The holidays will be quickly approaching. Family gatherings and get-togethers with friends will soon be a regular occurrence. For those with social anxiety, this time of year can be especially troublesome. The following are ten tips to help individuals with social anxiety manage holiday parties:
1) If you haven’t already, seek professional help for your social anxiety. This is an anxiety disorder and there is treatment available. For many, visiting the doctor is a scary prospect. Take a friend or relative with you for support if you need to.
2) Keep a journal. Take the time to write down what happens each day. This journal can help you to better understand your anxiety triggers. It also can be helpful to share this journal with your doctor or therapist to help target situations that may induce symptoms of social anxiety.
3) Use relaxation techniques, such as yoga or deep breathing to help reduce anxiety during stressful situations. Practicing these techniques on a daily basis can help you be more prepared when you are in an anxiety producing situation.
4) Join a support group. Talking about your fears and sharing with others who won’t judge you can be very therapeutic. Learning to face your fears in a safe environment can help you to overcome some fears.
5) Role-play situations you think may be stressful. For example, if you are heading off to an office party and you are feeling nervous, practice what you might say before you go. Being prepared for the unknown may help you relax and enjoy yourself.
6) Remind yourself that it is okay to be nervous. Sometimes, our fear builds once we begin to feel nervous. But some social nervousness is okay and can be expected in many situations. Take some deep breaths, remind yourself it is natural and take one moment at a time.
7) When entering a social situation, look around for a quiet area you can escape to for a moment of peace if you need to. Sometimes, simply knowing where you will sit quietly is all you need, but if you find yourself beginning to panic, retreat to your “peaceful area”, catch your breath and then start again.
8) Enlist a friend to accompany you to social events that make your particularly nervous. Having someone there to support you can make a great deal of difference, allowing you to relax more and enjoy the gathering.
9) Find a distraction. Look around the social event to find a way to distract yourself. Can you help the hostess in the kitchen? Can you pass around hor-derves? Find an activity to help keep you distracted when your stress level begins to increase.
10) Remember to say “no.” Sometimes, it is important to attend a function and sometimes it is better to say “no.” Remember it is alright to not accept every invitation that comes your way. It is okay to lighten your load and take time to distress with a quiet night at home.