There are various different forms of anxiety disorders, and the symptoms of these conditions can sometimes be exacerbated during certain times of the year. Christmas is a prime example of when those struggling with social anxiety disorder may have a particularly difficult time, as there is more of a demand for large gatherings, themed events and socialising in general.
Social anxiety disorder is characterised as fear or anxiety surrounding social interaction. This could involve feeling nervous around new people, feeling self-conscious when public speaking or simply wanting to avoid gatherings. The condition is more common than you might think – in fact, it is estimated to affect around 10% of the UK population.
Learning how to understand and handle your social anxiety at Christmas may feel like an overwhelming task, but in this blog we’ll cover some of the simple steps you can take to help you look after your wellbeing during the holidays.
Social Anxiety and Christmas: Why it’s Such a Struggle
Many people would refer to Christmas as the most magical time of the year, but for those with social anxiety, Christmas can feel daunting and overwhelming. As it is a celebratory season, there are naturally more expectations when it comes to socialising. Work parties, family gatherings and even small get-togethers with friends can be difficult for someone with social anxiety, as it will likely be unusual for these events to be scheduled in such quick succession.
It may also be the case that the types of people we interact with at Christmas time have a bearing on how social anxiety affects us. Some people find it particularly difficult to meet new people, and perhaps even to see family members who are not often around.
How to Handle Social Anxiety This Christmas
Unfortunately, social anxiety isn’t something that can simply disappear, but there is always support at hand for those who need it. Try some of these useful tips if you are feeling particularly anxious about this festive season.
1.Allow yourself to say ‘no’
For some, there is a certain degree of pressure every Christmas to make it the best it can be, with TV advertisements and social media fuelling the want for an idealistic day. This Christmas in particular, following last year’s Covid-19 restrictions in the UK, this pressure to exceed expectations by hosting bigger, better parties is even greater. This can make it difficult to say ‘no’ to invitations, especially when close friends and family members are involved. Despite this, it’s important to keep your mental wellbeing as your top priority. If you feel nervous about how you might react in certain situations or simply don’t feel comfortable attending, there is no real obligation. It can be helpful to let yourself feel empowered in making your own decisions, and setting aside time specifically for self-care.
2. Talk to someone
Whether you speak to a friend or family member about your concerns or seek professional help, communicating is one of the best ways to handle your social anxiety at Christmas. If you have somebody close to you to confide in, you can ask them to help you tackle your fears of socialising or being in large groups by accompanying you to events, or supporting you in saying ‘no’ to certain occasions as mentioned earlier. Alternatively, you can choose to seek guidance from an experienced therapist or counsellor who will be able to provide you with a better understanding of your condition and help you manage it.
3. Moderate your alcohol consumption
It can be tempting to drink more excessively during the festive period, but it’s important that you moderate how much you are consuming and take care not to rely on alcohol to help you get through difficult social situations. Alcohol is a depressant, and following the initial buzz can leave you feeling down. People with any kind of mental illness should try to avoid or limit alcohol consumption to protect their wellbeing. There are plenty of festive alcohol-free alternatives you can try while you are celebrating!
4. Try focussing techniques
Mindfulness and meditation can be helpful for those with social anxiety, particularly during difficult, overwhelming situations that may cause panic attacks. Try to find time to practise certain mindfulness techniques, even something as simple as a breathing exercise, so that you can use it whenever you need to. This may help you to learn to refocus your attention if you find yourself thinking about your anxiety or feeling self conscious in a social situation. Being mindful and staying in the present moment could make a significant difference to your overall wellbeing and may improve your confidence when it comes to attending events.
Social anxiety can be difficult to live with at the best of times, but sometimes even more so at Christmas. If you’re concerned about a loved one or you want to seek guidance about your own wellbeing, book a consultation with The Awareness Centre today. Our therapists and counsellors will provide all the support you need for a healthier and more positive festive period.