a young adult woman with social anxiety during holidays drinking a cup of coffee

Social Anxiety During Holidays: 7 Ways to Cope

Social anxiety during holidays can be even more stressful than trying to manage social anxiety symptoms on a regular day. There are specific standards and expectations associated with social functions during the holiday season. 

For example, workplace parties, gift exchanging events, and family gatherings are difficult to avoid or escape. Moreover, your absence from these social functions can be interpreted as lack of interest or aloofness. But, this is an unfortunate and untrue interpretation.

People with social anxiety during holiday aren’t trying to avoid social situations due to lack of interest. In fact, there is generally a true desire to socialize and have fun. However, being in social situations brings about uncomfortable feelings of fear.

What is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by feelings of fear and worry during social interactions.

Symptoms include:

  • fear of being negatively evaluated or criticized
  • being easily embarrassed
  • fear of showing physical symptoms of anxiety such as blushing or face turning red
  • avoidance of social situations or enduring social situations with great feelings of discomfort

People with social anxiety often worry about making a good impression and not revealing any personal flaws. Therefore, being watched or being in front of a large crowd can be terrifying.

The problem is that the holiday is prime time for large gatherings. This makes social anxiety and the holidays an incredibly stressful combination.

7 Ways to Manage Social Anxiety During Holidays

Identify and Control Negative Thoughts

Social anxiety disorder is often accompanied by negative thought patterns. For example, “I’m not interesting”, “This party is going to be very exhausting”, “People will notice that I’m too quiet and nervous”, or “I’m just not good at small talk”.

These thoughts can reduce feelings of self-confidence and prevent you from putting yourself out there. Moreover, negative thoughts can activate the nervous system’s fight or flight mode, leading to physical activation of anxiety symptoms. 

Some of these symptoms include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, nausea, and hot and cold sensations in the body. 

To control negative thoughts, it is important to first slow down and observe your thought process. Then ask yourself how else can you look at the situation in a way that does not lead to worry.

Try to come up with a positive alternative to the negative thoughts. Generally, positive thoughts and affirmations are less likely to activate the nervous system. A quick mindset check prior to an event can reduce social anxiety during holidays and keep you feeling grounded.

Stay Present and Participate in Conversations

Many with social anxiety mentally rehearse what they want to say or do in a social situation. A lot of inward thinking can impact your ability to be present and fully participate in the conversation.

It can also lead to missing social cues and feeling lost on what is happening during the discussion. And this will trigger feelings of nervousness and increased anxiety.

Try to stay in the present moment. Actively listen to and follow the conversation without intention to calculate your next response. When you stay focused on what is being said, you may find that you naturally have something to contribute. 

The more natural feeling that the social interaction is, the more likely you are to enjoy it and be yourself. Remember that people want to hear from you and are interested in your opinions. 

Social anxiety can make it hard to believe this and to speak up. But, try your best. You never know if you will actually have fun.

Ditch Perfectionism

Social anxiety symptoms include fear of being negatively judged and being embarrassed. So, it is understandable that many people with social anxiety try to hide their personal flaws to reduce criticism.

There is a belief that saying and doing the perfect things will help gain acceptance and reduce social rejection. This can lead toward perfectionistic thinking or behaviors. This can look like:

  • spending too much time preparing your holiday outfits and physical appearance
  • overspending on holiday gifts
  • overextending and overcommitting yourself
  • difficulty saying no
  • people pleasing
  • staying quiet to avoid offending or conflicts
  • going out of normal routines to impress others

Perfection does not exist. But, it doesn’t prevent people from trying to achieve this high standard. Perfectionism and social anxiety during holidays will heighten a desire to impress and appear a certain way. 

social anxiety and the holidays-gift box with gold top and glitter

Remember, you don’t need to host the perfect holiday event. Or have the perfect holiday date or relationship.

You don’t need to give everyone the perfect gifts. Or anything else that follows the word perfect. Ditch perfectionism and alleviate pressure on yourself.

