By Dr. Katy Kamkar, Ph.D., C. Psych Clinical Psychologist, CAMH & Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto.
Attending social gatherings can be meaningful and joyful. But at times these get-togethers can conjure up feelings of anxiety or apprehension because of interactions we will have to face, or a person we may have to encounter. At times, we look forward to certain gatherings only to find out unexpectedly someone has been very unpleasant. We have all been in those situations and know how it feels. It is not a pleasant feeling.
Here are some tips and strategies for coping:
Ask yourself: What’s the purpose of attending this gathering? What does it mean to me and what do I want to get out of it? Always remind yourself of its purpose and function so you can remain focused on your goals. In some settings, you might only want to have fun or enjoy the food, meet people to build your support network either for personal or professional reasons or you may feel you will look bad if you do not attend and are going only to make someone else happy.
- Remain focused on your goal and do not let any negativity distract you from your goal.
Focus on the positives around you. It could be the delicious food, the home décor, the view of nature around you, or just spending time with people you enjoy talking to.
- Focus on positives around you.
There will be situations where there could be one person who might use subtle or obvious ways to dismiss you, minimize you, or disregard you as a person Or you find out someone is planning an event and you’re not invited. Or you are invited to an important event and have greatly contributed to its function but you find out you are being ignored or dismissed.
First, remind yourself not to react. Keep your smile and stay positive.
Focus on your breathing and slow down your breathing. Remind yourself you will be okay. You have power over yourself.
Understanding the context, the person or motives can be helpful. Some might be dealing with jealousy or insecurity or narcissism over something you have or who you are. They might feel better by putting you down. So most times you will find out it is not about you, it is about them. Do not personalize or internalize what is going on. They are likely suffering from their own insecurity and unhappiness. Remain focused on your goals and any learning for future events onhow to interact with the person who has hurt you.
- Do not personalize or internalize what is going on.
Engage in Time Out – physically or mentally can be helpful. Depending on the situations or interactions and whether it is realistic or not, you can leave a certain interaction to go out for a quick walk or to go into another room or talk with others. If you have to stay, focus on your breathing, positives around you.
- Engage in Time Out
In all social gatherings, there will likely be one person or group of people whom you enjoy being with. Try as much as possible to spend time with them to help minimize the upset from the negative interactions.
Work on not escalating any conflict. Acknowledge the positives in that person, the positives around you, and your own positives and work your way onto a more pleasant topic.
Always remind yourself it’s not worth it. You are worthy of love and care. Protect yourself by focusing on your strengths, positives and self-care.