No matter how happy you want to be during the holidays, sometimes things get in your way, like social anxiety, a common form of anxiety disorder. It’s more than not liking crowds. People with social anxiety may experience psychological and physical symptoms during the holiday season.
You can’t just turn off social anxiety. But you can implement some tips and tricks to make celebrate the holidays with social anxiety a little easier.
Learn more about how anxiety can affect your memory and five life hacks you can use to relieve symptoms of anxiety.
What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety isn’t just about being shy. It is marked by a significant and persistent fear of being observed and scrutinized by others. Symptoms peak when the person interacts or performs for others, such as meeting new people, public speaking, dating, or being interviewed for a job. Social anxiety can lead to avoidance, which impacts a person’s ability to function in work, relationships, and social events.
What are the common symptoms social anxiety disorder?
- Fear of interacting with strangers
- Worrying that other people might tell you are anxious
- Fear of physical symptoms in social situations like blushing or having a shaky voice
- Avoiding situations where you would be in the spotlight for fear of embarrassment
- Symptoms of Anxiety When Thinking About Social Situations
- Anticipate the worst outcome of negative social situations
The holiday season can bring on a spike in anxiety.
Doreen Marshall, Ph.D., vice president of mission engagement at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), explains the dynamics of social anxiety and holidays as a potential challenge.
“For someone with social anxiety, the pressure of attending large social gatherings can bring additional challenges. There may be gatherings with strangers to celebrate events, and the challenges of navigating unfamiliar social situations can be very stressful for those who suffer from social anxiety,” Marshal says.
6 Strategies to Reduce Social Anxiety This Holiday Season
The holiday season can be tough with social anxiety. However, just because you suffer from social anxiety does not mean that you are doomed to have negative experiences in social situations. Use these six strategies to take control of your social anxiety and enjoy the holidays by setting boundaries and respecting your needs.
Find out about your social anxiety
The first thing you should do if you suffer from social anxiety is learn as much as you can. Learn about the physical and the psychological anxiety symptoms.
It is important to familiarize yourself not only with social anxiety, but also with your particular social anxiety. What are your triggers? How can you tell when you’re pushing yourself too far? By identifying your triggers and reactions, you can more accurately identify situations that aren’t right for you and learn how to react accordingly.
Define what is under your control
Holidays present unique challenges. Many parts of the holiday season are beyond your control. You cannot decide how people will act or determine economic conditions. This can be difficult to manage as the symptoms of stress and anxiety kick in.
Marshall suggests that people with social anxiety find what they have control over.
“You can decide to exercise regularly, Eat healthy, improve sleep hygieneseek comfort in mindfulness activities — all of which can make things better even when life seems out of control,” says Marshall.
By adopting what you can control, you will feel more empowered. This will allow you to plan where you can and lessen the fear of the unknown.
Give yourself topics for discussion
An integral part of social anxiety is the fear of being judged or scrutinized by others in social situations or performances. Another strategy for dealing with social anxiety during the holidays is to give yourself some things to talk about in advance. That way, you don’t have to worry about scrambling to find something to keep the conversation going. Having things prepared ahead of time can help relieve the pressure you are feeling.
Another version of this would bring a conversation starter. Maybe it’s a fun hat or a holiday lapel pin that always gives you a conversation starter.
Take breaks when you need them
Energy levels fluctuate during holiday periods; It’s normal. With all the family time, Christmas music, and plates of food, sometimes it can get a little too much. With social anxiety, lulls in conversations are a time for worrying about what to say. The highs are just as draining.
To combat this, take time for yourself when you can. You should always feel able to walk away when you need some time for yourself, whether it’s a walk or a bubble bath. When you feel close to your limits, take a break and do relaxing activities like reading or listening to your favorite music.
Remember, it’s OK to say no
The holidays introduce heightened social situations for many people. Set boundaries and say no when necessary, are essential for managing social anxiety. You have the choice to participate in festivals and traditions. Taking a step back is okay if certain events or festivities trigger you. You shouldn’t completely avoid situations; however, respect your limits and do not exceed yourself.
Talk to your family and friends
Even with the best of intentions, family members and friends can make anxiety symptoms worse. Questions and attempts at comfort or help can feel overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to talk.
Establishing boundaries and needs is a good way to start an open dialogue. You can communicate your needs and the ways they can help you and help them understand what you need when your anxiety symptoms flare up.
Marshall emphasized the importance of finding resources when you need them. “If you suffer from social anxiety, it can be helpful to know that you are not alone and that there is help available.”
Don’t forget that there are community resources to support you. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the resources available to you. Text 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line or dial 988 to be connected to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.
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