Social Anxiety During Holidays Relaxation Schedule

Dealing with social anxiety and the holidays can lead to feelings of overwhelm and burnout. Finding moments during the day where you can center yourself, relax, and regain balance is beneficial. 

Scheduling and prioritizing relaxation makes it more likely that you will remember to do it. One way to go about it is to look at your daily schedule and block out 5 to15 minute time blocks. Approximately 2 to 3 times during the day. 

For example, find a block in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening that works for you.  Make a commitment to yourself to strictly use this time for relaxation and nothing else.

Schedule a timer on your phone that will ring at these dedicated time slots and begin to engage in relaxation. This can be a breathing exercise, a quick stretch or other body movements, a meditation practice, etc.

You can also use a relaxation app during these times if you prefer. The important thing is to do something to unwind and reduce anxious tension in your body.

An additional tip is to schedule a calming relaxation exercise in between social gatherings. For example, it can be helpful to schedule a 5 minute breathing exercise prior to and after a gift exchange with coworkers.

There is a lot of interaction and you may need a few minutes to yourself. Continuing to practice relaxation exercises regularly will effectively reduce social anxiety during holidays and beyond.

Stop Overthinking Social Interactions

Many people with social anxiety overthink their social performances and worry that they may have acted inappropriately. There may be an intense fear of having offended someone or having said something that was taken out of context.

While it is normal to review previous conversations and situations, overthinking them can lead to harsh self-criticism and judgment. Moreover, it can affect your self-confidence and reduce motivation to put yourself out there again and attend social events.

To stop overthinking social interactions, start with having compassion for yourself. It is hard to stop worrying and social anxiety and the holidays has probably already amplified feelings of nervousness for you. 

Getting out of the overthinking habit takes time and consistent intention to practice something different. To help tackle this difficult task, set a time limit on overthinking. Allow yourself to think a social situation and overthink for no more than 30 minutes.

Then let it go. Remember that you are only doing the best that you can do at any given moment. Stay positive and lean on the hope that you came across just fine and did well.

Social Anxiety at Family Events

Social anxiety during holidays is especially challenging when it comes to dealing with relatives. Family gatherings bring about complicated interactions and mixed feelings. Depending on your family history and family dynamics, you may feel excited or dread to attend a family event.

Understandably, questions and conversations are more personally focused. Practicing healthy boundaries at family events can help curb anxiety. Prior to attending the family gatherings, decide what you are willing and not willing to disclose about your life.

Know what information and topics you feel comfortable discussing and sharing. Then initiate or shift conversations toward that direction.

This This will help you to feel less on guard and on edge. It also reduces worry about completely avoiding family gatherings that you actually want to be a part of. 

Protect Your Mental Health During the Holiday Season

Many people agree that it is generally beneficial to go out of your comfort zone every once in awhile. After all, there are many rewards when you do things that you normally wouldn’t do. For example, you might gain new skills, or a new sense of confidence and belief in yourself and your abilities.

mental health during the holidays can include looking and appreciating lights. This picture has multicolored lights.

But, when you have social anxiety, you are consistently putting yourself out of your comfort zone. There are many instances in which you may endure anxiety just to get through the moment.

Having social anxiety can take a toll and sometimes you just need to take a break.

You may have to decline some social meetings, parties or family gatherings to protect your mental health during the holiday season. It’s ok to do so. Be selective in wha you can tolerate and handle at any given moment.

Challenging yourself in a positive way to move through anxiety is helpful and can be rewarding. But, pushing yourself past your limits to the point where you feel mentally, physically, or emotionally unwell is not.

Protect your mental wellness by prioritizing self-care, utilizing support systems, and practicing positive coping skills.  

Find Social Anxiety Counseling Near Me

Anxiety counseling is provided to New York State residents via a secure online telehealth platform. To learn more or to schedule a complimentary 15 minute consultation, call 845-305-5322. You can also schedule online.

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