Long story short, I have anxiety when in groups of large people, unless I know them all very well. Each year everyone at my work (about 20 people in total) goes to an office Christmas lunch. This is the second one that I've been to since I've only worked here for about a year. Last year, as a brand new employee, it took everything in me just to force myself to go and it didn't go very smoothly.

When I came into the restaurant last year I could see that in our reserved area there were two tables already full and two empty. So I wandered up to one and asked one of the only people that I knew if I was allowed to sit anywhere and he said "yeah". So I decided to sit alone at the table next to them. This was very uncomfortable and embarrassing, even though I don't actually mind sitting alone.

Within a couple minutes the same guy I asked jokingly said "that's too sad" and then changed tables to mine. I know he was trying to be friendly, but that only made me more embarrassed. Eventually a third guy and his family arrived which I knew and decided to sit with the two of us. The rest of the time went alright, but with some awkward conversation here and there.

How can I get over my anxiety for another one of these lunches and hopefully not be so awkward, especially after my experience last year?

  • During this year, have you gotten to know some of your colleagues better ? – Aserre Nov 7 '18 at 16:28
  • 5
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is an Intrapersonal problem not an Interpersonal one – Jon.G Nov 7 '18 at 16:47
  • 2
    I'm sorry, but like JonG said, we can't help you 'get over anxiety'. That's something that is an intrapersonal matter, something that goes on inside you, instead of between two or more people (interpersonal). If there's a specific interpersonal skill/interaction you'd like help with, we may be able to do so, but remember we can't give you a script for every possible situation. Let's start with three questions: What are you fearing that may happen this year that also happened last year, how did you handle it last year, and what would you like the outcome to be this year? – Tinkeringbell Nov 7 '18 at 19:21

I want to start by saying that social anxiety is a very common problem to have. Both your feelings and your response last year are entirely reasonable and valid. Social Anxiety affects about 1 in 18 people and anxiety affects about 1 in 5 people.

It is really great that you are interested in addressing your issue and that you have already taken a first step by asking here.

How can I get over my anxiety for another one of these lunches and hopefully not be so awkward, especially after my experience last year?

First of all - there isn't a "one trick solution" for overcoming social anxiety. There isn't a single thing I can say that could make it "go away".

Second thing - this is something you can work on and improve substantially. I have seen people transform their responses to anxiety and show substantial improvement over time using techniques of desensitisation.

Stuff you can do alone

There are exercises you can do for working on your social anxiety. I am using the Oxford sheets but there are some others. Here is a link to the [Oxford worksheet] (http://www.oxfordclinicalpsych.com/view/10.1093/med:psych/9780195336696.001.0001/med-9780195336696-appendix-2) you can also get the book.

There is also the DARE response which basically tells you to:

  • Answer "What if" questions like "What if I'm there and there is no one I can talk to" with "So what?"s.
  • Accept your anxiety for what it is.
  • Run towards the anxiety and say "I am excited by feeling social anxiety"
  • Carry on and engage with the dinner.

Interpersonal skills you can apply

Gather your resources

One thing that helps is planning ahead of time what you're going to do. Preferably if there is someone at your workplace you trust you can tell them that you would like their help:

Hey, I have a hard time finding myself in large social gatherings and do better in smaller events. I really like the company and want to figure out how to participate in the Christmas party. Can I count on you for discourse during the party?


Think about interesting things that have happened to you in the last few weeks and you feel comfortable talking about.

Have a plan for if anxiety happens

This is a neat trick from dialectical therapy. If you become very anxious which is perfectly normal and happens to some people - it is good to plan for it. A self-soothing plan that includes something that doesn't distract you too much can really help.

For example - you can write down on a piece of paper something like:

If I get anxious, I will go to the restroom, pull out my phone and headphones and listen to the jazz song X. Then, I will take 10 long breaths.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.