What is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety is more than nervousness around people. Most people feel a bit anxious in some social situations, such as at a job interview or on a first date. However, social anxiety is a diagnosable condition.  It is characterised by someone feeling an overwhelming fear of social situations or interacting with others. A person with social anxiety may find even everyday interactions with others difficult, often due to a perception that they’re being judged negatively. Social anxiety can affect someone’s relationships, work, education and other activities.

Why Does the Holiday Season Impact on Social Anxiety?

The holiday season is a time when people tend to gather in large groups. There might be party invitations or family meals planned. Perhaps there’s a work night out to attend. During the holidays schedules can fill up quickly with one social activity after the next. This can leave little time in between to recuperate. For someone with social anxiety, the holiday season can present a number of challenges. It’s a time of year when it can feel like there’s an expectation to be social, and this can create a sense of fear and dread in for the socially anxious. A person with social anxiety may worry weeks before an event.  This can mean that by the time the holiday season arrives, they can be feeling fraught.

How to Ease Social Anxiety During the Holiday Season

If you find your social anxiety seems worse during the holiday season then you’re not alone. Many people find that their social anxiety is exacerbated by the quantity of planned gatherings during this time of year. However, there are some strategies and techniques that you can use to manage your symptoms.  Following these steps can make the holiday season more enjoyable. Here are some ideas for how to ease your social anxiety during the holiday season:

1. Practice Relaxation Beforehand

If you’re experiencing anxiety about holiday gatherings then it’s likely that this feels physically uncomfortable and stressful. Practising relaxation techniques can help you to deal with the physical effects of social anxiety.  This can leave you feeling calmer. Some anxiety is normal so no strategy can completely eliminate anxiety.  However, relaxation techniques can make you feel less anxious by stopping the anxiety from spiralling. One good relaxation technique to try is slow breathing.  Breath slowly through your nose to counteract the rapid breathing that characterises anxiety. Another strategy is progressive muscle relaxation.  For this, you need to gently clench and relax different muscle groups. Try to practice these techniques regularly, not just in a difficult social situation. You can then draw on them when you need them as a way to feel calmer.

2. Set Achievable Goals

Whilst it’s important to face our fears and not completely avoid social situations, it’s also best to not push ourselves too far out of our comfort zone all at once. Set yourself some achievable goals this holiday season.  Achievable goals should challenge you a little bit but still allow you to feel safe. Examples of achievable goals might be things like going out with your colleagues after work, or talking with three new people at your friend’s party. But what is achievable depends on you so it’s important that you make the list yourself. Reward yourself when you’ve accomplished one of your goals, reflect on how well you’ve done, and build on your success. Try not to worry if you don’t meet a goal, focus on what you’ve achieved rather than on what you feel you haven’t done so well.

3. Consider Your Boundaries

Setting boundaries at this time of year can be a good way to manage social anxiety. Decide beforehand how much space you can give to friends and family and how much you need for yourself and then plan events and downtime in that respect this. It can help to actively choose which events you want to go to and which you’d prefer to not attend. Remember that even if you decide to go to an event, it’s always OK to leave early if you need to. You can also plan in breaks, such as going outside to make a phone call, so that you don’t feel the pressure to be constantly socialising. It’s always acceptable to give yourself the space you need to recharge your energy.

4. Focus on Self-Acceptance

People with social anxiety often feel others are judging them negatively and can feel very responsible for making what they consider to be a social mistake. However, absolutely no one is perfect.  We all make social errors such as talking at the same time as someone else or forgetting the word we want to say next. Try not to let these common issues worry you at all.  No one else will be bothered about them and most people probably won’t even notice. Focus on accepting yourself as you are rather than trying to force yourself to be socially flawless.

5. Challenge Negative Thinking

Social anxiety often goes hand in hand with negative thoughts about ourselves or what might happen in social situations. Examples of the types of negative thoughts that are common in social anxiety include ‘I’m going to say something embarrassing’ or ‘I’ll be standing alone all night and people will think I’m strange’. If you believe these thoughts then you’re more likely to feel anxious. Remind yourself that just because you can think something, it doesn’t mean it’s true: our thoughts aren’t facts. Try to take a step back from your thoughts and think about things in a more realistic way by replacing the negative thought with something more helpful. One way to do this can be to ask yourself what advice you’d give to a friend or loved one if they were in a similar situation, and then try to give that advice to yourself.

How Can Online-Therapy.com Help?

If you’ve tried some of these strategies previously and would like to explore managing your social anxiety during the holiday season further then Online-Therapy.com can help. By signing up with our program you can chose a therapist who will work with you to develop a personalised toolkit to support you with how to deal with social anxiety and to help you to create a happier and more relaxed holiday time. You can choose to have your therapy sessions by video, phone or text chat (couple counselling will be video only), making Online-Therapy.com a flexible and convenient option.

At Online-Therapy.com we offer an integrated and holistic package to enable you to feel at your best. Our approach includes regular sessions with your chosen therapist, unlimited messaging and worksheet support, journaling and yoga. This ongoing support means that you have the daily expert guidance you need to make progress with taking the stress out of the holidays as soon as you sign up.