The holiday season brings thoughts of get togethers, parties, cookies, and cheer to most. But for those struggling with social anxiety disorder, the holidays can be a distressing time of year with all of the social events and gatherings that arise. Malls are packed with hurried shoppers flurrying around looking for the perfect gift and the crowds become overwhelming.
Consider inviting along a friend for support or letting a trusted colleague know it’s difficult for you to interact in social situations. If you have the emotional support of another person there with you, if you get overwhelmed they can be there to help you overcome difficult social situations or conversations. Having someone that you trust can also help you to feel more confident and safe in the environment.
Identify your specific concerns – are you afraid you will say the wrong thing, or not know what to say at all? Remind yourself that although you may feel uncomfortable, that’s the worst that can happen. If conversations are a worry for you, ask questions. Most people enjoy talking about themselves and their interests, so they may take the lead in conversing.
Do NOT look for social anxiety relief in the form of alcohol or drugs. Although a drink or two may be tempting to help take off the “edge” during your company holiday party, alcohol can actually increase your anxiety or become an addiction. Learn to overcome your anxiety without the use of alcohol or drugs to avoid becoming dependent on them.
Remember you don’t have to accept every invitation to every social gathering. Don’t overbook yourself to events for every day of the week leading up to the holidays. Pick one or two events that you know you will be surrounded with individuals that care for and respect you, and that you genuinely would like to wish them a happy holiday season. Stick to events that will bring you more cheer then stress.
Finally, this is a time of year to let your family and friends know that you care. They are not there to judge you or make you feel uncomfortable, but rather to spend time together. May we all enjoy the freedom of a holiday spent with family and friends this year, free to be ourselves and to be happy.