Lonely women sitting on the the sofa at home during christmas.

The holiday season leaves many people feeling anxious and nervous as they receive invitations to holiday office parties, family gatherings and other social events that they would rather avoid. It’s understandable, for while such events can be a great time to socialize, they also can lead to disaster.

Stories are common of that guy who had one drink too many at that holiday office party and ended up doing permanent damage to his career.

Of course, family holiday gatherings offer the same sort of opportunities to mess things up. A few drinks, then a desire to share family secrets, to rekindle an old disagreement, or to share an opinion better left unshared — all opportunities for trouble.

If worries about upcoming holiday celebrations have you nervous and tense, here are some suggestions on how to make such events less stressful and more enjoyable.

When an event of any type has you anxious that something could go wrong, take steps to limit the opportunities for disaster. Rather than be a no-show, arrive early, visit for a short time, then thank your host and leave. And if it turns out that your anxiety was ill-founded and you’re having a good time, then stay and enjoy yourself.

A good rule to avoid problems and embarrassment is to skip the alcohol. Even one or two alcoholic drinks can affect judgment. If a host forces a drink on you, say thanks but don’t feel obliged to drink it.

You can also avoid holiday party trouble by simply avoiding potential problem areas. A holiday party is not the place to share negative or critical comments about others. Even things said in confidence have a way of getting repeated to all the wrong people.

It’s also important to mind your manners. Avoid excessive drinking, don’t overdo it at the buffet table, and be sure to thank your host.

Often problems arise at holiday parties because of problem people. If there’s someone who always knows how to push your buttons, focus instead on staying close to those you enjoy and avoid that person. If he or she corners you to argue, simple refuse to respond and instead politely excuse yourself.

You don’t have to fear or avoid the holiday party. Focus on being sober, polite and sociable and you may find even a holiday party you’re “required” to attend just might be a pleasant experience.

”Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit the ACA website at www.counseling.org.

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