiday party*

Relax 

I know it is hard to relax, trust me. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed I feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest and if someone accidentally bumps into me again I might just lose it. I think I am also easily annoyed by people that I find annoying (sorry but it is true. some people are just super annoying). It feels like forever when you are talking to them and every time you engage in a conversation it feels like they are trying to get you into an argument. Am I the only one that experiences this? I can’t be *eye roll*

I try to think that one night is just a moment in time and it will pass. Nothing lasts forever, not your anxiety, not your panic attack, not your uncomfortable-ness (is this a word) and not the party. All of it will be over and you will get to go home and enjoy your own home in peace very soon.

Do you have anxiety in other areas of your life? Check out these posts:

Overcoming Anxiety at Work

Parenting with Anxiety

Gift Ideas for your anxious friend

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