Feeling Fearful and Anxious About Holiday Events? A Quick Guide To Help You Cope With Social Anxiety.

by | Dec 13, 2017 | Behaviour, Mental Health, Toolbox | 15 comments

If you clicked on this post, because you could relate to the title, know that you are not alone. People who have social anxiety often suffer in silence during the holiday season. They feel obligated to attend parties and gatherings, but often struggle for days in advance, and for days after the party with feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, and shame.

Social anxiety occurs when a person experiences fear, anxiety, panic, or embarrassment in social situations. Usually these situations involve unfamiliar people, or when the person feels like they are being judged or scrutinized.

The holidays are a particularly difficult time of year to people with social anxiety! This time of year involves about a lot of situations with groups or crowds of people. Social anxiety can show its face when you have to go to a office Christmas party, family function, or even a shopping mall. This can make it very challenging to want to leave the house this time of year.

The good news is that there are ways to help get through these social situations! Below are 3 tips you can use to reduce your social anxiety and improve your confidence. We hope that these tips will help you throughout the holiday season and into the new year!

Note: If you or someone you know who is experiencing social anxiety and it is interfering with their life, we encourage you to speak with a doctor, counsellor, or other healthcare professional!

 

Use Self-talk To Challenge Any Negative Thoughts

We are talking about ANTs again! (If you haven’t heard about ANTS make sure you check out this post to learn more.) If you have social anxiety, you may experience distressing autonomic negative thoughts (ANTS) before, during, and after social situations.

Examples of ANTs: 

“I’ll say something stupid.”

“Everyone is staring at me.”

“No one liked me.”

These ANTS can start to impact your self confidence, especially when you start to think negatively about yourself, believing what these ANTS are telling you!

Instead, try to introduce positive self-talk when you are thinking about social situations. Encourage yourself, accept your limitations, and give yourself credit where it is due. Remember that THOUGHTS ARE NOT FACTS, and try to find the truth in each situation that gives you social anxiety. If you are struggling with one specific ANT, try to find 3 truths that dispute this ANT. Often you will find that when you find the facts in the situation, it becomes easier to let the ANT go.

Here are some more examples of how you can introduce positive self talk: 

“This social situation is an opportunity.”

“I am allowed to feel anxious.”

“When I watch the people at the party, I see that they are actually not staring at me, but instead enjoying themselves.”

“I did my best in the situation.” 

Shift Your Focus Away From Yourself During Social Interactions

When you have social anxiety, it can be difficult to maintain focus in social situations. There are so many ANTS running around in your mind that you may struggle with staying focused on the conversation at hand. Maybe you are worried that the person you are talking with isn’t enjoying the conversation with you, that they find you boring and annoying, or that they can see your flushed face or trembling hands.

Remind yourself once again that these ANTS ARE NOT FACTS. They are just thoughts, nothing more. It’s likely that the person you’re with doesn’t notice that you are anxious and uncomfortable, and even if they do it doesn’t mean they will think badly of you!

Try your best to take this attention away from yourself! Focus on being in the present moment. Look around and notice what is going on around you. What are people wearing? What are they saying? What emotions are they feeling? What smells are in the room? What sounds do you hear? If you are talking to someone, practice actively focussing on the conversation you are having.

One thing we often encourage people to do is notice 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.  When you feel your mind getting stuck in a spiral of anxious thoughts, try using this practice to bring you back to reality.

These tips not always easy to do, but the more you practice the easier it will become. 

 

Stop Avoiding And Set Realistic Goals To Confront Your Fears

When you have social anxiety, it can be tempting to just avoid social situations. But this is not a long term solution! In fact, avoidance can lead to isolation, lowered self-esteem, and even depression.

A more effective way to overcome social anxiety is to face your fears, but you want to make sure you work towards this goal in a healthy, safe way. Break down your main goal into smaller, more manageable steps. By setting and achieving realistic goals gradually, you will be able to reach your bigger end goal! 

You can begin this process by building your confidence in areas that you find difficult! For example, if you struggle in large social gatherings, try having 1-2 friends that you trust over for coffee in your own environment, where you are comfortable and safe. After you have mastered doing this, try visiting them in a public coffee shop or cafe. Once you feel comfortable in that environment, then start to invite more than 2 friends. Continuing building your confidence in this way, until you are feeling more comfortable in social settings!

Remember to reflect on how you are feeling and plan accordingly! You’ll find that some stages may take longer for you to feel comfortable in than others, and that’s okay. You’ll also find that you may need to take a break, and that’s okay too. Try your best to challenge yourself, but with kindness and compassion!

 

Take Home Message!

Social anxiety can be extremely difficult to deal with, especially during the holiday season. Use these three tips to help increase your confidence in social situations.  

  1. Use Self-talk To Challenge Any Negative Thoughts
  2. Shift Your Focus Away From Yourself During Social Interactions
  3. Stop Avoiding And Set Realistic Goal To Confront Your Fears

After practicing these strategies your social anxiety will begin to lower, and you’ll feel more confident and capable of handling future social situations! Make sure that you continue to show yourself compassion and love during all of these stages, as dealing with social anxiety can be very challenging!

 

Please share this post with others, as you may never know who in you life is struggling with social anxiety!

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