How to Cancel Plans Last-Minute (Without Irritating Your Friends)

be honest about social anxiety
Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis

Whether you blame the dipping temperatures or workweeks that never seem to end, staying in and “nesting” is somewhat of a trend; just look at design concepts like hygge and even the rise of the sober social scene in cities like New York and Los Angeles. In addition to demanding schedules and our “always-on” work culture, I’d argue that social media contributes to this social fatigue. Our Instagram feeds make us simultaneously feel like we always should be doing something, and yet give us pangs of anxiety and guilt when we want (rather, need) to cancel Friday night plans.

“Busyness is a badge of honor for several reasons. First, it’s trendy. When asked how one is doing, ‘busy’ is an expected answer,” said Ann Burnett, Ph.D., director of the women and gender studies program at North Dakota State University, to Vogue. “It’s kind of related to a person’s social status, so if you’re busy, you must be ‘in.’ In our research, we’ve found that being busy is equated to what is ‘normal,’ meaning that this is how everyone lives, and busy is also equated to being effective.”

This information is all the more reason to cancel plans, preferably nicely and well in advance, when you need to take some time for yourself. Vogue’s Martine Thompson, who has struggled with social anxiety herself, recommends the honesty approach. “Throughout these rough patches [with social anxiety], there were many last-minute cancellations and elaborate excuses that left me feeling even guiltier,” she writes. But a positive shift finally took place once she viewed this dreaded anxiety conversation as an opportunity to deepen a friendship.

“A simple text—like, ‘Hey! I’m not feeling so great this week; can we play our plans by ear?’ or ‘I just want to give you a heads-up, I’m having a hectic week and may need to reschedule; I’m eager to see you, but I’d rather get together when I’m in a better headspace’—can go a long way,” she suggests. “No one’s a mind reader, and if your friends don’t have personal experience with whatever you’re dealing with, anxiety or not, there’s a good chance they have no clue how exactly to show you the support you need.”

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