Making Peace with Social Anxiety this Holiday Season

Find out how to deal with anxiety amidst the busy holiday season. 

The holiday season is often considered the most joyful time of the year, filled with festive gatherings and celebrations. However, for shy or introverted people and people with social anxiety, this time of the year can be extremely overwhelming and anxiety-provoking. The pressure to attend or host holiday gatherings, engage in small talk, and navigate crowded spaces can be overwhelming and trigger feelings of anxiety

Social gatherings are prevalent this Christmas. 

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Social anxiety or social anxiety disorder is a mental health condition characterized by a fear of social situations, leading to significant distress and avoidance of social interactions. The fear of being judged or not fitting in can make it difficult to fully enjoy the festivities and connect with others. However, there are ways to make peace with social anxiety and still find joy during the holiday season.

Try breathing techniques. 

According to the British Association for Counsellors and Psychotherapists, breathing techniques are one of the experts’ top tips to help a person overcome social anxiety this Christmas. When we are feeling anxious, our breathing becomes shallow and fast, which can make our anxiety worse. Practicing deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques helps calm your nerves and reduce feelings of anxiety. Before attending a social event, take a few minutes to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Take deep, slow breaths and exhale slowly. You can also try progressive muscle relaxation, where you tense and release different muscle groups in your body to promote relaxation.

Train your mind and plan ahead. 

It can also be helpful for you to plan ahead and set realistic expectations for yourself. Know your limits and don’t feel pressured to attend every single event or gathering. Pick and choose the ones that you feel most comfortable with. You can also communicate with friends and family about your social anxiety, letting them know that you might need breaks or may not stay for the entire event. Real friends and real people will be understanding and supportive of your feelings when it comes to circumstances like this. 

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Challenge your thoughts. 

Another useful tip is to challenge your negative thoughts. Social anxiety can cause you to imagine worst-case scenarios and catastrophize situations. But it’s important to remind yourself that these thoughts are not facts and to challenge them with more realistic and positive approaches. It may also be helpful to have a supportive friend or family member who can help challenge these thoughts with you.

Christmas party at the office. 

Image from Freepik

Practice a healthy way of saying ‘No.’

Remember that ‘No’ is a complete sentence. 

Saying yes to everything can sometimes feel like the easiest option. However, constantly saying yes has negative effects on a person’s mental and emotional well-being. It can leave you feeling overwhelmed, drained and anxious. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to say no and set boundaries in order to take care of yourself. Saying yes to everything creates pressure to constantly meet others’ expectations and fulfill commitments, leading to added stress and anxiety, especially when there are a lot of gatherings, reunions, Christmas dinners, and parties lined up this season. Practicing the healthy way of saying ‘no’ reduces social anxiety which further leads to a healthier and more positive relationship with people and with yourself as well. 

Remember that you are not alone in your struggles. Many others also experience social anxiety, and needs extra care for their mental health. There is no shame in seeking support or taking steps to manage anxiety and other mental health concerns. Do your best to be open and honest about your feelings, practice self-care, and don’t hesitate to call a friend, as these tips can help you make peace with social anxiety and enjoy the holiday season in a way that feels comfortable and authentic to you. 

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