Everyone around you is looking forward to the office holiday party. You’ve already started to get invitations to your family and friends’ celebrations, too. It seems like everywhere you look people are excited about these upcoming events.
Except for you – you’re dreading all of it.
Social anxiety is a significant fear of being in unfamiliar social situations and/or people. It also includes worries about being judged or rejected by others, or doing or saying something that’s humiliating or embarrassing. If any of that sounds like you, then you may have social anxiety disorder (aka social phobia). But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Approximately 12.1% of adults in the US experience social anxiety at some point according to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH).
Having social anxiety can make the holidays challenging.
The most common worries people with social anxiety have during the holidays are attending large gatherings, making small talk, and embarrassing themselves. They start to experience anxiety about these situations well in advance of them occurring. They fret about what questions others will ask them, what they should wear, how to behave, or if they’ll be asked to speak/make a toast to an audience. In fact, many people with social anxiety get so worked up at the prospect of going to a holiday party that they avoid going at all.
But avoidance makes social anxiety worse in the long run.
Avoiding the situations that make you anxious reinforces your anxiety which can make it that much more difficult to overcome. Instead, the fears and all the “what-ifs” will loosen their hold on you when you face them. And you can start to feel relief from social anxiety faster than you might think.
Here are seven ways to cope with social anxiety this holiday season.
1. Work through social situations that you’re worried about with someone you trust.
What situations freak you out the most? Make a list and then ask your therapist to help you with them. If you don’t have a therapist, consider asking a trusted friend that’s socially adept.
2. Say no.
That’s to say, don’t feel obligated to accept every single invitation you receive. There are probably some gatherings that you’d like to attend and others that aren’t as important to you. Say yes to the former and no to the latter. This isn’t avoidance. It’s practicing good boundaries.
3. Take a wing(wo)man.
Parties are less daunting when you know someone, especially when that someone is a trusted friend that knows you struggle with social anxiety. Having someone there can help you relax and facilitate conversations. Think of them as human WD-40.
4. Ask for a job.
If taking a friend isn’t possible, asking the host for a job is a good alternative. Refilling the chips or dip bowls, selling raffle tickets, welcoming guests and accepting coats and purses, or arranging gifts can keep you busy and your mind off your anxiety. Plus your host will appreciate your help.
Come up with a few conversation starters. Think of a few things you can give compliments about. Make a list of neutral topics you can ask questions about (e.g. hobbies, travel plans, TV shows, music). Having these planned and accessible will make small talk easier.
6. Don’t overindulge.
While it may be tempting to have some “liquid courage”, over consuming alcohol can disinhibit you to the point where you may embarrass yourself in front of others, and reinforce your social anxiety. Same goes for using both recreational and prescription drugs. Oh… and emotional eating, too.
7. Take a break.
The combination of social anxiety, crowds, noise, and loud music can become overwhelming. If you start to feel agitated, remember that you can step out for some fresh air. While on a break, you can go for a quick walk or do a quick mindfulness practice.
These are just a few strategies you can use. But if you still want to hibernate until January 2nd, maybe you could benefit from some extra support this holiday season. Call us at (305) 501-0133 or click here to schedule a free 20-minute Clarity Consult to learn more about how therapy for social anxiety can help you enjoy the holidays again.