With the global recession beginning to bite and the legacy of COVID still fresh in many people’s memories, Christmas 2022 will be an especially anxious time for many. Social anxiety or social phobia can affect anyone to a certain degree, and those who feel elevated levels of anxiety could struggle at this time. So, what exactly is social anxiety?
The condition is often described as a fear of interaction with others that leads to heightened self-consciousness and the feeling of being negatively rated or judged. Common symptoms include feelings of emotional distress during social encounters, physical symptoms like shakiness, stomach cramps, sweating, dizziness or light-headedness and fear of embarrassing yourself or letting yourself down in public.
Christmas can be a tough time of year and if you struggle with social anxiety, the festive season can bring unique challenges. Many of us worry about, interacting with others, and the awkwardness of spending time with extended family. Still, for anyone with social anxiety, this can spiral out of control during this time.
Tips on dealing with social anxiety this season
Take a Moment for Yourself
If you feel panicky at the thought of dealing with other people, take a moment to relax. Stop what you’re doing and sit. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Try to focus your mind while regulating your breathing. Remind yourself that others are likely to feel just as scared as you.
Take Advantage of Your Support Network
Lean on your friends, family, or support network when times get tough. You’ll discover that a problem shared really is a problem halved. Letting others know when you’re worried about work events, parties, or simply interacting with others as you do the shopping often puts the situation into perspective. If you’re stressing about attending a large event, see if you can take a friend. Having someone familiar to focus on will make you feel calmer.
Make a List
List circumstances where you feel most stressed or anxious, particularly those that make you feel like drinking too much. You may be surprised to find that interacting with others is easier than you imagined. You’ll begin to feel stronger and more able to overcome social anxiety without for example turning to alcohol to cope.
Diluting Family Tensions
Family time can be stressful, especially around Christmas and New Year. If spending so much time with family is starting to feel a bit overwhelming, take yourself off for a break, or discuss your concerns with them to dilute tensions. Experiencing social anxiety around family is pretty common. Have an exit plan in place for when things become too much.
Lee Hawker-Lecesne MBPsS, Addiction Counsellor and Lead Therapist at The Cabin comments:
Although social anxiety is often isolating, remember that you are not alone. The festive season is temporary, everyone will go back to their daily lives in no time. Be proactive and make a plan so you feel capable of dealing with situations when you feel uncomfortable. At social gatherings decide when you will arrive and leave, rather than letting stress and anxiety build which can lead to relieving these feelings by drinking heavily. Identifying that you have social anxiety in the first place is a great step towards taking control of your concerns and fears.”