Social anxiety is a disorder that affects more than 15 million Americans each year. The disorder can lead to people have a very difficult time spending time with others and being in social situations. It often leads people to feel anxious of being judged or ridiculed by other people, lowers self-esteem, makes it hard for them to communicate with others, and gives a general sense of uneasiness for days or weeks leading up to a social event. With this being said, the holidays tend to be a time that is quite difficult for people who suffer from social anxiety. However, there are things that can be done to cope with social anxiety that will ease some of the stress and reduce your symptoms.
Lean on Your Support System
One of the things that you can do is share a little bit of your anxiety with your closest friends and family. Often times, people with social anxiety tend to hide it very well, so friends and family might not have any idea that this is something that is difficult for you. Expressing some of your concerns about the holidays with people you trust and look to for support can ease some of your stress and tension about having to attend every social gathering you are invited to.
Bring a Friend
Invite a friend or someone who you feel comfortable with to holiday parties that might be triggering and you would be uncomfortable attending alone. Having someone there will aid you in feeling more relaxed, and it might even allow you to enjoy the party! They might even assist with topics of conversation so you don’t feel like you always have to have something interesting to talk about. Take a Break
Taking a break from the social gathering or holiday party is something that could benefit you if you are feeling overwhelmed. Taking a quick walk outside to get away from all of it and getting some fresh air can help you regroup and get back to the party feeling refreshed. If going outside is not an option, walking into another room or the bathroom for a few moments alone can help calm your nerves. Remembering that there is always an escape can reduce some anxiety.
Skip the Alcohol
A lot of people will end up using alcohol as an excuse to reduce stress. Do not use this as a coping mechanism at your holiday parties or social gathering. Even though this seems like a quick fix, it is a short-term solution that can lead to a long-term problem. Drinking in moderation is okay, but if you notice yourself having to drink large amounts in order to get through an event, you should seek help from a professional. There are better ways to cope with social anxiety that are healthier and more beneficial. A mental health professional can help you reach that healthy point.
Using these tips can keep the social anxiety under control and take the edge off. Remember that this is something you have control over and there are things you can do to make progress towards coping with this struggle. Learning how to reduce social anxiety and challenge some of your old habits can help you finally view the holidays as a time of joy and happiness!
Bianca Marcu, MA, LPC