For those of you in the United States, we’re officially in the midst of prime party season. For some inexplicable reason, there are a crap ton of holidays in the last quarter of the year. The big ones that stores like to remind us about are Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve. There are also a number of other holidays crammed in these few months. With these holidays comes the inevitability of someone you know hosting a party. If you’re anything like me, this can be a source of stress. Don’t worry, though. You can get through this.

Social Caterpillar

I was chatting with my parents at lunch yesterday and I pointed out that my parents are hermits. I’m not talking about their being people who live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere so as to avoid contact with the outside world. They haven’t gone full-Thoreau or anything. They’re just not terribly keen on going out of the house and being sociable. They’re perfectly comfortable spending their evenings and weekends at home, watching whatever is on the television and reading books. Our house is nearly a shrine to books. I’ll have to share pictures someday.

Like my parents before me, I have hermit-like tendencies. Occasionally, my friends point this out to me and cluck their tongues. What can I say? I actually like spending my weekends in my pajamas playing computer games. On a related note, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is an awesome game. You were right, Micah. Anyway! I do actually make it outside of the house every now and again. I also invite people over to my house. My parents are a-okay with my hosting random social gatherings so that works out in the end.

Much as I like having people over (and I do, folks!), hosting stuff can be really stressful. I’ve been trying to get better about managing my stress levels when I have people over. It helps that I’ve learned that I really ought to closely monitor my alcohol consumption while people are over. See, when I get drunk, I clean. I’ve had people physically pull me away from cleaning things in order to make me sit down and enjoy my own party.

Attending other peoples’ parties is much better for my stress levels but there’s still this underlying, gnawing worry that I’m being awkward. I fear that I’m terrible at socialization. I’ll be at a friend’s party trying to converse with people and worrying that I’m, perhaps, monopolizing the conversation. Or maybe that I’m just too nerdy for some conversations and not nerdy enough for others. I’ll start worrying about my appearance. Eventually, I’ll manage to convince myself to just go with the flow. For a little while there, it’s a challenge.

I’m fortunate in that the people I tend to party with are as nerdy as I am. That’s always comforting. It’s just reminding myself not to worry about peoples’ expectations that can be difficult.

I’ve always envied people who can easily adapt to any social situation. I have friends who are so well-versed at various forms of socialization. They make it look so easy. They make being charismatic and charming look as simple and natural as breathing. While I’m actually halfway decent at being social, I think one of the things that trips me up mentally is the realization that I’m not yet as good as those folks. That would require a lot of practice and we get back to how I’m a hermit.

It’s not that I don’t want to be sociable. It’s just that it often takes a lot of effort to be so and that’s okay. There’s the key point, there. It’s okay. Don’t let yourself be pressured to be anyone but yourself. Speaking of pressures, let’s talk about one of the other fun aspects of this time of year: family time.

Familiarity Breeds

Shortly after my parents were married, they left their home state of New York and moved down to Maryland. As such, I didn’t grow up very close to my relations. When I was little, I’d see my extended family about twice a year. One or both sets of grandparents would come down for Thanksgiving and we’d drive up to see them at Christmas.

With that in mind, I’m going to put it out there that I have no advice for people who have to juggle familial commitments with other stuff this time of year. There aren’t many of us in my branch of the Hendrickson clan and we’re generally an easy-going lot. That’s not to say that we are completely drama-free. Every family has its own undercurrents of drama, but we get along well and that’s all that matters.

I guess all I can say is to take deep breaths and remember to take care of yourself first before trying to manage everything else. You are the foundation. If you start to crumble, everything else will fall apart. The falling apart may be spectacularly sudden or grimly gradual. So, take some time out of the madness to have some quiet moments to center yourself. This goes for everyone, really, regardless of situation.

Enjoy Yourself

This is meant to be a festive time of year. Festive means that you should be having fun. If you’re not having fun, find out why you’re not having fun and try to fix it. Don’t over-schedule yourself because that’s just asking for all kinds of stress.

If you’re not a terribly social person, don’t get anxious and worry that you’re doing the season wrong. It really is okay to not attend All The Things. It’s okay to keep to your own traditions, however big or small they might be. Embrace what makes you happy and find what makes this time of year possibly meaningful for you. That said, try to get out every now and again. Other people can be fun too.

I’m not going to lie to you and say that it’s not frequently difficult to drum up the motivation to spend time with other people. It is. Some of my difficulties stem from anxiety and some of them stem from laziness. Still, I understand that I have to leave the house sometime. So, I make plans and do the best I can.

If you have similar issues, don’t beat yourself up about them. Just remember that everyone feels nervous about hanging out with people sometimes. Also, everyone has their own moments of weird. If I can do it, you can to. We can make it through this year’s round of parties. We can survive the awkward season.