Social Anxiety and the Holidays

How to Navigate the Holidays When You Have Social Anxiety

illustration of woman with social anxietyThe holiday season has arrived. The grocery store is stocked with turkeys, our mailboxes are stuffed with sale ads, and Christmas tree tents are popping up on street corners. Your weekly calendar may already be freckled with holiday parties and events. Most folks look forward to holiday gatherings, but if you struggle with social anxiety, you might not be feeling so great right now. Anxiety is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences from time, and it can trigger emotional and physical responses. For those with social anxiety disorder, holiday celebrations create some extra hurdles. People with social anxiety disorder experience:

  • Anxiety around new people or large groups of people
  • Self-consciousness, fear of criticism, and assumption of rejection
  • Blush, sweat, tremble, struggle breathing, experience dizziness or a racing heartbeat, or feel sick when socializing, especially around new people

Self-care is always important for balanced mental and physical health, but especially at this time of year.

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Though we are surrounded with special holiday foods, eat healthfully.
  • Consume sugar and caffeine in moderation.
  • Get some fresh air and a little exercise every day.
  • As much as possible, keep to your regular routines.
  • If you usually refuel via time alone, work that into your busy schedule.

Have tools that help you navigate social anxiety. Practice them before attending an event so they are fresh in your mind. If you’re feeling anxious in a social setting, here are some tools that may help.

  • Objective thinking – Notice any negative thoughts and statements. Analyze whether the statement is absolutely true or if it is based in fear or feelings of anxiety.
  • Positive affirmations – try a pep talk in the mirror. Write and post personal affirmations where you’ll see them.
  • Planned support – Have phone numbers for support with you. Talk with a couple supportive friends or family members ahead of time, and find out if your therapist will be available on-call. Have the number for a local mental health support hotline.
  • Plan ahead for conversations – Sometimes party conversations can feel stiff. One way to help boost a conversation is to ask the other person something about themselves. How do they know the host? What other holiday plans do they have this year? Are they staying in town? Try a conversation piece like an ugly Christmas sweater. It will help start every conversation in a light way and the focus will be on something neutral.
  • Volunteer to help the host – Wash dishes, serve food, take the dog out, or watch the kids for a bit.
  • Though it may seem to provide liquid courage, alcohol often heightens anxiety, leaving you feeling out of control and panicky.
  • Plan relaxation – Before and after a stressful gathering, tend to self-care. Create light, fun, nurturing activities to help you relax and feel good.
  • Permission to say no – Above all else, take care of yourself. You do not have to feel obligated to accept every invitation. Don’t overbook your calendar, and only attend the events you want to attend.

Social anxiety can create significant hurdles during this social time of year. Take care of yourself. Decide to enjoy the season. Use tools that help you manage your social anxiety.

If you or a loved one are in need of help with social anxiety, please give us a call. We are here to help.


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