Getting Through the Festive Season with Social Anxiety
I wrote about Social Anxiety in the October 2017 edition of Forrest Rambles and thought that now was a good time to re-visit the topic with a focus on how to get through the festive season.
Social Anxiety is an excessive fear of embarrassing yourself and being judged negatively by others. It’s estimated that social anxiety affects up to 10% of the UK’s population. The festive season can be particularly difficult with the increased pressure to get together with friends and family, attend office parties and go gift shopping – Argh!!!
Firstly, balance is key. Don’t say no to every invitation. Likewise, don’t say yes to every invitation either. Use the festive season as an opportunity (yes, that’s right – OPPORTUNITY!) to work on your anxiety rather than seeing it as a threat to grit your teeth and get through.
When you are attending a festive social event, focusing on how anxious you feel and worrying what to say or do next, will only make you feel more anxious. Instead, shift your focus of attention to what is going on around you. Focus on what other people are saying. Focus on the music, the taste of your food or the entertainment.
During social events you may be prone to using ‘safety behaviours’ such as looking at your mobile phone, avoiding eye contact or not speaking much. Again, these behaviours will only feed your anxiety. Instead, drop the safety behaviours and try to act confident even though you won’t be feeling it. You may just find that you get a better response from other people and with practise you will feel less anxious.
It’s not only the social event itself which is a problem for the person with Social Anxiety, it’s all the worry which comes beforehand and the ruminating afterwards. I would suggest trying to break the worry cycle by using relaxing breathing exercises, and soothing music. Remind yourself that what you are worrying about isn’t actually happening right now and may never happen so worrying isn’t going to help you. Once the social event is over, avoid rumination by focusing on the things which went well and what you can learn from your experience to help in the future.
Over the festive season schedule in time for yourself outside of socialising to do things which you enjoy and are ‘anxiety free’. This time can act as a reward for the social events which you do attend and also give you change to recharge your batteries ready for the next event. Remember not to be hard on yourself. You are certainly not alone with these concerns.
Wouldn’t it be nice if Social Anxiety wasn’t a concern for you in December 2019? Just think, you could enjoy the festive season so much more. Make 2019 the year that you overcome social anxiety for good by booking in to see a CBT therapist.