It is the most wonderful time of the year. Well, for most people anyway. College students go home and families get together to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. But for some, it also means that their social anxiety is at their absolute highest.
The Holidays are all about warm family traditions and spending time with friends. All over the world, people look forward to these festivities and gatherings with family and friends, however, for people with social anxiety, it is a completely different story.
Social anxiety is when fear of social and performance-based situations are present every day. Everyday interaction causes significant anxiety, fear, self-consciousness, and embarrassment. The fear of being scrutinized and judged by everyone around you is with you every day.
- Anxiousness around other people
- Inability to talk to others
- Fear of judgment
- Severe anxiousness days or even weeks before an event
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling sick
People who suffer from social anxiety tend to find it difficult being surrounded by people (even their own families), which tends to be the point of the Holiday season. The family expects you to be with them, and that can be difficult with social anxiety.
The Holiday season is great for those who feel comfortable and confident around their families and friends, but what about those who don’t? Do we just ignore them or forget they are there?
Do we just shrug our shoulders and tell ourselves there is nothing we can do about their social awkwardness? No, I don’t think that’s the right way.
At family gatherings, you tend to get asked questions. Your family asks how your job is going, what you have been up to since they last saw you if you are dating anyone etc. It kinda puts you on the spot, doesn’t it? You feel like you are trapped and don’t know how to get out of it.
And then there is Black Friday.
The good news is, that there are ways for you to feel like you are the one in control during all of these gatherings.
Don’t rely on alcohol or drugs to help you “loosen up”, but…
I know I have written in earlier articles not to rely on alcohol, and this is true. However, it is ok to have one or two drinks. Studies (yes studies!) actually suggest that a moderate amount of alcohol increases brain activity and functional connectivity.
People who drink one or two drinks at social gatherings are able to speak with more confidence because it was easier for them to deal with nerves and hesitation. This will definitely make people think you are sociable and at ease ((source) and (source)).
Please keep in mind, that I am not telling you to get insanely drunk as that would be completely irresponsible, and if you are on medication I definitely do not recommend drinking any form of alcohol! A drink or two though can definitely help ease your nerves and anxious thoughts.
Tell yourself, that most people aren’t really paying that much attention to you at all.
You might be feeling that you have been cornered and that everyone is paying attention to what you say and judging you. They are not. In fact, try to remember that most people are probably wondering what you think of them as well.
Did you think about that? Complementing others is always a good way to make everyone around you feel good and making yourself feel good in the process.
Do you have a tendency to draw the worst possible conclusions? Do you always feel that everyone is thinking badly about you? You are not alone. Scientists have explained this happens due to a chemical in your brain.
There is a hormone called oxytocin in your brain, that is released during stressful situations and it can trigger feelings of anxiety and fear. Some people have more of this chemical than others, which is why they often experience anxiety and social anxiety.
Learn more about why your happy chemicals matter to your mental health right here.
Identify your biggest concerns
You may be afraid of saying the wrong thing, but trust me, so is probably 80% of the people in the room with you. Try asking yourself, that even if you do ask or say the wrong thing, what is the worst thing that could happen?
That you may feel uncomfortable or even very uncomfortable is most likely the worst that will happen. Remind yourself that you are overthinking every situation and that it is not as bad, as you think.
Let’s be honest here. People like talking about themselves. Maybe you have noticed? People who don’t have anxiety simply love talking about themselves, their significant other and their kids.
Studies even suggest that 30 – 40% of what people are talking about during a day is themselves. Shocking right? Take advantage of this and get the focus away from you. Trust me, it works. Ask people questions about their lives – like what are they currently reading, how are their kids doing in school, etc.
However, don’t start or engage in a conversation about religion or politics as this will most likely end up in a heated discussion and make you feel anxious and stressed.
It’s ok to say no. Having anxiety means that everything gets cluttered in your mind too often and saying yes to all events with friends and family can make your anxiety worse. You don’t have to feel obligated to say yes to every invitation from your friends and family.
What do you do to take care of yourself during the Holiday season? Let me know in the comments below…
Did you like this article? Please share and save it on Pinterest and share it with your friends.